True Blue brew
MRU alumni heats up coffee for change
Ryan Wenger is roasting a specialty coffee that makes a real difference at home and abroad, all thanks to a chance encounter during a Mount Royal University (MRU) fair trade field school trip to Guatemala.
Wenger is the owner of Barrow Espresso, a coffee hotspot with three locations in Calgary that got its start on the Mount Royal campus.
An alumnus of the Bissett School of Business, he recently purchased a facility that will enable him to roast the beans he purchased in Guatemala to sell through the Cougars Campus Store at MRU.
“I hope people get to not only enjoy the taste of the coffee but get to understand the social aspect of it and the impact on MRU.”
Proceeds from the sale of Wenger’s new roast will do some social good, helping both the women who grow and produce the beans and first year MRU students through the True Blue Alumni Scholarship.
True Blue Coffee and the Chica Bean collective
The coffee beans were sourced from a women's collective in Guatemala called Chica Bean.
The beans are certified as a specialty coffee according to the standards of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). This means they have undergone rigorous tasting, inspections and have been given a final quality grade.
The collective empowers Guatemalan women from coffee-producing families to hold leadership roles in their coffee production, which women have traditionally been excluded from.
Wenger says he was impressed by these fellow entrepreneurs who manage their own crops of coffee beans from beginning to end, and are paid a fair market price for their product.
The collective has ripple effects, as the women are able to reinvest the profits into their local economy by improving their crops, putting their children through school and improving their own quality of life.
Alumnus Ryan Wenger inspires the True Blue Coffee
After encountering the Chica Bean collective while accompanying an MRU student field school to Guatemala, Wenger reached out to the university’s Business and Retail Services to pitch a perfect partnership based on his love for coffee, for his alma mater and for the community he was so touched by during his visit.
He purchased 2,500 lbs of beans from Chica Bean in April 2019 and had them shipped to the roasting facility he had acquired last year from a master roaster with over 30 years experience.
“I spent about six months with him twice a week, learning how to roast coffee, talking about coffee,” says Wenger.
“I feel I’m at a good place now where I’m confident roasting and I still have him as a resource.”
And so, through a partnership between Barrow Espresso and MRU, the True Blue Coffee was born.
“I don’t think there is a downside,” says Wenger. “You’re supporting these businesses and the scholarship all at the same time but the coffee is amazing. I hope people enjoy it.”
May 1, 2019 — Geoff Crane