Wolfhead Coffee, Thunder Bay, Ontario

As I write this blog entry, I’m actually sipping on some of the Wolfhead Coffee I brought back. When I reached out to some Thunder Bay groups on Facebook for suggestions on places I could visit to buy local products, Dan Dampier, the owner of Wolfhead Coffee, reached out to me in a private message and invited me to a tour of his operation.

This was very exciting for me as this was the first place that ever reached out to me in this manner and I had never actually seen how coffee beans were roasted. I knew it would be cool to get an inside look at the whole operation and learn a lot of new things about what goes on in the background to deliver me my caffeine fix.

The cool thing about Wolfhead Coffee is it’s definitely one of those built in your garage sort of startups. In this case, Dan built a shed behind his house. After my drive from Winnipeg, I pulled up to his place and parked on the street.

I wasn’t quite sure which shed it was at first, so I knocked on the house door. Dan’s wife directed me to the big shed out back.

Dan greeted me and started making some coffee. When he first reached out to me, I quickly went to his website and found out they made smoked coffee. I was excited to try this, as I had never seen it before. This is exactly what he made for me and it was great (also what I’m currently drinking right now)!

There were some other guys there that were planning some filming. The crazy thing is I found out they also liked to visit Copper Harbor. They continued on with planning their of the video and then Dan and I started to talk as we sipped on coffee. I found he is a mechanical engineer by trade, but got sick of being on the road so much. I can definitely relate to this as I’m constantly on the road for work and know that sometimes it can get a bit old.

In his case, he has a young family, who actually came out to the shed to say goodnight, as it was getting to be their bed times. I definitely know when I get to that stage of my life, I will be doing a lot less traveling, as those kind of good nights are more important than seeing random things in the little off time you get after a long day of work.

Dan decided to take his passion for coffee and turn it into a full time job and that’s where Wolfhead Coffee was born.

Obviously, the first part of the coffee process starts with green, unroasted beans. There were many of those there.

The coffee beans are then loaded into the roaster to first roast the beans. Then they are put into the cyclone, or chaff separator, to collect all the unwanted dunnage from the roasting process. Additionally, there is an oxidizer, aka afterburner, to superheat the emissions that come from the roasting process and allow there to be no smoke or any other emissions that might upset the neighbors. This process has about a 2 day turnaround from taking the green coffee beans and having them ready for the customer to get their caffeine fix. The following is the setup at Wolfhead Coffee.

Besides the actual coffee making equipment, this shed definitely shows a cozy and efficient coffee making operation in order.

After showing me the inner workings of his operation, Dan poured me another cup of coffee.

We talked a bit more and I could tell he had a lot of business sense and has things in order to do well. I was told he has pretty much maxed out his capacity in his shed and already has a couple of full time employees. The fact that he saw my posting on a Facebook group and then invited me to see his operation (as well as the film crew also being there) shows he’s on top of his marketing.

Personally, I don’t know how much Wolfhead Coffee would have registered with me as I hit up local grocery stores for local products. I know I probably would have considered it, but now I had instant brand recognition any time I saw it. As I explored Thunder Bay, I definitely took notice of it on the shelves of many local establishments and could see that he as doing a good job growing his business.

When I decided I wanted to start really focusing on buying local products wherever I went, this is what I had in mind. Someone who was following their passion, who was deeply rooted and established in that local community, and made an excellent product. In this case Dan makes great coffee and the fact that it’s insanely unique to have smoked coffee will make me come back and buy more. The coffee that I bought and am currently drinking is the Vienna Roast Hickory Smoked Coffee.

All I can say is keep up the good work Dan and I’ll probably pick up some more of your coffee when I visit Thunder Bay next. Also, the videos on your website (http://wolfheadcoffee.com) are pretty cool too!

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