JJ Bean Coffee. It’s everywhere that’s anywhere in Vancouver.
To local coffee aficionados, JJ Bean’s locations are well-loved sanctuaries.
Yet, to the untrained eye – the new arrival, the traveler – JJ Bean’s obvious presence might attract a wary eye. The feeling is only natural; authentic, local, family businesses don’t often come with 23 storefronts, especially ones that look so chic.
But, there are anomalies in all statistics, especially (it seems) when the story begins on Granville Island.
FOUR GENERATIONS OF COFFEE
JJ Bean is a family business of fourth generation coffee roasters. “JJ” or John Neate Jr, is a local Vancouverite who loves people, coffee, and design. He’s curated a tight-knit team 350 employees, alongside his son, Jesse, and the company’s Q Grader, Grady.
“Coffee means everything to me. It’s my lifeblood – a generational thing. Coffee actually transformed my relationship with my father and it’s allowed me to get close to my kids. I’m very honoured to take part in so many peoples’ lives.”
– John Neate Jr, President and Founder of JJ Bean Coffee
THE FIRST JJ BEAN DIDN’T EVEN HAVE AN ESPRESSO MACHINE
The origins of JJ Bean truly started with John Neate Jr’s grandfather and his business called “Neates Coffee.”
In his youth, John Neate Jr worked with his father and grandfather before moving to Nestle for a taste of the corporate life. From Nestle, John said, “I learned the numbers of a business.”
The original JJ Bean at the Granville Island Public Market was once home to “Upper Canada Coffee” and then, just “The Coffee Roasters”. When John took over in 1996, they only roasted and sold whole beans.
Drip coffee was on the menu, but espresso were not sold until the late 1990s, when John was able to convince Granville Island that it was a good idea.
23 NEIGHBOURHOOD DESIGNS
Despite the 23 JJ Bean Coffee shops (including 4 recent openings in Toronto), every location has a unique design. Each space is thoughtfully designed to honour and reflect the character of the neighbourhood.
“If we can have an impact on the communities where we are, that would just thrill me to no end.”
Photo Credit: Dialogue Design
For example, JJ Bean’s Alberni Street location is in the heart of Vancouver’s luxury shopping district. The design is very modern, clean, and white.
“When you walk in, there’s a mirror so you can see yourself; you can make sure your outfit is still looking good. We built a catwalk with the seating, so everyone can see you as you walk by. Floor to ceiling windows. Another mirror when you hit the stairs.”
The Main Street location, on the other hand, is affectionately described as a “hipster living room.”
BUILDING A FAMILY OF 350
Of John’s 350 employees, almost all of them started as baristas at JJ Bean. They’re people with passion – “we look for people who are passionate about something…doesn’t have to be coffee,” John says.
On the job, staff members get to wear what they want, earn benefits and compensation, and even, eventually become JJ Bean shareholders. Together, the team works to honour people through great coffee, food, spaces, and service.
“I love watching people grow. And people who join me, generally, don’t know what they want to do. To be able to take peoples’ gifts and fan them into flame, is just a wonderful joy for me.”
AND ABOUT THAT COFFEE…
Stories aside, success in Vancouver’s coffee specialized market does not come without excellent products.
We are proud to showcase JJ Bean on our Granville Island Market Tour for their amazing story and commitment to:
1. Single origin coffees.
2. Starting each week with a blind taste test called “cupping” – JJ Bean looks for “terroir” – the flavours of the region.
3. Roasting 5 days a week in East Vancouver.
4. Listing their roast date on every bag of coffee beans they sell.
5. Using classic German Cast Iron Roasters (there are a limited number of them left in the world). It’s said that their ability to retain and distribute heat allows for roasting perfection.
It also doesn’t hurt that 100% of their pastries – scones, croissants, cookies – are JJ Bean recipes, made in house.
In partnership with Edible Canada, 2017 marks our 12 Year Anniversary of the Granville Island Market Tour.
This article is part of a 12-week series that honours the stories of #CanadasMarket.
Learn more about the Granville Island Market Tour here.