A glimpse into my journey into the world of coffee
When I first thought about starting a coffee company it was mostly centred around the idea of fostering community. Having spent eleven years attending university, one thing more than any other (perhaps with the exception of wine) brought people together, and that was getting together for coffee.
With that notion as the genesis for a coffee company, I jumped in headlong, as I am prone to do, without much thought around important issues such as experience, financing, a business plan, or any of the typical things most people think about when starting a business. Having acquired a certification in wine - WSET Advanced III - I made the assumption that coffee couldn't be that much different than the world of wine. I was sadly mistaken.
With nothing more than stubborn determination, I set upon the task of finding a location for the coffee Roastery (I was insistent on roasting my own coffee) and finding a quirky space in a semi industrial part of South Edmonton, I spent four months with my father-in-law and friend Bill building out the first cafe / Roastery which became Transcend Coffee.
Literally pouring my heart and soul into our first location, we opened with nothing more than a promise of providing the city of Edmonton with the best quality coffee we could. Transcend's commitment to quality coffee has never wavered, and while I had little experience, I knew that I wasn't going to do a "dark roast" as that essentially was nothing more than serving up burnt coffee. If nothing else, my wine education had provided me with an excellent foundation for knowing what tasted good and what didn't and I wasn't thrilled with what I was tasting in the early days.
Our first roaster was a Deidrich IR7 manufactured in Sandpoint Idaho. When doing a two day roasting course, I met Craig Holt, the owner of Atlas Coffee Importers, who was giving a short seminar on sourcing green coffee. Oblivious to the process of actually sourcing coffee, I decided that Atlas would be Transcend's official importer. I quickly discovered that their approach to sourcing green coffee, didn't align with what my wine trained pallet was looking for. My frustration with the quality of coffee in the early days led me online in search of other options for sourcing green coffee.
Poul discovers the joy of Panamanian coffee
My online search led me to the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama (SPAC) where I discovered a national coffee competition which first started in 2001. After a panel of judges evaluated a number of submitted lots from producers in Panama, they then auctioned them off via an online auction. Transcend Coffee purchased the 6th best coffee from 2007 - Finca Santa Teresa 2 - and paid US$3.55 per pound for 14 bags (150 lbs per bag) which for me was a tremendous amount of money to pay for green coffee. The coffee arrived later that year and when we roasted it, my inklings were proved correct, there was amazing tasting coffee out there, one just had to search a bit harder for it.
On a cold winter day in early 2008 sitting in my hot and loud office located directly above the roaster, I received a letter from the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama. Upon opening it, I was delighted to find an invitation to participate in the judging panel for the upcoming 2008 competition to be held in April. I was ecstatic and terrified at the same time. I wanted to go to Panama but was afraid that if I did go, I would be exposed as someone who knew nothing about coffee. Thankfully and not surprisingly, my curiosity won out, and I accepted the invitation and went on my first trip to "origin" where I faked my way through my first of what were to be many international coffee competitions.