coffee with the power to influence

Business Scene: Speakeasy Roasteries

In Coffee Links, Coffee Projects on July 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm

by Dave Hall for CanWest Global Media

A local micro-roaster recently became the only Canadian roaster to acquire a prestigious Cup of Excellence coffee crop from Nicaragua and is now the worldwide exclusive supplier of Linda Vista coffee.

Speakeasy Coffee, which was established in Hamilton four years ago and has operated from Kingsville for the past year, is also rated as one of the top micro-roasteries in North America.

Owner Stephen Armstrong, a Londonderry, Northern Ireland-trained chef, first opened a fair trade store in Hamilton but quickly realized there was money in coffee beans, especially fair trade, direct trade, organic and specialty coffees.

“I knew I wanted to do something ethical and sustainable and it’s become very exciting,” said Armstrong.

“For someone with a social conscience, this was a match made in heaven.”

Once a roaster becomes involved in the direct trade market, the investment skyrockets because, as Armstrong says, “you can’t buy by the bag, you have to buy the entire crop which means needing $15,000-$20,000 up front so you can buy it when it comes up for auction.”

The Cup of Excellence is a competition conducted in nine coffee-producing nations with the winners chosen by a select group of judges who assess the coffees at least five times during the competition. Only those which score consistently high are allowed to continue.

Armstrong was the winning bidder for Linda Vista, a coffee produced in the region of Nueva Segovia in Nicaragua. Judged in a similar fashion to fine wines, Linda Vista is said to have the characteristics of chocolate, honey, apricot, vanilla, butter and raisin with a creamy feel on the palate.

Armstrong said that 80-90 per cent of what he pays for unroasted beans goes directly to the grower and “I’m paying between four and seven times the fair trade floor price for beans, which is $1.25 USD.”

Speakeasy coffees include Linda Vista from Nicaragua, Amaro Gayo and Longberry Harar from Ethiopia, Espiritu Santo from Costa Rica, San Julian from Guatemala, Altamira from El Salvador, Serrano Superior from Cuba, Mandheling Gayo from Sumatra and Purosa from Papua New Guinea, as well as a selection from Bolivia, Rwanda, Mexico and Brazil.

Speakeasy’s coffees are available online at www.speakeasycoffee.ca

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