Rooftop Turns Two!
Two Years of Rooftop
This week marks two years of Rooftop. We can still remember dropping the first batch into the cooling tray of our commercial machine and gawking at the sheer quantity of beans. Having previously only roasted 250g at a time on an electric home roasting machine, the sight of all those beans was overwhelming. Burlap sacks of unroasted beans were stored in our basement, and we brought our green to the shop in buckets. Fast-forward to now, sacks of coffee are stacked up to the windows in the roasterie, and our roaster's batch size now feels frustratingly small… Needless to say, some things have changed. To celebrate this little milestone, here’s a recap of the last two years of Rooftop.
The First Year – Focus on the Beans
So here we were, introducing light-roasted, single origin coffee to Fernie. We were serving a fruity Guatemalan and a floral Ethiopian at Sunday Farmer’s Markets, while the Valley Social was serving up our Colombian on their espresso bar. Being in a dark-roast dominated area, the notion of coffee tasting like anything other than smoke and chocolate was still a foreign concept. However, people seemed to be catching on to our vision of sweet, light coffee. We were living the dream, and giddy with excitement.
As our weekly production slowly started creeping up, we quickly realized that we needed to bolster our coffee roasting knowledge. Up until then, we’d done everything in house, from dry-walling our space to designing our bags. But when it comes to the science of coffee, there’s only so much you can teach yourself (or rather only so much the Internet can teach you). That’s how we ended up enrolled in the International Barista and Coffee Academy in October 2016. Patrick O’Malley, our instructor at IBCA, is the Anthony Bourdain of coffee – he’s off-the-cuff, tells it like it is, and has no time to waste. His palate can discern any flavour imaginable, and he sources, roasts, and brews some of the best coffee we’ve ever had. During our time going through the SCA pathways, Patrick instilled in us a deeper love of coffee and the skills we needed to create the exact flavour experience we wanted in the cup.
We continued refining our roasting style throughout the winter and getting our coffee out to more cafés, slowly growing. In April 2017, we drove over to Seattle for our first SCA Global Coffee Expo. This opened our eyes to the enormity of the specialty coffee industry. The countless conversations, cuppings, and lectures left us overwhelmed, but with even more tools to keep pushing our coffee forward. We came back to Fernie with an Ikawa sample roaster, new importers to work with, and a mountain of green coffee samples. Now we could source coffee more meticulously, and continuously tinker with and improve every bean that came through our doors.
By the time July 2017 and our first anniversary rolled around, we were a far cry from the team of coffee industry rookies we were a year earlier. We felt like we knew what we were doing, and we were roasting coffee that we felt good about.
The Second Year – Now we Make it Look Good (among other things)
We finally got our coffee to where we wanted it to be, but it was still packaged in bags that looked, well…homemade. Even though they say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, we suspected our DIY bags might be giving people the wrong impression of what was inside.
Enter: Nina and Todd at Platform Design.
After one meeting over coffee with Nina and Todd, we knew we wanted them to be behind Rooftop’s re-brand. Countless phone calls and emails later, we finally created the identity you see today. Built off elements of our original branding, the re-design calls back to our company’s origin. The new logo was inspired by our original, homemade one. The tagline “Single Origin, Single Speed”, now a part of the bag design, comes from a banner we hung at Farmer’s Markets bearing the same slogan. Nina and Todd even developed the greenish hue of our bags from the colours of the Elk River. The final design is a reflection of our community and our beginnings.
Around the same time, we had added another member to the team – Tina the Trailer. With a yellow racing stripe, floral-print curtains and itchy tweed pillows, Tina was chock-full of 1970s vibes. Once we got her dressed up with our fresh new logo and equipped with an espresso and drip setup, she was a certified mobile coffee machine. We had Tina parked next to the Elk River Guiding Company all summer and then served the concert-goers at Fernie’s annual Wapiti Music Festival. Without an actual café of our own, Tina was our way of officially introducing Rooftop to the community of Fernie.
In November 2017, we got the opportunity to introduce ourselves to a much, much larger coffee drinking community – Vancouver. Having received an invitation to the first Beanstock Coffee Festival, this was our chance to make an entrance in BC’s largest coffee scene. What ensued was a hectic day of making pour overs for thousands of people and chatting with all the excited coffee nerds, bloggers and professionals (…and explaining to lots of them where Fernie even was). Once the chaos subsided, we were buzzing with excitement. The positive response we received from the crowd was so rewarding and put Rooftop on people’s radar. Some of our current café partners in Vancouver even came about because of Beanstock. We’d let the coffee community know who we were, and they seemed to like us.
One of the most exciting aspects of this startup is using Rooftop as a vehicle to fund projects and causes that we are passionate about. In spring 2017, we got to see the effects of our Coffee for A Cause initiative. After donating a dollar off of every pound of Peruvian coffee we'd roasted since opening our doors, CIMA (the home for neglected boys near Lima, Peru) used the funds to build a new chicken coup and to buy medicine and books for the boys. To be able to work with caring people who are doing such inspiring work to rehabilitate and empower the boys in their community has been so rewarding. (Read more about that in the "Coffee for A Cause" section of the website) .
The Third Year ... who knows?
It’s been a wild ride so far, but it’s left us so humbled. Two years ago, we could’ve never imagined we’d be on shelves next to roasters we’ve looked up to since our home roasting days. There are so many other people who have played a role in getting us to where we are today, that we can’t begin to thank them all here in this first post. Keep an eye on this blog and the newsletter in the months to come for features on the businesses and people who have shaped Rooftop – we want to make sure everyone feels the love. (Sign up for the newsletter below - there you'll get all the inside scoops, updates, and deals with Rooftop).
There’s still so much we’re learning about this industry as we move along, it’s so hard to predict what will define our third year and those that will follow. We’re excited to see where we’ll go next as we continue to learn and refine the way we source, roast, and brew coffee.
Anyway, here’s to a stellar two years!
Keegan, Sarah, and Dave.
Setting up the roaster in 2016 vs. a crowded shop in 2018.