My journey to discovering the joy that comes with enjoying a good cup of coffee took me a lot longer than it should have.
Growing up on the farm, we were always busy & instant coffee was a staple in our house. When teatime hit and you came in from doing barn chores or whatever the task of the day was, flipping the switch on the kettle meant that you could get everyone hot water quickly - so whether it was a tea bag or scoop of instant, we had you covered. There wasn’t a lot of slowing down to talk about bean varieties and whether you were enjoying a single origin roast from a high altitude or a blend with an array of beans.
I tried to enjoy instant coffee…hoping that if I added a few extra teaspoons of it to my cup that I’d be able to improve on the taste of what I was drinking. It didn’t really work, and I’d always end up with a slurry that I’d then try to gulp down.
I was always curious, but this was 25 years ago in small town Manitoba. Roblin wasn’t exactly a Mecca of great coffee. But I wanted to understand the why. If anything, the social side of enjoying a cup is what drew me in and made me want to figure out “what is it about this stuff that people love because it’s not the actual drink itself.”
If I stop and think back, it was always more social side vs. what was in the actual cup. As I write this, I find my mind racing back to memories of Styrofoam cups at the auction mart while watching cows being sold. Of early mornings spent hopping in the truck and heading to town with my dad. Grabbing whatever we needed from the feed store before heading to the back storage room of the local auto & tractor repair store.
That place was like a secret club for area farmers, and I loved going to see the personalities. That farmer who would change into clean coveralls & new boots before coming into town. The guy who’d just finished cleaning his barns before walking in, straw stuck to his boots. The old guy who always had an opinion that nobody wanted to hear, but everyone would hear him out regardless of that.
A quarter tossed into an old coffee can got you a cup (just make sure you rinse it when you’re done) some of that white powdered creamer, along with a stool or pail to sit on as you caught up on all the neighbourhood stories, learnt about who bought what tractor at auction, while staring up at posters with models advertising tractor grease and hand tools. It was a different time.
The social side made sense. But it was the taste that just didn’t make sense.
Moving to the city in my early 20s and working in that first office, the coffee didn’t get a lot better. Rolling in the door at 6:45 each morning & pouring myself a cup of what tasted like roofing tar. It was more about trying to stay awake than anything. I drank it, but I just didn’t enjoy it like I wanted to.
Dan from the farm just didn’t get it. That idea that this, THIS was what I was supposed to love as newly minted big city career guy…I just didn’t get it. It was also around time that I was first introduced to sales reps and visitors to my office who’d tried to win me over by bringing in something that resembled coffee but was covered in whipped cream or a bunch of sugary syrups. They’d mask the taste of the bitter brew at the bottom of the cup, but it wasn’t a lot better.
About 10 years ago I started looking to see if could find a cup of Joe that I really liked. At the time I was walking across a parking lot of my office each morning to grab a paper cup from one of the chain places. It was more about escaping a toxic office situation for a few minutes than anything, but I realized I was emptying my change bowl quicker than I wanted to. I figured if I could find a better coffee then I’d just make a thermos each morning and split the difference.
That was the game changing moment for me.
I stumbled across a good looking back of Colombian single origin that looked interesting. If anything, I was more intrigued by the branding and presentation vs. what was inside the bag. At the time a bag of whole beans and a $20 grinder felt like a bit of a splurge, but I picked them up and after making enough coffee for that first thermos, something just clicked. A cup of coffee that I liked. A thermos full of something that had some flavour and body to it. A cup so good that I didn’t need to add milk or cream to it. The opposite of the tar-like slurry I’d been drinking for years.
It was at that moment that I wanted to know more. That moment that I NEEDED to know more.
So started to explore, and explore I have.
I’ve spent the past decade diving into this love, wanting to learn as much as I can. Am I an expert? Hardly. Have I learnt a thing or two along the way? Absolutely. Much like finding that perfect go to bottle of wine, it takes more than a few cups to find that perfect flavour profile and what tastes good for each of us.
I’ve been fortunate in recent years to have travelled through a number of coffee producing countries in South America. My husband Rory and I have tried to incorporate this love into our travels, seeking out favourite local roasteries and coffee shops along the way. We’ve also made it a point to try to connect with those in the industry – immersing ourselves in the coffee scenes of different cities, taking classes to expand our coffee consciousness, doing cupping sessions to understand we enjoy, while wanting to learn and understand the language and the beans themselves.
Washed, natural, honey washed? High altitude? Arabica vs. Robusta? Single origin vs. blended? Understanding the different flavour profiles that add to the tasto of a coffee? Why do certain coffees have a citrus taste, or a nutty & earthy flavour? How does the altitude of a location affect the flavour profile? How can a few bad beans wreck an entire shipment? Why is Gesha so revered? Is tinto as bad as it sounds?
Plus, so important to me coming from a small family farm, I’ve tried to learn about those who grow the beans & their stories as farmers. With such a complex industry that’s generally been controlled by large corporations or in some countries, government regulation, it’s been so interesting and eye-opening to learn about those who working to bring awareness, respect and fairtrade price to those who produce coffee.
Like any hobby it’s taken time to learn and I’m far from being an expert. I’ve a lot over the years, but at the end of the day I’m just that guy that’s found something he loves and enjoys talking about it, while trying different cups, reading, learning, while continuing to explore and research.
One of the great things about Instagram is the ability that it’s given me to learn about my community and client’s interests. I recently ran a series of polls on my Instagram to gauge our client’s knowledge and interest in coffee as I’d not so secretly really like to explore this love of mine within the world of Farmer’s Son Co.
Over the past few years, I’ve offered a small selection of beans on both my website and in our physical space, but other than saying “hey, coffee and candles really go together” I never really took the time to explain that this an actual love of mine that I really enjoy discussing and sharing it with others.
I was blown away by the engagement and level of interest in my love for coffee and it all signs are pointing to a resounding “yes, we’d love to explore this with you and purchase these goods from you.” In turning, helping to solidify this as a new category of goods for us.
As I use this year to evolve my business model and bring new ideas to the Farmer’s Son Co. brand, I’m going to be introducing a few of my favourite coffee brands from around the world along with a curated selection of coffee preparation tools. These will be available not only on our website, but in our physical shoppe located in Winnipeg’s West End.
Like everything I do and offer, my goal is to offer goods and brands that aren’t available locally. You know that feeling when you’re travelling to someplace different and you stumble across something cool that you can’t get at home? I want to bring that feeling to our shoppe. That idea of cool finds that aren’t available. I want you to feel the excitement that comes with finding something new and special.
We’re one of the only shoppes (if not the only shop) in Canada to represent the Pergamino brand.
Pergamino Coffee was created with the goal of being a game changer in the world of specialty coffee. They either grow their own coffee or work with amazing small producers across Colombia, and then they craft roast these coffees in the city of Medellín, right in the heath of Colombia.
I had the opportunity to visit Pergamino’s roastery in early 2020 and it was love at first sip. So in good in fact, that upon returning home from Colombia and finishing the bags that we’d purchased I started to bring it in for myself. I brought in small quantity during the 2021 holiday season to rave reviews, so am excited to reintroduce this brand this brand to those who originally fell in love with it and those who are looking for something new to try.
We also have a selection of Birch Bark Coffee Co. available online and in shoppe. Located in Ottawa, this Indigenous owned roastery has a great story and an awesome range of certified organic, fair-trade coffees, using beans sourced from small Indigenous family farms throughout the world.
A cause driven, social enterprise coffee company, Birch Bark Coffee Co. channels a portion of their profits into helping bring certified water purification systems to members of Indigenous communities in need. This is a no brainer for my team and I. Good coffee that also supports basic human needs? That’s something we can easily get behind.
There are a pile of ideas to explore with this category of goods. I’m going to walk before I run, but if you’re a coffee lover I’m excited to share some new brands, beans and ideas with you.
Don’t worry if the knowledge isn’t there yet, I’m going to find ways to share what I’ve learnt with you with Instagram and website posts, while continuing to learn myself. Coffee’s fun to explore and I don’t want to overwhelm folks but rather help open this world up and make it accessible and enjoyment. Forget about terms like third wave or wondering if you’re doing it right, at the end of the day if you’re a hobbyist who has a curiosity, that’s good enough for me.
We’re going to have some fun with this. I’ve got some ideas up my buffalo check sleeves.
More to come. Stay tuned.