If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out who is Bright Jenny Coffee Roasters, let me explain!
Situated along the shores of Lake Okanagan is the city of Kelowna, BC. Kelowna is a summer holiday hot-spot and one of my favourite cities to visit when I make the trek out from Calgary to Vancouver to visit family. (I realize this is a bit of a detour, but it’s so worth it).
One of the most well-known coffee roasters to emerge in recent years in Kelowna is/was CANOE Coffee Roasters. Well, surprise, they have officially gone through a re-brand and have come out the other side as Bright Jenny Coffee Roasters! Today (June 1st) is their official brand re-launch and I am so excited to be able to help share the exciting news as Bright Jenny is my Coffee Roaster of the Month for June 2020.
Besides the name change, not much else has changed when it comes to the amazing coffee they are roasting. So I wanted to get the chance to hear a bit more about the new name, and more of the story of the great coffee Dave Upshaw and the team at Bright Jenny are roasting!
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: So who is the team behind Bright Jenny? How did you end up in Kelowna?
We are Dave and Jen, co-owners of Bright Jenny. We have both lived in Kelowna for most of our lives. We both spent some of our childhoods on the West Coast, and Jen was a prairie kid for a decade, but we both feel like we grew up here in Kelowna. We’re actually high school sweethearts and went to prom together as a blind date. Now we’ve got two amazing sons, Walter (3 years old) and Jasper (1 year old).
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: What’s your backstory in coffee?
[DAVE] My coffee journey started off like a lot of people: at Starbucks. Starbucks was my first job out of high school. Living in a town where specialty coffee just didn’t exist yet, this was the best in my world. In 2012, Jen and I moved from Kelowna to Port Moody, BC, so that she could attend Simon Fraser University for her Masters. I transferred to a Starbucks there, and right across the street from my store was a JJ Bean just opening up. I walked across the street after a shift, ordered an espresso, and my mind was blown. I had never tasted coffee so sweet. I asked for the manager, she interviewed me, and hired me on the spot. From that moment, I became obsessed. I learned everything I could about coffee. I have JJ Bean to thank for not only showing me what coffee should taste like, but also how to run a business. John Neate, the founder of JJ Bean treats all of his employees like family and I have a ton of respect for that man.
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: Who were some of your early influences?
[DAVE] After discovering JJ Bean coffee, I took advantage of all that the Vancouver coffee scene had to offer. Matchstick was a favourite of mine (also former JJ Bean employees I think). Timbertrain opened shortly after I moved away from the coast, but I really loved everything they were doing.
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: Tell us a bit about the history of Canoe Coffee before the name change.
[DAVE] After moving home to Kelowna, I searched and searched for a café that suited the taste I had become accustomed to on the coast. I was bummed that I just couldn’t find it. Being a young adult with no post-secondary education and needing a job, I fell back into a job with Starbucks. While I was working there, I constantly dreamed of opening my own cafe. I talked about it for years, had a few more jobs, and even switched briefly into the beer industry working for Tree Brewing. I think eventually my wife just got tired of me complaining about my job and daydreaming about something better, so she decided to do a little psychology trick on me that she had learned in one of her classes (she’s just finishing up her PhD in Clinical Psychology).
It’s something called Motivational Interviewing, and it’s super interesting, but basically she sneakily planted the seed that I could make this happen for myself. 3 weeks after that pivotal conversation, I was roasting coffee in my back yard with a hand-cranked, super janky roaster I made with my BBQ and some scrap metal. Next, we saw a 1956 Shasta camper trailer a few doors down from our house that looked pretty sweet. We knocked on the door of the house and asked to buy it, which we did for $1000. We converted it into our mobile cafe! From there we started serving my BBQ roasted coffee out of the trailer every Wednesday and Saturday at the Kelowna Farmers Market. After about 6 months, I quit my full time job, spent all my money on a 5kg Ambex roaster, and went full time with our coffee roasting company. Jen did all the marketing, social media, and design, and I roasted the coffee, made the coffee drinks, and ran the trailer. I finally felt like I was doing what I was meant to do!
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: When did your first cafe open?
I would consider our trailer to be our first cafe, as it quickly became a Kelowna farmers market favourite! We would serve 500+ drinks in a 5 hour window every Wednesday and Saturday. We opened that in May of 2015. We opened our first brick-and-mortar store in 2017, which was a small 500 sq.ft industrial, hole-in-the-wall space on the outskirts of downtown Kelowna. This was our first real roasting space, and compared to the backyard shed, it felt like a HUGE upgrade. We had the trailer parked out front for drink service, with about 10 seats inside.
In January 2019 we moved into our current space, a larger roastery and (finally!!) a real cafe space. This cafe is our dream come true of how we wanted our space to look and feel. We roast on a 10kg Mill City Roaster. We also have a 1kg Aillio Bullet for small specialty batches and sample roasting.
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: So…speaking of the new name, can you tell our readers a bit more of the story that led up to this, how did you land on the new name?
Our new name is Bright Jenny Coffee Co. When we started our company back in 2015, we did our best researching the name we used to have, and all seemed well. Unfortunately last year a big company came after us for the name, and we simply didn’t have financial power to fight it, even if we could have won. So we moved on!
From the beginning we have always tried to focus on two things, delicious, light and BRIGHT tasting coffees, and serving the coffee in a real way, with personality, a real human element, and a strong connection to the community. Bright Jenny is named after my wife, because without her, this company wouldn’t exist (she basically Jedi mind-tricked me into thinking I could run a business with zero experience). More than that, though, she is an exceptional woman. A sparkly person who swims through my veins like the brightest tasting notes rippling through a super luxe cup of coffee. She is the crisp apple zipping through a fine Guatemalan brew. She is my safest place and my greatest adventure. She is an unexpected donut on a Sunday morning. My muse. My purpose. My shiny penny. My Bright Jenny. So much cheese, but it felt like the perfect name to me!
We want to give a shout-out to Lauren Leggat for designing our new logo for both our cafe & for our coffee bags. She did an amazing job capturing exactly what we hoped for!
We are also super stoked on our new bags! We really wanted our new bags to stand out. They’re white, with hand drawn gloss-embossed coffee florals, and the label for each coffee is in a distinct, bright colour. Each colour represents the type of coffee in the bag to make it easy for customers purchasing the coffee to tell what zone they’re in.
They come in five distinct categories:
BRIGHT SIDE – Clean, easygoing and lively. A true crowd pleaser. (these labels are yellow)
WILD SIDE – Intense, fruit forward with unexpected flavour profiles. For the adventurous (these labels are a light purple)
DARK SIDE – Roasty, toasty, bold and dark. The roast is strong with this one. (Dark Blue)
UP SIDE – Makes a bomb shot of espresso. For the straight up beast and latte lovers. (Orange label)
OTHER SIDE – Decaf coffees that don’t suck. (light grey labels)
There is also a general brew guide on the side of the bag to help people start with brew ratios. The bags are also 100% compostable to keep our future bright.
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: Anything else on the re-brand that you want to share?
[DAVE] In addition to the new name, we have taken over a large industrial space behind our cafe. We are calling this The Bright Lab. All that separates our cafe and this space is our courtyard. Inside this bright, open building we have 3 spaces for people to enjoy their coffee in, and we will also be using the space for rentals for events, weddings, live music, etc. One of our favourite features of the Bright Lab is the designer kitchen setup with all of our most loved home brewing gear to showcase to customers, and do home brew classes, latte art classes, and lots of other coffee education.
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: In your opinion, what is the specialty coffee scene like in Kelowna/BC Interior? What do you love?
[DAVE] We have some fantastic shops in the Okanagan. Bean Scene has been in Kelowna for over 20 years. Third Space does a lovely job using beans from roasters like Transcend, Monogram, Phil and Sebastian, and have also used our beans from time to time. Pulp Fiction Cafe is a great little spot, they serve 49th Parallel coffee. In Vernon my friend Andrew runs Ratio Coffee & Pastry, he also started at a farmers market I believe. They have the most insane donuts on Fridays, and they serve coffee from a variety of roasters like Drum Roasters and Bows and Arrows, they have also carried our beans a few times. A recent addition is another friend of mine Dan at The Local Chemist, he serves Bows and Arrows coffee out of a mobile shop set up in Rustic Reel Brewing.
We have done coffee beers with a few breweries in Kelowna. Our favourite has to be the barrel-aged coffee sours we did with Wild Ambition Brewing. We have done 2 coffee beers with them so far, the first one won 2nd prize at Hopwired Coffee/Beer festival where we won Best Espresso that year.
Overall I think the coffee culture in Kelowna is still very young. With all of the growth happening in Kelowna right now I think that there will be a lot of specialty coffee places opening up, just like the breweries are currently doing. I would say that Kelowna people in general are more dark roast, Starbucks people, and theres nothing wrong with that (thats how I began too!) but I like to think that we are slowly converting people to the “Bright side” 😉
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Q: So speaking of coffee, what are you currently drinking/enjoying right now?
[DAVE] Today I cupped a stunning washed Ethiopia Sawana. It’s super effervescent and tastes like ice wine and strawberries. SO GOOD! This will be on our shelves in the WILD SIDE category by the time this blog is out.
Jen is enjoying a nice herbal tea from Jaga Silk… She’s actually allergic to coffee (I know.)
[COMMONLY COFFEE] Wow that is kinda crazy! Thanks so much for sharing more of the story of Bright Jenny Coffee! For everyone who wants to get in touch with Bright Jenny Coffee Roasters here is their info below:——————————————————
Find their beans:
If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting!
Or if you find yourself in Kelowna, make sure to visit their roastery/cafe: 984 Laurel Ave., Kelowna, BC
Thank you so much to Dave & Jen for sharing about Bright Jenny Coffee and for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Kelowna! Keep up the great work!