Roaster Interview: Venn Coffee Roasters
When you find a cafe/roaster tucked away in a back alley, it has to be good, right? That's what I thought when I first heard about Venn! I had the pleasure of visiting Venn while on a road trip out West in the summer of 2019. I got a brief chance to meet Janelle and chat with her. While visiting I ordered an Ethiopian Guji coffee to sip on while in the cafe, it was so good I knew that I needed to buy a bag for myself. When I started these roaster interviews, Janelle was an obvious must have on the list of featured roasters. Keep reading below to learn more about Janelle and Venn Coffee Roasters!
BCB: Can you briefly introduce yourself to us?
Janelle: Howdy. My name is Janelle Moskalyk. I’m the head roaster at Venn Coffee here in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
BCB: What is your first memory of specialty coffee?
Janelle: Oh boy, basically all of 2013. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and a dear friend of mine - who is also one of my coffee heroes - would bring me over all sorts of delicious varieties and teach me the basics of manual brewing technique. She would recommend spots to me around the city and we would try them out! Very precious times, and I think it really laid the foundation for my love of coffee.
BCB: What was one of your favorite coffee spots in San Fran?
Janelle: Sightglass Coffee! They are killer. The location I went to had a really lovely, open space, and friendly baristas who knew what they were doing. Not only that, but the coffee was delightful. I remember having a Kenya Natural that blew my mind.
BCB: What did you do before you started roasting at Venn?
Janelle: I have been in the biz since May 2016, primarily as a barista in a couple of places around Saskatoon, and I began roasting in 2019. I’ve been a bartender, youth care worker, and administrator in a non-profit organization, among other things.
BCB: How did you get into roasting coffee?
Janelle: For me, it was a natural progression from being a barista to actually roasting the coffee we serve; the world of coffee is incredibly expansive, so you never stop learning if you keep your eyes and ears open. I think my inquisitiveness about pretty well everything in the industry led me to wonder what goes on during the growing process, everything in between, and before it goes through the hands of your friendly neighborhood barista. The journey from farm to cup is a beautiful thing; I’m very fortunate to be able to explore and be a part of that.
BCB: What is one of the most interesting things you have learned about the industry since you have started roasting?
Janelle: I didn’t realize how many moving parts there are in the industry, so it’s hard to name any one thing! That being said, I think one of the most important things I’ve learned about is the economic disparity between farmers, green coffee suppliers, and the establishments responsible for roasting and selling it. A lot of the time, the people who invest their entire lives into painstakingly growing and producing beautiful coffees make a very nominal amount of money, which is a shame. Colonialism, poverty and capitalism are deeply embedded in the industry; I am still learning about it, and it is a multi-faceted, complex issue with an extensive history.
BCB: What are you passionate about outside of coffee?
Janelle: If I’d have to say any one thing, creating music is something I am most definitely passionate about. Being able to put myself into something and produce a thing that is ‘me’ is cathartic. To me, it’s very similar to roasting coffee in the way that I am always learning about myself, just in a more abstract manner, if that makes any sense.
BCB: If you could change one thing in the specialty coffee industry, what would it be?
Janelle: Inclusivity. Being able to explain things to people in terms they can understand, and present coffee to them in a way that isn’t intimidating or mysterious is something that I think we can all be better at. While I think the world of specialty coffee has become a lot more accessible to the regular Joe on the street, it is really easy to revert to ultra-science mode when explaining coffee to people, and 90% of the time they are a bit put off, though we are mostly just excited to share our knowledge with others! The way in which we do it is important, and I’ve been guilty in the past of having my nose a little too high in the air. Not cool - but what is cool is making people feel welcomed, empowered, and caffeinated!
BCB: What is one of your favorite things about the specialty coffee industry?
Janelle: Funny you ask that given the last question (and my answer), but the community! There are a lot of inspiring, strong, bold, intelligent people in the industry who are doing really cool things, and one thing I have noticed from the get go is the level of camaraderie between everybody. Being able to chat with other baristas, roasters and learn from each other while also maintaining a level of healthy competition is so rad! Not only that, but sharing experiences with the folks who drink our coffee and getting a little window into their lives is special and not something to be taken for granted.
BCB: Who is one person in the coffee industry that inspires you?
Janelle: This is a tough one, because I’m seeing amazing stuff happen here in Saskatoon and Canada abroad, and I’ve had the honour of working alongside a lot of close friends who happen to be very talented at what they do. That being said, Rob Hoos is a massive inspiration to me! He is an incredibly intelligent, humble, and curious fellow. His practical and scientific approach to roasting coffee is something I have learned a lot from, and something I strive for, though I have a long way to go.
BCB: How do you choose the coffees that you want to roast?
Janelle: The owner of Venn, Bryn Rawlyk, is responsible for ordering our green inventory, but I am able to make recommendations on what we want to serve to people. When I originally joined the team here, the talented folks before me had kind of established what they wanted to do and what they were going for in terms of the desired flavour profiles. It has been interesting, because I have been tweaking things since then and experimenting with what we already have. In very general terms, I like to have a couple of ‘exotic’ coffees, and a couple of ‘approachable’ ones! When I first started here, we approached roasting with the ‘Nordic’ mindset, favoring lighter roasts with shorter development times. I have been focusing on drawing out that development and modifying our profiles to really highlight what we have.
BCB: What brewed/cupped coffee stands out to you most?
Janelle: Lately, it has been this Swiss Water Decaf from Peru! You wouldn’t even be able to tell it is decaf, but it tends to be my favourite on the cupping table. Incredibly sweet, vibrant, and easy to drink. Surprises me every time.
BCB: Can you explain what 'Swiss Water Decaf' means?
Janelle: Yes! It’s a method of removing the caffeine from the green bean without using harsh chemicals that your body may not like. Instead of exposing the green bean to compounds such as ethyl acetate or methylene dichloride, it goes through a process using water and green coffee extract to remove the caffeine through osmosis without sacrificing flavour. It’s one of the gentler, solvent free processes out there. Fun fact: Back in the day, they used benzyne to decaffeinate coffee. We have come a long way!
BCB: Do you have a favorite coffee origin?
Janelle: I think anything from the Central/South American region really tickles my fancy. Guatemalan coffees from Huehuetenango are some of my favorites. The level of plump sweetness and balance gets me in the best of ways!
BCB: How do you brew your coffee at home on your days off?
Janelle: If I’m feeling fancy: V60! If I’m lazy and want lots of delicious caffeine to fuel my bones: French Press! If I’m camping: Aeropress!
BCB: If you could sit down for a cup of coffee with any one person, alive or deceased, who would it be?
Janelle: Nick Drake. He is one of my favorite musicians and was notorious for being aloof. He was far ahead of his time and set the bar for folk music incredibly high. His lyrics and approach to songwriting have always been interesting to me. Having a cup of coffee with him would be magical, though I reckon he probably wouldn’t say much.
BCB: Do you listen to anything while roasting, music, podcasts, etc?
Janelle: I’ve been roasting for a year now, and I feel everytime I roast, I learn something new. I don’t want to miss anything, so it’s usually just me and the hum of the Diedrich. That counts as music, right?
BCB: Anything on the horizon for Venn that we should keep an eye out for?
Janelle: We have a delicious Pacamara from Antonio Rene's farm, La Montanita, in Chalatenango, El Salvador that I'm very proud of. We just wrapped up a prairie roasters collaboration with 33 1/3rd Coffee Roasters out of Regina as well, and that was a unique opportunity I am so grateful for! Other than that, no; we are going to continue honing our craft and pushing out great coffees along the way!
I want to extend a huge thank you to Janelle for taking time out of her busy schedule to have this conversation with us! If you're ever in or driving through Saskatoon, I highly recommend making a stop at Venn! Be sure to check them out on Instagram too!
Be sure to stay tuned for our next interview where we continue to bridge the gap between roaster and cafe!