Think of the best times you’ve ever had in your life. That might mean tropical vacations, ski trips, parties with friends or maybe celebrating milestones with family.
For Jamie Parker and Mike Wenzlawe, it’s camping. These adventure junkies and Calgary Heritage Roasting Co. co-founders have roamed all over the rugged Alberta wilderness, and that spirit of exploration is what their coffee is all about.
“It’s comfortable and inviting,” says Mike. “It reminds you of camping.”
I’m happy to report, as I take a sip from the mug I’m offered, that it tastes better than any camp coffee I’ve ever had. We’re in the basement of their new coffee shop and roastery, located in the historic C.C. Snowdon building in the Ramsey neighbourhood, and Jamie is telling me about the flavours of CHRC coffee.
Their coffees are going to be bold but not bitter, chocolatey, nutty, smoky and savoury he says. CHRC sources their beans based on quality and flavour profile. What you won’t find in any of their bags? Acidic, floral or sour coffees.
“What we do is we always get really fresh crops, we don’t buy anything that wasn’t harvested within the year and we roast it right away so it’s extremely fresh,” says Jamie. “It comes across in our flavour and quality for sure.”
Jamie, Mike and I are seated at a large wooden table in the centre of the room, while in the back corner, head roaster Scott is scooping beans into bags and sealing them for delivery. Every batch that he roasts is manually controlled based on a few factors including the beans’ moisture content and the roast level he wants to achieve. At Sunterra we carry four different CHRC roasts: Columbia (notes of toffee, caramel and tangerine), Guatemala (notes of milk chocolate and nuts), Indonesia (dark chocolate notes) and Peru (organic decaf with notes of rich cocoa and citrus).
“Scott’s an integral part of the company,” Jamie acknowledges. “Without that guy, people aren’t getting their coffee.”
The duo fondly refers to Scott as head roaster 2.0, with Jamie himself being head roaster 1.0. Before starting the company, Jamie used to roast beans in a cast iron pan while working in Northern Alberta as a wildland firefighter. Mike, who was also a wildland firefighter but on a different crew, is known as head roaster 0.5 – apparently you don’t want him roasting your coffee. But the two have been buddies since their university days where, as presidents of their own clubs at Mount Royal, they pooled their resources to create social events for students to connect and network. Community and collaboration have always been part of their relationship.
Today, four years after CHRC’s humble launch in Mike’s Mom’s garage, the pair are connecting with community through their easy-drinking coffee and wilderness lifestyle branding. They’ve named the grizzly bear on their logo Bubba, and the mountain range on the bags of coffee is a topographic map of Kananaskis.
“Our goal is to put a very high quality premium coffee product on store shelves, but to make it comfortable and inviting and speak to what we think Alberta is all about,” says Mike. “We kind of live and breathe what we’re doing here.”
Photos courtesy of 2C Studios, 3Bird Photography and Robinson Studios