Rooftop Coffee Roasters hails from Fernie, British Columbia, a mountain town with a population of 5,000. We caught up with their Head Roaster, Keegan Street, to learn how he went from roasting coffee on his roof to running a roastery. 

- So how did Rooftop Coffee Roasters come to be?

Rooftop officially started in 2016, but before that, I was home roasting as a hobby on the rooftop of our house. I started roasting because I had just moved to Fernie, BC, from Calgary, whose coffee scene was booming. I went from that to this amazing small town that didn't have a specialty coffee scene, and through forums and the internet, I found out that I could roast at home. 

- What is the specialty coffee scene like in Fernie?

It's still more second wave, which is nostalgic for me. They are all the cafes I would go to after skiing on the hill. But the third wave is picking up more with us, and some other roasters around that are introducing more light roast and single-origin coffees. But I also like the 90s style of coffee, so I can't complain. 

- What is your green sourcing ethos?

We want to narrow down the towns and farms we have been buying from and bring them in repeatedly. It can be difficult because importers won't always bring in the same coffees each year, or coffees will get blended into a community lot. We want to have more intention in articulating those expectations with importers and exporters. We need to get them to trust that we aren't just saying that it's a real requirement of ours. 

We are also trying to branch out more into emerging origins. We featured coffee from the Congo, China, and some smaller South American countries like Ecuador and Bolivia in the last couple of years, which were stunning. I think customers appreciated seeing those less common origins.

- Why is it important to you guys to continue working with the same producers?

It's how we want people to work with us on the retail end; we like when cafes constantly work with us because then we can make consistent projections for what we will buy and how we will plan our sourcing and roasting. It only makes sense to extend that same courtesy and constancy to the people growing the coffees; they are also running a business. And then, from a quality and enjoyment perspective, it's fun to bring in the same coffees every year. We have started to get wholesale and retail customers asking us when certain coffees are coming back and beginning to identify more with producers rather than looking for the newest thing; they are getting excited for coffees to come back and comparing them from one harvest to the next.

- What are Rooftop’s plans for the future?

I just graduated from a program in environmental engineering. My focus in that degree was in water treatment and water systems. As a long-term goal, I hope to refine those skills a little more and find work in that arena and eventually tie those skills back into coffee, maybe from the producing side. But that depends on getting more expertise. In the short term, we are just trying to grow the cafe. We were delayed there for a while because we opened right when the pandemic started. We didn't have the chance to do many events or public cuppings, so I think this summer we want to introduce more of that and have more of a culture of coffee growing in Fernie. 

April 06, 2023 — Zara Snitman

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