Written by Oksana Kovalenko Thursday, 05 November 2009 14:48
T.A.N Fair Trade Coffee - New Cafe in Wolfville
Yes, the rumor is true! Wolfville is proud to present another café that has just opened its doors on 378 Main Street. T.A.N. Coffee is serving 100% fair trade, locally roasted organic coffee. In addition to regular café staples such as coffee, tea, cookies, and muffins, the merchant is also offering ethnic cuisine at a reasonable price.
T.A.N. (The Alternative Network) Coffee was founded about two years go by LayYong Tan. LayYong graduated from Acadia University with a degree in Accounting and has been working in the field for over 20 years. He is also an international coffee judge. In fact, he has just left for Brazil to judge yet another competition. Along with LayYong is the corporate team consisting of his sister LayChin Tan as a Chief Operating Officer, KeePing Lau responsible for Sales and Marketing, Steve Wilsack who overlooks Business Development, and Marilyn Eng, the Barista Extraordinaire.
The coffee beans are purchased directly from the farmers in Bolivia, Columbia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Sumatra. They are roasted in small batches at three community roasters in Toronto, Coldbrook, and Greenwood. Each bag provides the date of roasting to ensure that customers always get the freshest cup. T.A.N. is also proud to declare that materials used for packaging are completely biodegradable.
T.A.N. Coffee beliefs focus on community building, consumer education, small being beautiful and thinking globally but acting locally.
Currently, there are four locations in Nova Scotia including Coldbrook, Windsor, Greenwood, and Wolfville. Ontario has a café in Toronto.
T.A.N. Coffee is also a proud member of the Cup of Excellence, which is a strict competition that selects the very best coffee produced in a country for a particular year. T.A.N. Coffee is currently working on obtaining a lifetime membership status.
When asked about how the presence of another café is going to affect existing food merchant, KeePing Lao, Acadia’s Business professor and co-owner of the new café says: “Altbough Wolfville may not need another café, it does need a cozy hangout location that serves decently priced food.”
“If you come to us for lunch and give us $10, you will have a nice meal, a coffee, and lots of change,” says KeePing. “Our focus will be on listening to the customers and supplying them with what they want.” According to KeePing, Wolfville is lacking in good quality ethnic meals. “It gets boring to eat pizza and other fast food for lunch every day,” he exclaims.
When asked whether T.A.N. Coffee is going to use organic ingredients in their meals, KeePing suggested that they will be using local ingredients as much as possible. The emphasis is on valuing relationships with local farmers and involving them in community building. According to KeePing, using organic ingredients would raise the price for a meal above $10, which is more than what Wolfville’s residents are willing to pay.
In terms of hours of operation, “the café will most likely be open until 9-10pm on the weekdays and 7-8pm on the weekends. We will play it by customer demand,” says LayYong. “Wi-Fi is available and students are welcome to use it.”
“We will be selling a regular coffee for the same price as Tim Horton’s. The difference is that T.A.N. coffee is 100% fair trade and organic,” says LayYong.
When asked about how it is possible to sell such a high quality product for a price lower than one would expect, Layyong suggests that there are cost savings involved in their supply system. Most coffee merchants buy beans through several intermediaries. By purchasing directly from the farmer, there are cost savings that can be passed on to the consumer.
T.A.N. is also offering many types of specialty coffees for true connoisseurs. Roasting of the beans is done strictly according to the country of origin. This means that beans from different countries do not get mixed into the so-called ‘blends’. When the coffee beans are not in season in a one country, T.A.N. Coffee sells beans from another.
A source of pride in the new café is an incredibly expensive espresso machine that cost around $17,000.
Despite how marvelous the idea of T.A.N. Coffee seems, one can’t help but ask: can Wolfville really handle another café without forcing other food operators out of business? Isn’t the café market already saturated enough? What about Just Us? Up until now, they have been the only supplier of fair trade and organic coffee in town. This monopoly allowed them to charge premium prices. Will sharing clientele force them to change their business strategy?
How about other operators nearby like Vegetarian Lunch Box? It is a small place that caters to those who are willing to pay premium for high quality ingredients. Do they stand a chance in a small town like Wolfville?
Alas, writing for the Athenaeum is not synonymous with fortune telling. Future, also known as “the law of supply and demand” will clarify the answers.