Roasting from rural Cape Broyle, Newfoundland, and sister business of Bannerman Brewery, Cape Coffee, is trying to bring more specialty coffee to St. John’s. We caught up with their roasters, Whit MacDonald & Ethan Murphy, to learn more about the roastery.

- How did you get into specialty coffee?

Murphy: I have been working in coffee for about ten years; my first coffee job was here in St. John’s at a fine dining restaurant with a pretty good coffee program. Then I moved to Toronto for school and worked for a specialty roaster there. Then Bannerman opened up in St. John’s around the time, and that’s when Whit and I started working together.

MacDonald: I am originally from the west coast of the island. I worked for a small-scale specialty roastery and coffee shop there for five years, three of which I was roasting. Then I moved to St. John’s and worked at Fixed Coffee and Baking, which was the hub of specialty coffee in St. John’s at the time. When that shut down, I moved to Bannerman.

Murphy: After four years of working there, the brewery owners wanted to have a coffee bar but they needed to build a customer base for it; it takes a bit more time for trends to reach Newfoundland. Initially, we were a multi-roaster cafe. It was a great way to introduce people to lighter roasted coffees. That went well, and roasting was the next logical step. The owners bought a heritage building in Cape Broyle, and that’s where we roast now.

- What is the specialty coffee scene like in St. John’s Newfoundland?

MacDonald: There are maybe three specialty coffee shops, and they are concentrated in the downtown area so it’s hard to get coffee around the city. I think there is a desire to learn about [specialty coffee]; there just aren’t a lot of resources. Murphy: It’s exciting with Cape Coffee because we can show people these specialty coffees and microlots. It kinda feels like it’s growing even with people who just want to serve really great drip.

- What is your green sourcing ethos?

Murphy: We have only been roasting for eight months, so our network of importers is pretty small, but we work closely with Semilla; they have really great politics and their network helps producers evaluate their own coffee so they have more knowledge about what their coffee is worth, which gives producers more autonomy and agency.

We buy as much microlot coffee as possible, so we know it’s going to a producer consistently. We want to be reliable consumers of coffee and be more conscious of contributing to a just supply chain. All of these coffees we are buying from microlots are already some of the best coffee in the world.

May 25, 2023 — Zara Snitman

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