There’s a new name in the world of coffee roasting — Steam Donkey Coffee — and it’s happening right here in Kimberley.
Steam Donkey Coffee is owned by Michelle and Kevin Shepit. They have a small roasting operation in Lower Blarchmont and are gradually building a reputation for quality, locally roasted coffee.
The entire philosophy behind Steam Donkey is building relationships. From relationships with coffee growers in various countries, to relationships with retailers in British Columbia, since the company began last spring, there has been slow, steady growth.
Steam Donkey imports unroasted, green beans from Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua Ethiopia and others. In some of these cases, the Shepits have developed direct relationships with the farmers.
“We use blends as well as single origin offerings, but our primary offerings are currently blended coffees,” Kevin says.
The Shepits started their business plan while living on Vancouver Island, but the plan always was to develop the business in Kimberley, where Kevin “was born and grew tall”, as he puts it.
They began putting the coffee out last spring and have seen a very positive response from customers.
“With small communities come small companies,” Kevin said. “We are thankful to be able to operate a sustainable business here in Kimberley, grateful for the support and always open to feedback.”
And Steam Donkey Coffee reflects the community where it is roasted in its various blends. From Hell Roaring (extra dark) to Sawtooth (medium roast), Underground (dark roast), Aksel (single origin, direct trade) Boot Strap (light roast), Lamplighter (untraditional espresso), Loco Motive (traditional espresso) to Slo Moe (decaf), the blends reflect the geography and history of Kimberley.
“We wanted our brand to include local history and the nuances of the area,” Kevin said.
Growth has been on the rise for the past months.
“We chose to put a brand out there where the quality of the product would speak for itself,” Kevin said.
Steam Donkey is not sold out of the factory but through local retailers. It is available at Overwaitea, Sprout, Centex and Snowdrift Cafe in Kimberley, Save-On Foods and Funhogs in Cranbrook, Overwaitea in Fernie and Sobeys in Invermere.
“We are now working with Overwaitea Food Group and can sell Steam Donkey coffee to any Overwaitea or Save-On across BC as long as we develop relationships with each grocer,” Kevin said. “We met with the President of Overwaitea Food Group in Kimberley. That’s a pretty monumental step for a start up.”
Success has come quickly but Kevin says the focus is for slow, steady growth.
“We are a small company, a local company with exceptional support from locals, for which we are very grateful. Slow growth is the plan. With a small company, rapid growth can be dangerous. Everything is going according to plan. It’s one step at a time.”