Rob Lehnert did not particularly have any sort of plan when he decided to start Café Xaragua in 2012. After travelling to Haiti during his final semester of University, Rob fell in love with the character and quality of Haitian coffee, and after returning home, was unable to find the beans no matter where he searched. Graduating with a business degree, Rob saw an opportunity to start his own business and bring Haitian beans to Canada, and so he did.
One of Café Xaragua’s bean farmers. Photo credit: Tammy Love
Rob’s main goal with Café Xaragua, pronounced “‘Z’aragua,” is to maintain the culture of Haitian coffee right down to the foundation. The island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti occupies the western third, was originally inhabited by the Taino Arawak people who gave the name to the region of Xaragua.
Though Lehnert did not originally expect to start a coffee business with his education, numerous trips to Haiti changed his mind and broadened his awareness of the coffee industry, leaving him with a true passion for the craft from farm to cup.
“When you see how much work goes into a cup of coffee, it brings a whole new perspective to coffee,” says Rob. “My trips to Haiti have taught me that there is a huge coffee culture in coffee growing regions, and it is very different from the coffee culture here in Canada.”
Rob (dressed in blue shirt) cupping with coffee farmers for Xaragua roasts.
Rob sources his coffee from a cooperative in Haiti. By managing his own imports, Rob is able to eliminate a ‘middle man’ and directly pay the farmers for their beans himself. Not only does this guarantee 100% Fair Trade beans, but it also allows for Rob to build relationships and trust with farmers.
During his second trip to Haiti, Rob remembers his first meet with a cooperative that he still works with today: “We spent about 6 hours on dirt roads, we crossed rivers, we drove on edges of cliffs and we had two flat tires. We then finally ended up at a coffee nursery and it was like a dream come true. We got out of the truck and walked down a dirt path which opened up to this beautiful lush coffee nursery. I will remember that day forever.”
Along with the farmers, Rob also works closely with Kienna Coffee Roasters, a previously featured CoffeeCollective roaster. When Rob was searching for a hub to roast his coffee, Kienna was eager to help Rob get started.
“Everyone at Kienna has years of coffee experience and I have been fortunate to build a great relationship with them. I have learned a so much by working alongside the owners of Kienna and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Every bean is hand sorted by farmers. Photo credit: Café Xaragua.
With the purchase of every bag of beans from Café Xaragua, a tree is planted in support of small scale Haitian coffee farmers. You can visit Café Xaragua online and register your tree to watch it grow! Your individual Tree ID can be found on both bags of beans sent to you this month.
A full medium roast that also happens to be Rob’s favourite! Carefully chosen to bring out a rich body and smooth flavour, and made up of 100% Fair Trade certified beans. Fruity and clean finish.
A deep and delicious dark roast. Fully rounded body with a superb chocolatey-rich aftertaste. This bold profile was designed for those looking for a stronger coffee flavour. 100& Fair Trade certified.
You can find Café Xaragua at various market locations across Canada, as well as online! We’d like to thank Rob for working with us and hope our members enjoy their first roast of Haitian coffee!