Northbound Coffee Roasters is a small, family-owned roaster in Mount Shasta, CA. We had the opportunity to visit their home base last month and chat with owner Keith Hamrick.
The Beaten Path is adding a new series to it's blog roll arsenal: TBP Interviews.The series will focus on other smaller brands, bands, and artists that I personally admire for the hard work that they put into their passions.This isn't just filler, this is me reaching out to those who inspire to hear their side of the story.Check out the interview below and be sure to let us know what you think.
A few months ago I was scrolling through coffee hashtags on Instagram and all of a sudden the packaging for Beachcomber Coffee caught my eye. Intrigued, I did some more research on the company and found out that they're a small startup specialty coffee brand based out of Vancouver, BC that boasts a unique blend and flavor profile along with a super energy efficient small-batch roasting process. Over the past few weeks I've had the chance to finally taste the coffee along with speak with owner Martin DesRosiers about his brand. Check out the interview below where Martin does an amazing job in giving an inside look into their roasting process, packaging, bean selection and more.
- What's your name, location, and role at Beachcomber Coffee?
Martin DesRosiers, North Vancouver, and I'm the founder of Beachcomber Coffee Co.
- What's your work background in? How has that played a roll in the brand?
My background is diverse in that I went to school for general business/marketing and ended up pursuing a more technical path. I've been in the Managed IT Services business since 2006, had a small IT services business acquired in 2009, and have ventured out to build a few online projects including a social media/digital marketing consulting business. Having launched a few projects/startups I've been able to learn along the way and I've always wanted to build a product. With a strong passion for the coffee culture, I started working on Beachcomber last June and officially launched January 2015.
- How long have you been into specialty coffee?
I'm completely new to the industry - an official certified rookie with limited knowledge. With that being said, I'm tapped into the coffee culture scene on a few levels and have been working closely with an existing craft coffee brand which has helped me a lot along the way so far. I believe part of being new prevents me from over analyzing everything and allows me to go with my gut on many decisions, I feel like I'm learning something new every week and mostly everyone I've encountered that has a passion for coffee, has been positive and friendly.
- Can you talk about the energy efficient roasting that Beachcomber does as well as how much it plays into the marketing of the brand?
After doing extensive local research and watching a TED Talk on coffee roasting (from one of the guys behind the roaster) I realized that a lot of coffee roasters lack differentiation. I felt that the sustainable aspect of the coffee roasting process aligned well with the source of my vision/brand as the Beachcomber moniker comes from growing up in a small town outside of Vancouver of around 3,000 people. It's a coastal community that's really tapped into the environment and nature and I was really intrigued by the eco-friendly aspect of the roaster and was surprised by the consistency of the roasted coffee beans as well as the aroma. The roaster outputs 20x less the CO2 emissions compared to traditional roasters and is 20x more energy efficient but it's not just about being eco-friendly, the roaster creates a consistently delicious coffee bean, it's really a win-win.
- The Beaten Path is a lot like Beachcomber in the way that it's pretty much a DIY operation. What's your favorite part of doing this by yourself? What are your greatest struggles? What fuels you to keep going as a small operation?
In terms of the marketing, business development, and hustle aspect, it's definitely a one-man show (me, myself, and I). As it stands right now, I am working directly with the team behind the roasting technology (roaster) to help with a few steps on the supply chain. This is a phase 1 thing for me as Beachcomber is not my full-time gig. Phase 2 involves stepping things up a bit but I can't share too much of what that phase looks like as it currently doesn't exist in Vancouver (can't give away too much of my secret sauce). My favourite aspect of going about this solo is the complete freedom for creativity but also taking a vision/idea and turning into something real, something that people enjoy and go out of their way to tell me how much they love the coffee, that is pretty amazing in itself. Going into this you never know what the outcome will be in that you may like it yourself but will other people drink it? will they like it? will they tear it apart? I'm shocked that in 5-months of putting coffee out there, I've only received 1 negative review - that's to be expected though and it doesn't phase me one bit. One thing that really confirmed for me that I was on the right track was sending my coffee out to coffeereview.com for their blind-cupping tests and to essentially put my 'baby' through the gauntlet. It's a pure dice roll in terms of what these specialty coffee industry experts will come back with and they scored it 91/100 - there are coffees that score much higher (typically single origin) so the fact that my blend scored in the 90s and it being my first foray into specialty coffee was really a "thumbs up, you're on the right track". My greatest struggles are time; the time and bandwidth associated with being a one-man show - it's definitely hard to scale this business (probably impossible) being solo, so I know that will have to change over time. A passion for business development and coffee culture are what fuels me and converting people from regular pre-ground coffee drinkers or k-cup drinkers to people that grind their beans on a daily basis are what drive me.
- How did you come up with the name for Beachcomber Coffee?
The Beachcombers was one of the longest running, if not the longest running TV shows here in Canada. It was filled in my hometown where I grew up and everyone and their dog was an extra in the show. The Sunshine Coast BC and Gibsons in particular has always been synonymous with the Beachcombers. I wanted to tap into my roots of growing up in a small coastal community, spending endless summers on the beach so the name Beachcomber Coffee Co. made perfect sense.
- One of the main things that personally drew me into your brand was the beautiful, vibrant packaging. Who is behind the branding, packaging and online marketing of Beachcomber? Do you feel that the visual identity of the brand has played a noticeable part in overall sales to this point?
Honestly, I developed the idea/vision and ultimately the strategy behind the packaging and branding. The fact that you call it beautiful is such a compliment as again, you never know what people are going to think. I wanted to do something different after analyzing the various brands sitting on the shelves - I also wanted to articulate (via some form of infographic) why Beachcomber is different. I took all these ideas and worked with a local design firm to help bring this thing to life and I am extremely happy with the end result. Outside of the taste of the coffee, people always go out of their way to talk about the packaging which is great.
- Can you talk about how you began sourcing your beans and eventually ended at the blend this is now Beachcomber Coffee?
In collaboration with our partner (the one who imports the green beans) we had the luxury of taste-testing almost every bean out there, initially to determine what flavour profiles I felt would complement each other. Over a 4-month process I finally landed on the Brazil, Costa Rica, and Guatemala combo which is now Beachcomber Coffee. Honestly this started with personal taste and like anything (beer, wine, etc) everyone leans towards something they personally prefer - ultimately I wanted to love and drink the coffee on a daily basis, if it's not something I loved, how would I sell it to the world? Sure, I could have gone with single origin, or a more popular bean such as Ethiopian but I wanted a blend that I could easily replicate and that I felt was consistently delicious.
- It seems like a huge trend in specialty coffee right now is a lighter roast profile, even for blends. Can you talk about how and why you eventually wound up at the roast shade you have deemed as "dusk" ?
I'll be honest in that the 'dusk' tag is more of a marketing play as the blend is not light or dark but somewhere in between. Oddly enough we've had a few people say it's on the lighter side, and others say it's on the darker side which simply confirms that everyone has a different taste palette - I knew full well going into making a product, especially one that you drink, that there will be lots of raving fans and those that don't like it at all. The beauty of Beachcomber is its versatility in that it works as an espresso (coffeereview.com scored it 91/100 as an espresso) but I personally drink it in drip format on a daily basis. I know others that do the french press and love it, and some that go the cold route - the versatility is consistent with Beachcomber not being too light or too dark.
- Beachcomber Coffee is only a few months old yet you seem to be getting great feedback from all angles. How do you feel about where the brand is at right now and where do you see the brand going within the next year?
Right now I think the brand is basically a baby that's crawling, not yet walking etc. It's really early in many areas and there are lots of improvements to make and LOTS of opportunity for growth. This year my goal is to build a foundation of key partners (grocery, specialty retailers, cafes, etc.). I need to create additional brand awareness to the point of people going into a few places asking for Beachcomber by name, I need to great the demand and continue to build the digital/online community.
- Any plans for expanding into more blends or single origin offerings?
Right now no, but I don't want to say I'll never deviate from the blend. Part of being unique is that Beachcomber is Beachcomber in that the blend you taste now is the brand/coffee. I know that I am eliminating a percentage of the market as some people like a french roast for their espresso and some people only buy decaf. I'm not here to take over the market including all of the coffee options - I really want to stick with what has been working for me and to maintain the uniqueness of Beachcomber by sticking to a single blend that took so long to perfect.
- I know that Beachcomber doesn't have an e-commerce site yet. Are you planning on launching a web store or will you be focusing more on the wholesale side of the brand?
Yes, that's definitely in the plans, we did a quick pivot and decided to change our bag, format, and price. This delayed getting our store live but it should be going live in May or at the latest June. Having a store is great but at the same time can be a headache in terms of logistics, shipping, all that jazz but it's definitely a must-have.
- If someone reading this wanted to give Beachcomber a try where would they be able to pick up a bag locally?
If you live in Vancouver you can buy it from Buddhaful-Cafe or Griffins Boxing & Fitness. If you live on the Sunshine Coast you can buy it from IGA Gibsons, IGA Wilson Creek, the Friday Café at the Gibsons Public Market and Spin Cycles. If you don't live near these locations you can shoot me an email (email@example.com) and I can see what I can do!
You can find out more about Beachcomber Coffee at their website, and keep up with what Martin is up to via Twitter and Instagram.And as always, if you dig this interview or have anything to add to the conversation, feel free to reach out to me by email or on social media (@btnpthny)Thanks for reading!