Celebrating Island culture through a fresh new brand of locally-roasted coffees and specialty teas

If you’ve dreamed of launching your own business you may be familiar with some common advice given to aspiring entrepreneurs: start a business that solves a problem. Jen Vandermaar saw her problem and promptly started a business. Only a year ago, PEI Coffee Company was just an idea. In the blink of an eye, Vandermaar has watched her brand percolate through local stores and gifts shops across the Island with a strong aroma of success.

Her problem? She was looking for a product she couldn’t find. When travelling, Vandermaar always seeks out local products and being a coffee-lover, sussing out local coffee is one of the first things she does. However, back on the Island, she noticed no one offered good quality, locally-roasted coffee that showcased Island life in its brand. As she sees it, her company is not just selling coffee and tea, but also a heaping scoop of love for her culture.

The PEI-proud flavour of her brand deeply infiltrates her product, such as the product descriptions richly steeped in Island twang and imagery, and the logo—a heart encompassing the Island next to Anne herself holding a cuppa. While the styling of her brand has no doubt appealed to those ‘from away,’ Vandermaar has also received praise for the quality of her products from many locals, including some very picky coffee drinkers.

Jen Vandemaar, founder of PEI Coffee Company //photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

What makes her product stand out is not just the Island-oriented branding, but also the coffee beans themselves, which are of Columbian origin and unavailable anywhere else in Atlantic Canada. To launch her business, Vandermaar partnered with a friend and local master roaster with 25 years experience.

It was through her roaster that Vandermaar connected with the family of second-generation roasters in Montreal who supply her beans. They have a direct relationship with the farmers that grow them, meaning no large corporations are involved in getting the coffee beans from the farmer to PEI.

With recent controversy about the legitimacy of the Fair Trade Coffee industry, it was important for Vandermaar to source a product without involving a large corporation, where she could be confident the farmers she purchased from were getting a fair deal. Her beans fall under the Humaniterra foundation and are UTZ certified. Vandermaar plans to visit the farm in the future because it is important to her to make a face to face connection.

The Island’s famous redhead features prominently on PEI Coffee Company’s packaging //submitted photo

Currently PEI Coffee Company offers two roasts: ‘Who’s Yer Father’, a medium roast; and ‘Front Porch Blend’, a modest dark roast. Both are organic and available as whole beans or ground. Vandermaar also partnered with a local tea sommelier to develop two blends of tea: ‘PEI in July’, an organic strawberry green tea; and ‘Island Hospitality’, a special blend of black tea similar to an English Breakfast. A monthly subscription service is now available, offering bulk orders at a reduced rate, delivered directly to your door.

Another unique aspect of the PEI Coffee Company is its single serve packs: a compostable pre-filled pour-over filter that sits on top of your cup, perfect for brewing a fresh cup while camping, at the beach, or while travelling. Once again, the product idea spurred from the problem of wanting something she could not find. Through research she stumbled upon the filter and knew what to do. The only remaining problem? Keeping them in stock. Vandermaar says they’ve been extremely popular.

As for 2019, Vandermaar has lots of fresh ideas brewing. These include an off-grid mini coffee truck that will offer individual cups of coffee made fresh-to-order, along with tea, iced tea, iced coffee, and nitro-coffee (a cold, nitrogen-infused coffee served from a tap). To help with this, she will be expanding her team of three and hiring for the summer. She is also in the process of developing some speciality coffees using innovative flavour profiles that have yet to be explored on the Island, which she plans to have available later this year.

Jump-starting the new year, PEI Coffee Company was featured on The Marilyn Denis Show last December. Following this appearance, Vandermaar says she was flooded with new orders, followers on her social media platforms, and congratulations from all over Canada. She received lots of messages from Islanders now living away who miss home, including one asking her maiden name to see if there was a relation—a true ‘who’s yer father’ moment.

About Tara Callaghan

Decisions are not Tara’s friend. For this reason her passion cannot be reduced to one subject. She has always needed to write, keeping a journal since she was in the single digits. Her career began studying ecology and creative writing. From there she went on to study Landscape Architecture, working professionally for the last 10 years. More recently she launched Little Victory Microfarms; a small farm in Charlottetown and New Glasgow, PEI. With her mother, they grow a wide variety of fresh herbs and vegetables for market and wholesale.
While continuing to feed her passions for designing landscapes and growing food, Tara also feeds her passion to write though an eclectic blog and articles for Salty.

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