THUNDER BAY -- Jamie Nichols has had a few career changes in his life (graphic designer, computer technician, ocean vessel navigator and cartographer to name a few) but he is now known for his freshly roasted coffee.
Being a gadget lover, it wasn’t a big stretch for him to purchase a coffee roaster while searching for a better coffee experience. Roaster No.1 (July 2013) was little more than a glorified oven toaster and it also made everything in Nichols’ house smell like roasting coffee (which might sound like a good idea, but it really isn’t.) His wife (not a coffee-drinker) put her foot down and the roaster was relegated to the garage.
In most people’s garages, it might have collected dust, but Nichols had fallen in love with roasting and the hobby morphed into a business. A second, more professional roaster soon followed, and Sweet Escape Cake Café and Bakery started selling Rose N Crantz coffee.
As demand grew, a third roaster arrived, and he started working full time on the business. Currently, Rose N Crantz can be found at about 20 locations in town and they serve brews of every kind at the Thunder Bay Country Market.
While he has no plans to open a cafe of his own (other than at the market) Nichols finally moved the business out of his garage and into a building on Cumberland where Oriental Foods used to be. (While renovating the building, contractors discovered a sign for Vita’s Foodland, which had been there before Oriental Foods and the landlord pieced together the ancient sign to use as interior décor.)
The space is large enough to accommodate the new Probat roaster, which can roast 12 kilograms at a time, quadrupling capacity.
Each roast takes from 10 to 15 minutes. Delivering the freshest beans possible to customers is a priority, so he only roasts what he is selling in the next day or so.
Unlike most coffees, he sells his beans labeled with the roasting date, because he believes beans should not sit on a store shelf for more than two weeks, so that consumers can drink it within a month of roasting. If a store has beans more than two weeks old, he swaps them for a fresh batch. The old beans? “They’re actually better for cold brew, which we serve at the market,” he says, because very freshly roasted beans release CO2 and too much of that can affect the flavour of cold brew.
Rose N Crantz coffee is labeled by origin, such as Rwanda, Peru and Columbia. He has decaf as well, which he swears “doesn’t taste like something is missing.”
He won’t do flavoured coffee because the flavouring will transfer to a grinder, rendering it useless for any other kind of coffee. “We have coffee-flavoured coffee!” he says with pride.