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Roasting beans to brew up that perfect cup of coffee

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The economy may move up and down but most people won’t give up their cups of coffee, whether they be brewed at home or bought at the local coffee shop.


It’s this relative stability of demand that has allowed Sunstone Roastery to gradually grow its client base over the past 19 years.


Now run by son Cheney, the business was started by Lionel Wright who learned the craft of roasting coffee beans in Minneapolis. Winnipeggers might recall that the Wrights once operated Sunstone Coffee on Portage Ave. in St. James. They moved into their current location in Headingley about 10 years ago after deciding to concentrate on coffee bean roasting. They now sell 20 single-origin varieties of coffee beans, as well as blends, to customers in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba.


"We went from retail to wholesale," said Cheney. "Our focus is on restaurants, small businesses and coffee house clientele."


Sunstone Roastery is one of five in Manitoba, with some staking out a specific geographical territory for sales.


Cheney buys his green coffee beans from a broker, with supplies coming from coffee estates and grower co-operatives in Central and South America, Africa, the Caribbean and Indonesia. Some beans meet fair trade certification standards and are labelled to reflect this.


"We do offer Rainforest Alliance coffees," Cheney said.


The price of coffee beans can fluctuate if there’s a growing problem in a producing region, so Cheney tries to stabilize his price by booking contracts three to six months ahead.


"But if there’s no coffee, they’ll cancel the contract," he said.

Each bean variety requires a specific roasting method developed by the coffee roaster.


"There is a science behind it," Cheney said. "Like any trade, you get better over time."


The finished product is packaged in five-pound bags labelled with names such as Costa Rica Tarrazu and Brazil Santos.  While most customers order whole beans so they can grind them as needed, Sunstone also offers ground coffee.


Cheney said their location just north of the Trans-Canada Highway is handy for delivering coffee to local customers and also for shipping it to more distant buyers. He also likes the lower municipal taxes in Headingley as compared with those levied in Winnipeg.


For more information about the company, visit www.sunstonecoffee.com.

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