This past March, brothers Keyton and Greg Wilson were part of a family vacation to Panama. The Wilson brothers are coffee enthusiasts, so they booked themselves for a tour of a coffee plantation.
They were expecting a quick tour. Instead, they were immersed in an experience that took most of the day. They saw how beans were dried in the sun, and meticulously shifted around every 15 minutes. They saw how entire farming families worked together to get their beans ready for sale through the co-op system. They saw how the farmers’ kids all left to play soccer in a nearby field.
And, while both of them work as project managers, they were inspired to launch a side-hustle — an Edmonton-based coffee company that specialized in beans from Latin America.
“We fell in love,” says Greg. “It was a mind-blowing experience.”
Instead of building a label from the ground up, they purchased the existing Jaguar Coffee brand, which had been based in Illinois. Now, the bags proclaim that the varieties — from Guatemala, Peru, Colombia and a blend — are roasted in Alberta.
“We were tasting and tasting coffee,” says Greg. “There was one point where we’d drank 12 cups of coffee in an hour. Maybe we should have spit some out, like you’d do with wine.”
With single-source beans, drinkers can taste the difference not only between beans, but between geographical regions.
“Flavour is influenced by environment, the soil, the climate, if it’s grown on the shady side or the sunny side. By the ocean,” said says Keyton. He says that the Colombian beans are harvested from an area where citrus trees are close by, so the coffee inherits those fruity notes. The Guatemalan variety is grown in volcanic soil, which makes for a more mellow bean.
The first batch is now available via the Jaguar website, and there are plans to launch a coffee subscription service. Then, the goal is to get the coffee to restaurants and retailers.
Eventually, the coffee offerings will be broken into three distinct categories, Clásico (easy drinking), Ultímo (still approachable, but a little more advanced) and Exotico, which will challenge drinkers to savour very complex flavour combinations — and it won’t be for everyone.
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