Kona, Hawaii, Blue Mountain, Jamaica, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia … Whitehorse, Yukon? Canada’s North probably isn’t what comes to mind when you think of the top coffee regions of the world, but a growing number of small, artisanal roasters are working to change that. Thanks to COVID-19, some northern coffee roasters have taken their sales online, giving all Canadians the opportunity to brew a new kind of morning joe.
More and more commercial coffee productions are going green with sustainable practices, but many local roasters are way ahead of the game with fair trade and organic products. Here are our suggestions for where to get your next bag of beans shipped, with the added benefit of supporting small businesses in Canada’s north.
Meaning ‘good coffee’ in Inuinnaqtun, Kaapittiaq sources its coffee beans from Indigenous farmers in Peru and turns them into what they call the Arctic’s finest brew. The beans come from naturally-forested and bird-friendly environments, harvested by family-owned organizations in South America.
The company is Inuit owned-and-operated in western Nunavut, with 75 per cent of profits each year going toward programs that promote Inuit culture and language. Less than 600 fluent speakers of the Inuinnaqtun language remain, and experts estimate it will become a lost language in less than two generations.
The beans are roasted and packaged through a partnership with Beaver Rock Roastery, an Ontario company.
Since 1997, Bean North has been roasting their certified organic fair trade coffee northwest of Whitehorse, Yukon, in the boreal area of Takhini Valley. They’ve built long-term working relationships with small farmers, paying a premium to help sustain the communities they work with.
Entry into the Yukon is currently restricted due to COVID-19, but you can sign up for a coffee subscription or purchase individual bags with cross-Canada shipping available.
This fall, Barren Ground Coffee will celebrate its third year in business as a small batch artisan coffee roaster in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The company supports a student-run cafe in Whati, where kids learn to brew coffee in addition to learning about proper food handling and business skills. Barren Ground also supports a number of northern athletes.
Each bag of Barren Ground coffee is labelled in two Indigenous languages — Inuktut and Tłı̨chǫ. Their focus is organic and fair-trade coffee.
Atlin Mountain Coffee
This wood-fired roastery in northern British Columbia uses a custom-built roaster to heat its beans. The organic, fair-trade, single-origin beans are protected during the heat-roasting process thanks to a double-roasting drum and are sourced from Nicaragua, Peru, Colombia, Honduras and Ethiopia.
The owners came from France and the Netherlands and live off-grid in a log cabin. In addition to sponsoring local artisans and fundraisers, Atlin Mountain Coffee also sponsors the local search and rescue organization, and the local Pride parade.
Split, stoke, pedal and roast is what Firebean Coffee does with their small batch, artisanal beans. Owner Michael Russo calls himself a coffee ‘pedaler’ — each batch is roasted in a modified pizza oven, with the drum powered by an old stationary bike. Using such basic technologies means Firebean Coffee’s Yukon operation is completely sustainable and suited to a traditional Northern lifestyle.
During COVID-19, website sales at Firebean Coffee have doubled — and it’s still a one-man band. Check out their three-pound sacks for sale or sign up for a roaster’s choice subscription.