There’s no question that starting your own business takes a lot of courage at the best of times, but launching a brand new business in the midst of a global pandemic seems outright crazy.
But that is exactly what the husband & wife team of Ben & Jill McGaghey have done with the launch of Hasty Coffee. As far as I can tell, Hasty Coffee is Canada’s very first instant specialty coffee company and they are based right here in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta. I am incredibly excited to see Calgary continuing to be the hub of new ventures in specialty coffee and I am pumped that Hasty has emerged on the scene. Today is the official launch day for Hasty Coffee so make sure to head on over to their site to get yourself some. But in the meantime, let me share a little bit more about them.
The moment I heard about Hasty I connected with their VIP Facebook page that they launched to get a group of coffee lovers together to be a test group to sample their first run. For their first offering they made the wise move to collaborate with another great name in the Calgary specialty coffee scene–David Kim. Using his KIYALO-Ethiopian Natural from the West Guji region as their coffee was brilliant! David Kim is one of Calgary’s rising stars when it comes to specialty coffee and this offering was a smart choice for Hasty.
Ben & Jill stopped by my house to drop off a couple of samples and I was thrilled to hear a bit of their story. I had the chance later that day to brew up one of their samples and it was crazy good! Hasty suggested tasting notes of pineapple, orange & caramel, and this coffee definitely presented a well balanced cup. I brewed it up once at 240ml and a second time at 300ml (their suggested volume variance) and I must say I felt the sweet spot was closer to the 240ml volume. But I will definitely suggest you grab some and try for yourself.
I reached out to Ben & Jill a few days later and asked if they would share even more of their story and they were beyond excited to do so. I hope that you get as excited as I am for Ben & Jill as they launch this great new company.
Q: How long have you called Calgary home? What do you love about the coffee culture here?
[Ben] My family and I are originally from New Brunswick. We moved back and forth twice but in total I think we’ve been here about 16 years. Jill’s originally from Rosemary, just outside of Brooks and she’s been here for the last 6 Years.
Calgary’s coffee culture is a strange animal. If you look at larger Canadian cities you’ll find larger coffee scenes and more cafes but consistently, every year, if you look at the Canadian Barista Championships at least 5/6 competitors are from Calgary. The quality of barista’s and roasters in this city is unmatched in Canada. I think in general Calgary is a very work-hard quality driven city and I think that’s reflected in our coffee accolades. I’m sure a lot of people can feel that pretension in some local café’s but for the most part I think the coffee scene here is really gracious and inviting to people looking to find out what this crazy over-the-top coffee thing is all about.
Q: Share with our readers a bit of your back-story in specialty coffee? Prior to Hasty what were you involved in?
I started to take an interest in coffee in my early 20s and after (now thankfully) having my resume’s consistently overlooked at Starbucks, I ended up getting a job at a startup café in Airdrie called Sorso. They served Rosso Coffee but also brought in a guest roaster every month from all over Canada. I worked there for six months and then ended up phasing out and working in construction for a bit to save up so we could get married. Then we both worked for a Non-Profit organization here in the city and I realized that I really wanted to go back to coffee. So I got a job at Rosso Coffee Roasters and really dug in to the culture there. Cole Torode probably taught me 50% of what I know about coffee to this day.
Then we moved to Ontario for Jill to do a year long internship where I worked for a really great group of people that weren’t quality focused at all. That was frustrating so when we got back to Calgary I ended up getting a job at Phil and Sebastian and I learned so many incredible things about coffee that I can still hardly contain it in conversation. I spent the last two years working there and started Hasty using a lot of the principals I gathered from my experiences there. I’m thankful to have worked there and met David Kim through his weekly tastings. Phil and a lot of the QC staff there gave me invaluable feedback as I developed this product.
Q: What excites you about specialty coffee?
I worked with a guy who was joking around when he said “relax, it’s just a hot drink”. It was funny because at the end of the day that’s really what we’re doing. Whatever level of the supply chain were a part of, we are providing an enjoyable hot drink to a paying customer. I think it was Matt Perger from Barista Hustle who said one time “It is just brown water in a cup”. As a coffee professional, which let’s be honest sounds like an oxymoron, communicating what good coffee is all about is challenging. It’s the variety and the evanescence of great coffees that has always drawn me in. You’re never going to taste that coffee again when it’s all brewed. Even if you buy the same lot next year it’s a whole different coffee.
In specialty coffee the assumption is that we’re going to sell someone a bag of these incredible expressions of terroir so they can take it home and absolutely butcher it with bad water and brewing technique. The problem is that it’s not the consumers fault, they shouldn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars and several hours learning the complexities of coffee brewing but unfortunately coffee is an elusive and cantankerous substance. When you purchase just about any other beverage it comes in immediately drinkable form. You can see a huge trend in accessible coffee options with the rise of cold brew. Unfortunately, cold brew isn’t very tasty and is often just a way for roasters to use up their aging coffee, which I will admit has some merit.
I love great coffees and I want to share that passion with everyone else. Instant specialty coffee preserves the character and flavour of each individual coffee in a format that only requires you to add water. The fact that I can hand a pouch to anyone and they can have that experience is about as exciting as this industry gets.
Q: So with all that excitement, what made you decide to take the next step and launch Hasty?
I’ve never really wanted to work for someone else. When I started in coffee I had this idea that I’d be able to snag a roasting job and spend the rest of my days staring at a screen, perfecting roasting profiles and cupping hundreds of different coffees every year. After a while I realized that wasn’t really going to work out for me so I started looking for something else to work on. I stumbled upon a James Hoffman video where he was reviewing instant coffees that actually tasted good. It piqued my interest so I ordered a few boxes and couldn’t believe the quality of these instant coffees. I enjoyed drinking them so much that I hardly made coffee at home for weeks.
At that point I decided I was going to figure out how to make it. My dad and my brother helped my buy a few pieces of equipment to get started and over the last year I’ve dialed the product in until I was happy with it. When I made some for David Kim the first time, he told me it was better than most of the pour-overs you could get in town haha. We were looking for the right time to launch and then I was let go from my job suddenly, so we figured why not start while everyone’s in need of coffee at home during the pandemic. I’m sure there’s lots of tired parents like us who would love to get their hands on a no hassle cup first thing in the morning.
Q: What can you tell us about Hasty and what our readers can expect in the near future?
We’re excited to get going and exited to bring great coffees to everybody everywhere. The company is owned and operated by my brother Josh and I. He handles a lot more of the backend stuff but he loves great coffee and I’m slowly educating him. My dad has been an integral part of our start-up. He’s had several different businesses and is making sure we stay afloat by providing us with creative solutions. Anything you see on social media is all managed by my wife Jill. She’s fantastic and always down to chat if you slide into our DMs.
I have a lot of really cool ideas, most of which I can’t really talk about yet. There’s several ideas on how to improve our product over time and a few unique seasonal products I’d like to create from scratch in the Hasty Lab. I can tell you the second coffee we have planned is a South American coffee with a more approachable flavour profile than the current very fruity Ethiopian. It will be more geared toward people who want an easy drinking cup of coffee that tastes great black but won’t be offended if you add cream and sugar.
Q: Can you tell us any of the roasters you have collaborated with? What made you go with them?
I’m so excited to be able to work with David Kim Coffee. David and I worked together at Phil and Seb and I got to know him through his weekly espresso tastings at the roastery. I consider myself to be a coffee professional, but I consider David to be a coffee wizard. He knows more about coffee than I probably ever will. He just started his own roasting company last year and he has some stellar coffees on his roster. My current favourite DK coffee is the Kenyan from the Sezita series.
I’ve made contact with a few really fantastic roasters and plan on making more as we grow large enough to make more coffees. I’ve been chatting recently with another great up and coming roaster in Montreal who you’ll probably see us feature later into our launch. We’re super excited about the opportunity to work with them.
Q: Anything else exciting or otherwise you’d like to share?
We’re just so excited to get out there and make great coffees for everyone. We’re going to be continually working on growing our roaster network and get our coffees into more cities around the country so look for Hasty Instant Specialty Coffee to pop up all over the country!
Q: How can our readers connect with you to get their hands on some Hasty Coffee?
We’re not in any stores yet so the best place to find our coffee is www.hastycoffee.com
Thanks so much Ben & Jill for sharing with our readers! All the best as you launch Hasty.