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Richmond coffee maker puts 25-year-old vintage bean collection up for sale

Viva Java has been selling freshly roasted coffee in Richmond for the past 33 years

At the corner of Douglas and Smith streets, across from Costco, there is a coffee shop with Spanish-style red tiles and blue walls, and windchimes that make a gentle sound whenever there's a breeze.

It’s Viva Java, a hidden gem for many Richmondites, but for its loyal customers, it’s where they've gotten their coffee over the past 33 years.

The owner, Arturo Hagop, roasts his own coffee beans in the shop almost every morning and serves his customers coffee from the freshly roasted beans.

“I love what I do with a passion. My passion is to sell the best coffee to my customers and I also like the good interactions with people,” said Hagop.

At the back of his store are two shelves of coffee beans – they are not just any coffee beans but those Hagop has preserved for more than 20 years.

It’s an experiment he has carried out over the past decades to preserve vintage coffee beans for him to enjoy after retirement.

However, Hagop, who is turning 75, doesn't have a timeline for his retirement yet and decided his private collection of aged coffee beans might be too much for himself to consume. 

So he has decided to put them up for sale.

“During that time, I was carefully keeping a supply of beans off to the side, knowing that they would age like a fine wine,” said Hagop, who said he believes green coffee beans are good for decades as long as they are stored properly.

“One day I would retire and wake up each morning, sit by the river, and enjoy a cup of perfectly matured coffee from the only source of aged beans in the world: mine.”

Now he has a collection of about 500 pounds of unroasted beans from 15 different origins, aged from 25 to 29 years. Hagop has been drinking coffee made from his aged coffee bean collection daily since last year.

“It is unique and flavourful, very tasty, very earthy. I would say it has amazing, amazing taste, because it's all natural and just like a fine-aged wine,” he said.

“I don’t drink wine anymore. Aged coffee is my addiction now.”

Hagop said he believes his store is one of the few, if not the only place that sells vintage coffee beans that are this old and he is not selling them cheap – they cost $300 a pound.

“When my supply is gone, it’s gone. If you are a true coffee connoisseur, this is an experience you cannot miss,” he said.

Hagop said he plans to host some tasting sessions at his shop, which will provide the only opportunity for people to purchase brewed aged coffee in a cup rather than by the pound.

He said he has been talking about retirement for the past three years, but he still doesn’t have a clear plan.

“If you love your job with a passion, you shall never ever work again in your life. That's the way I look at it," said Hagop. 

"I just love what I do. To me, it's not work. It's joy."

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