Food & Drink: Pines Coffee puts focus on quality

Vancouver shop creates special drink menu for holidays

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Rachel Pinsky

Pines Coffee

 Where: 8086 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

 Contact: 360-524-2748, www.pinescoffee.co

 Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday thru Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. (8 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving Day.)

Decoding the menu for special diets

 All drinks are gluten-free.

 The mash potato and pumpkin cheesecake drinks contain whipped cream, which contains dairy.

Ryan Thompson sometimes gets complaints that the drinks at Pines Coffee taste different than those at larger venues, but he insists his intentions are pure in crafting those concoctions.

“I’m not trying to destroy your life,” Thompson said.

The drinks at Pines taste different, he added, because they are free from artificial ingredients, fake preservatives and unhealthy fillers. They make all their own syrups, nut milks (coconut cashew, almond hazelnut, and toasted soy), and sauces. That may sound excessive to some, but Pines was created to accommodate Ryan’s gluten-free, limited-sugar, limited-dairy diet he adopted after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 15 years ago.

The Pines model, he explained, is “let’s do the best quality we can find, let’s do funky flavors because we don’t have all that sugar to fall back on so we have to be creative.”

If you prefer a sweeter drink, Thompson said to just ask and the baristas will create a flavor profile that fits your preferences.

This fall, Pines has a seasonal fall menu (available until December) and a special Thanksgiving latte menu (available from Nov. 20-26 only).

Ryan collaborated with his staff to create the Thanksgiving menu. “They all kind of threw out different food items that they get at Thanksgiving, and we thought about how we could make those flavors. How can we make this work? We still want to make coffee the most important part of the drink, so it isn’t a sugar-laden drink. It isn’t like you are going to drink a green bean casserole and you’re like, I can’t get enough of these green beans. It’s kind of like when you go to Salt ‘n’ Straw and get their turkey gravy ice cream, you are not going to have turkey in there.”

In other words, the latte menu is inspired by the foods they are named after, but don’t look for gravy in your latte. The full eight-item menu is on the Pines Coffee website and includes apple stuffing, smoked maple, cranberry orange, rosemary lemon thyme, green bean casserole, mashed potato, rhubarb pie, and pumpkin cheesecake (with pumpkin-infused classic whipped cream).

Thompson said creating the pumpkin cheesecake recipe proved the most challenging because fresh pumpkin is acidic and curdles when mixed with espresso. To make it work, they pared down the pumpkin. The result is a chai-like pumpkin drink laced with turmeric, allspice, cinnamon and cloves topped with pumpkin-infused classic whipped cream.

To my surprise, my favorites were the cranberry orange and the rosemary lemon thyme. The cold-pressed orange oil and Starvation Alley Farms cranberries in this drink are a reminder that fall is a season that brings bright flavors and not just pumpkin spice. The rosemary lemon thyme latte was a revelation. The herbs and citrus-y lemon give the drink an unexpected lightness and herbaceousness. All drinks on the Thanksgiving menu are espresso-based, except for the green bean casserole (with smoked hojicha tea and sweet matcha) and the mashed potato (made with single-origin Aeropress coffee).

I recommend that you order a flight (three small lattes for $10), find a comfortable spot and drink your way through the Thanksgiving menu. If you fall in love with any of these drinks, let a Pines staffer know. Popular drinks could make it to the regular menu.


Rachel Pinsky can be emailed at couveeats@gmail.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @couveeats.