Keegan Street has had a vision for brewing coffee ever since the age of 16. For the past eight months, Street has been running his own coffee roasting company out of Fernie, B.C., known as Rooftop Coffee Roasters.
The now-18-year-old moved to Fernie from Calgary three years ago. When he and his family left Calgary, the specialty coffee industry was starting to take off. Several shops transformed their standard coffee shop into coffee galleries, importing beans from all over to let people taste the differences. Seeing this, Street was impressed and inspired.
Coming to Fernie, Street saw a lack of this culture.
“I’ve always really liked the food and beverage industry,” said Street. “Any industry where their stuff is coming from all over the world, and all present their own flavours, I thought was super cool.”
With a passion for the bean but little knowledge in how to start his own business, Street turned to his parents for help. Together they worked to create a viable coffee business.
“I knew how to roast coffee, I didn’t know how to start a business,” said Street.
16-year-old Street saved up and bought a small electric coffee roaster, which resembled a popcorn machine. Starting off roasting in the kitchen, he was unaware of the amount of smoke it would produce. His mother quickly ushered him out of the kitchen to take his experiments elsewhere.
“I thought it would be interesting to roast your own coffee, because I never knew that was something you could do,” said Street.
This was during the summertime, when temperatures were mild and tolerable at night. Street brought his machine up to the roof to roast, and it was through this that the name Rooftop Coffee Roasting was born.
Since Street started experimenting with making coffee two years ago, his skills have grown tremendously and the tiny popcorn roaster has been replaced by a much larger machine.
“A pretty established coffee roaster that I met, said, ‘Coffee roasting is the most difficult simple thing you’ll do’,” Street shared.
A seemingly simple process of spinning beans in a hot drum for fifteen minutes is a process that can be done hundreds of different ways, depending on what flavours a roaster is aiming to accent.
“I’ve found out that there’s not really one recipe when roasting coffee,” said Street. “You have to go into it thinking, what do I want to bring out of this coffee?” said Street.
Through different processes when roasting the coffee, certain flavours can be accented. From a caramel noted, chocolaty Colombian roast, to a fruity, sweet Guatemalan, to an Ethiopian roast that almost tastes like tea, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Each flavour is achieved through different roasting techniques, each lengthened or shortened to pinpoint certain chemical reactions which all affect taste.
Street will perform three to six coffee tastings per roasting day, making sure what he’s making is of good quality and consistent.
Rooftop Coffee Roasters just developed two espresso blends, which are currently available at the Valley Social.
Currently there are nine single origin roasts available, as well as two blends (two or more coffees mixed together).
Street has a contact in Vancouver, who has a list of all his available coffees. Before producing a new blend, Street is sent a pound sample, which he will roast, often multiple times in several different ways before deciding to order three to 400 pounds of it, or try another bean.
Street is considering attending UNBC in Prince George, where he will study Environmental Engineering.
“I’m hoping to expand it [Rooftop]. There’s a lot of talk about direct trade when it comes to coffee roasters, so I’m hoping to get into that, go to other countries and meet the farmers, sourcing the coffee directly,” said Street. “Also I want to start funding some projects over there, to improve sustainability. There’s a lot of good work being done by coffee roasters to help those countries, because most of them are third-world countries.”
Right now Street and his parents are trying to build the business to the point where it is sustainable until his return, at which point he will use his new-found knowledge to expand Rooftop Coffee Roasters.
Street recently read an article about a 17-year-old coffee roaster in the UK who has started his own cafe. He hopes to collaborate with him in the near future, as well as pursue ownership of his own coffee shop.
“I think it’s really cool how, if you’re a roaster and have a cafe, you have that immediate location where you can test new blends and flavours,” said Street.
In terms of starting a business, Street has some advice for anyone wishing to pursue their dreams. One of the biggest pieces of advice would be to create a team of individuals who will help you on your way.
“My parents helped establish the business at first but they’ve also been huge in helping me administer everything, and helping me build a business,” said Street. “Using them, and using your mentors and your teammates to really work together and build something, is a lot easier than trying to forge a path on your own.”
Rooftop Coffee Roasting is served as espresso at The Valley Social, and as drip at Freshies. It can be bought at four shops in Alberta and eight in B.C. Those in Fernie include the Guides Hut, Happy Cow, The Valley Social, Quest and the Mountain Pantry.
Rooftop also has a home delivery service, which can be ordered off the website and delivered to an individuals door in two to three business days. For more information visit Rooftopcoffeeroasters.com.