Many Wakefielders are already in on the secret, but Bluebarn Coffee Roasters is new to most Ottawans. The brainchild of Luc Alary, who spent a number of years in coffee-growing countries working in Red Cross field hospitals, and Kerri Flanagan, whose expertise is as a barista, Bluebarn roasts its specialty-grade beans out of a — you guessed it — beautiful blue barn in Edelweiss.
Alary says the duo, who work with a network of family and friends, are “coffee nerds” committed to building long-term relationships with their green coffee producers and with customers “who love coffee as much as we do and want to up their coffee game.” City Bites Insider stopped by to watch a roasting session, take part in a coffee cupping, and learn more about the owners’ plans.
Find Bluebarn beans at the Wakefield General Store, Massine’s Independent Grocer (formerly Hartman’s), and Centretown’s Herb & Spice — or buy them online.
You launched Bluebarn in June, but I’m guessing you’ve been working on this business for awhile.
Luc: Definitely! We created the business a year ago and have been travelling, sourcing coffee, and getting everything set up ever since.
Kerri: We’ve been non-stop thinking, planning, visiting farms, getting equipment, tasting coffee. We want to try to travel to as many farms as we can and buy coffee directly from the growers. It has been super-insightful to see the whole process — from planting to picking to processing.
How did you get into the business?
Luc: I’ve been interested in coffee for more than a decade. When I was in university, the father of my partner at the time was a coffee roaster. I would help him out on Sunday mornings. I actually wrote a business plan for my own coffee roastery way back then. Eight years ago, I moved back to the Wakefield area, built my house, and started building the barn. So, really, Bluebarn Coffee has been a work-in-progress for years!
I’ve been tinkering and playing with small roasters for years. Coffee roasting is a business where art and science converge — becoming an expert is about years of experimentation. Our German-made roaster is hooked up to a computer that shows us everything that’s happening in the roaster — each time we get a perfect result, we can recreate it exactly.
Kerri: I’ve worked in cafés more than half my life, so I’m more of the barista and social media expert at Bluebarn.
How do you decide what beans to buy?
Luc: We buy what we like to drink! Quality always wins over price when we’re choosing.
Kerri: Our larger group of partners gets together regularly to blindly sample various coffees. It’s great when we all agree.
Right now, your beans are available at a few retail locations for people who want to brew their own coffee at home. Can people taste your coffee at any coffeeshops?
Kerri: We’re working on an espresso blend because that’s what most coffeeshops need. Black Squirrel Books & Café [in Old Ottawa South] makes our coffee — Alex [Ekstrom] really knows her stuff. Also The Cookery Bistro in Kanata. We want to work with people who are really into the process.
The blue barn is amazing! Tell me about it.
Luc: My Dad and I built it over a summer. It’s actually put together using pieces from six barn buildings from Renfrew County.
Kerri: Originally Luc wanted to paint it purple, but then decided on blue. It’s such a vibrant colour that Bluebarn became the obvious choice for the name of the company.
It’s a beautiful space. Are there any plans to hold workshops or tastings here?
Luc: We have had commercial clients come to visit already.
Kerri: It’s certainly something we’ll consider at some point. Part of the experience of loving coffee is seeing the many different layers to it, so it would be fun for us to pass along our knowledge and show how our coffee is roasted.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Luc: The only routine for us is that every day starts with coffee!
Kerri: Seriously, though, we have settled into a weekly routine for roasting and packaging and deliveries to our retail clients. Part of every day is always spent doing client follow-ups and social media.
You also sell a small selection of coffee gear. Why?
Kerri: The stuff we sell online is what we use at home. There are so many fun ways to brew coffee that once you start it becomes almost an addiction. We want people to realize that you don’t have to drink that terrible office coffee. You can make amazing coffee at home or at your desk.