A business venture that’s been brewing for over a year could reach Nunavummiut taste buds by February or March. Kaapittiaq will become the first Inuit-owned java enterprise.

Erci Vasquez-Merritt, left, of Cafe Vasquez, the Peruvian company that will supply beans for Kaapittiaq, and Pamela Gross, business manager for the Inuit-owned, Cambridge Bay-based coffee venture, meet in Barrie, Ont. photo courtesy of Pamela Gross/Kitikmeot Heritage Society

Negotiations are underway to sell the light, medium and espresso roasts through Co-op locations across Canada, according to business manager Pamela Gross. The first order of beans, which is being shipped from a producer in Peru, will weigh in at 4,500 kg. Beaver Rock Roastery in Barrie, Ont., will look after the roasting and packaging of the coffee.

“Everyone drinks coffee,” Gross said of the endeavour, which will provide a funding boost for the non-profit Kitikmeot Heritage Society, or Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq, as it’s known in Inuinnaqtun.

“We were discussing opportunities that we could do as an organization to create more of a revenue stream for us to supplement those periods where we’re waiting for the much-appreciated funding that we do receive to come through,” Gross said, adding that the elders involved in the heritage society are “ecstatic.”

“They really look forward to tasting Kaapittiaq and basically having it and drinking it every day,” said Gross, who’s also executive director of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society.

The heritage society is responsible for the May Hakongak Community Library and Cultural Centre, which features a museum and archives. The organization is also involved in research initiatives, locally and internationally, and engages in archeology and sewing projects.

“It’s all-around Inuinnait culture,” said Gross.

The names of the three coffee roasts, not ready to be unveiled as of the writing of this article, will bear a distinctly “Inuit flair,” said Gross. Kaapittiaq is Inuinnaqtun for “good coffee.”

The Arabica beans are sourced from Indigenous farmers who grow them in a high-altitude valley in northern Peru, according to the Kaapittiaq website.
“Green beans are grown in naturally-forested and bird-friendly environments, and are harvested by families through century old traditions,” the site proclaims.

As the business scales up, she said it’s hoped a local full-time job will be created through roasting, bagging and other duties, Gross added.

Light, medium and espresso beans will be available through Kaapittiaq Coffee by February or March, says business manager Pamela Gross. Kaapittiaq means “good coffee” in Inuinnaqtun. photo courtesy of Pamela Gross/Kitikmeot Heritage Society

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