Mike Shannon enjoys the perks of owning a coffee business.
Shannon owns the Big Lake-based Uncle Paul’s Gourmet Blends where he purchases and roasts his own ethically sourced coffee beans into unique blends distributed and enjoyed by consumers in the region.
An avionics technician in the Canadian Air Force for 22 years, Shannon retired and purchased the business — originally started by Paul Couture of Williams Lake — from Ken Dubielew and Della Rauch in June of 2017.
“We love our coffee,” Shannon said. “I’d bought the business just before the wildfires (in June of 2017).”
After getting set up and installing all of the roasting equipment in his basement, the fires struck.
“I fought fires for a month and a half — I’m a member of the Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department — so it was about in September when we finally got to roasting,” he said. “Lots.”
Since then Shannon has been expanding the business, selling coffee at local outlets including Margetts Meats, 150 Mile Marshall’s Store, the Likely Valley General Store and served and sold at the Comer Station Convenience Store.
One thing he looks forward to every week he said, is the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market on Fridays.
“I love the market,” he said. “The people are awesome. I always roast the day before so it’s always on Thursday and I stay up as late as I have to so it’s really fresh the next day. I slow roast — it’s quite a lot longer to keep the flavour and all the natural tones in there.”
Breaking down the roasting process into a science, Shannon explained it’s a fun, rewarding experience perfecting various blends, which combine two separate roasts together, including his signature lines of Cariboo Gold, Guatemalan Gold, Peruvian Gold and Kenyan Gold.
“You’ve got the caffeine from the lighter roast and then the super flavour from the dark roast [in the blends,]” he said.
The magic all happens down in his self-described “man cave” in his basement.
“The music’s always flowing down there and, lots of people, when I’m roasting — the smoke will go out to the road and you can smell it in the area — will come down and get their fresh five-pound bag right out of the machine,” he said.
Using a Diedrich, medium-sized roaster, Shannon said he roasts five pounds at a time. He then uses off-gassing, one-way valves to allow the carbon dioxide to release from the bag, one way, to keep each one fresh.
“We have a room for roasting and then a room for production,” he said. “We do one-pound bags for the stores and then we do five-pound bags for our customers who buy every month. We do deliveries and, in this time of COVID-19, I always call ahead and keep our social distancing, which is very important right now.
“I enjoy taking feedback from customers. I’ll do custom orders. Basically it’s roasted, bagged and off it goes.”
While the novel coronavirus has presented some challenges, Shannon said they’ve been busy delivering five-pound bags of coffee to Williams Lake and the surrounding areas including Likely, Horsefly, Big Lake and shipping occasionally through Canada Post.
As a final note, Shannon stressed the importance of supporting the local farmers’ market.
“I think it’s so important for the community to have that,” he said.
“Everything from your seedlings, to your fresh vegetables, to meat and, hopefully in a month or so, the artisans with all their crafts, all the people that make the preserves like jam, pickles and the bread — the bread is amazing.”
The Williams Lake Farmers’ Market runs from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the parking lot adjacent to the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex next to Kiwanis Park.
Shannon and Uncle Paul’s Gourmet Blends can be found on Facebook, and contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will also be launching a new website next month at www.cariboocoffeeco.ca.