Milano Coffee: A European Experience

Milano Coffee | BCBusiness
Milano offers a taste of Italy right here in B.C.

Why good espresso matters, just in case you forgot

Vancouver is synonymous with coffee culture, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more innovation. The key to success in any market, however, is differentiating your brand. While Starbucks made espresso-based drinks household names and Waves Coffee was among the first in B.C. to offer free Wi-Fi with your cuppa, Tim Hortons sealed the deal with doughnuts. What could possibly be left for a couple in east Vancouver looking to stake their caffeinated claim?

Early on, it was Brian Turko’s acute tasting palate that made him a stand-out in east Vancouver’s coffee community, a skill that was recognized by Vancouver-based Italian world master torrefazioni (or roaster) Francesco Curatolo, who made Turko his protegé. Soon, Turko and his wife Linda’s private dinner parties became legendary among their friends for custom-blended espressos that drew from a century of Italian coffee-making tradition. Inspired, the Turkos opened a café, Turks Coffee, on Commercial Drive.

When Curatolo moved to Italy in 2002, he sold his business, Milano Coffee, to the Turkos, who now knew how they would differentiate themselves: by delivering to the Vancouver market an unapologetically European experience.

We sat down with Linda Turko, president of Milano Coffees Ltd. (, and asked her to spill the beans.

What is the difference between Milano Coffee and your other shop-front, Turk’s Coffee?
Milano reflects super premium quality and innovation while the Turk’s brand showcases the authenticity, diversity and vibrancy of Commercial Drive. We opened Turk’s Coffee on the Drive in 1997, and since day one we served Milano Coffee—which was founded by Francesco Curatolo—there. Even after we bought Curatolo’s coffee-roasting business in 2003 and converted the original roasting facility on West Eighth Ave. in Vancouver to a roaster and café—renaming it Turk’s West—our customers continued to refer to the space as Milano. So we ran with it, officially rebranded it Milano Tasting Bar in 2008 and began offering eight espressos on tap.

So what’s the Milano brand about?
It pays homage and respect to the tradition of Italian torrefazioni, or coffee roasting, while conveying constant innovation and moving in new directions—check out the frenetic bean that is part of the Milano logo. Our tagline is “West Coast Heart. Italian Soul.” We are proud Vancouverites establishing our mark in the century-old craft of coffee and espresso creation.

How is Milano espresso different from other spots?
The very definition of espresso is a blend of coffees. It’s an evolution. At Milano, we expertly blend high-quality single varietals of coffees into six- to 13-bean blend espressos. We stand by our passion for blending and creating something better that did not exist before. Very few single varietals possess all the characteristics of a perfect cup that you can achieve by blending amazing single varietals. Of course, we also present outstanding single varietals, but never as an espresso.

What’s Milano’s signature espresso?
Our La Futura espresso recently won the gold medal at Italy’s fourth annual International Coffee Tasting Competition, [where] 113 countries entered and La Futura won in a blind taste test conducted by 26 tasters from all over Europe. La Futura is a ten-bean varietal; it’s complex with luscious body, cocoa aromas, vanilla and floral notes. Other favourites are Conco d’Oro, Calebreze and Lucky 13.