L’ARDOISE: After years of preparing coffee beans in his own personal roaster, Richmond County native Dan Leslie decided to turn his hobby into a business when he launched Dan’s Truckers Blend.
“My three passions are coffee, the country of Costa Rica, and trucking. I’ve been in the trucking business for 42 years as a driver, an owner, and a freight broker,” said Leslie, owner and operator of The Cape Breton Trading Company, which began roasting and distributing the fair trade blend in April of 2016.
During a visit to Costa Rica, Leslie chatted about his interests with friend and fellow businessman, Jorge Ramirez. Following their conversation, Ramirez set up a meeting with the management of a co-operative of over 1,200 fair trade coffee farms. Although he had not planned on starting a new business, it did not take Leslie long to become enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“After a thorough guided tour of the coffee mill and a few farms, I was hooked and very passionate about my plans going forward,” said Leslie who decided to combine his interests to create his own blend designed for and inspired by truckers.
Leslie went to work blending a variety of different Costa Rican beans. Once he found the perfect mix, he decided to try it out on other truckers.
“Returning home to Cape Breton, I purchased a small commercial roaster and began packaging samples for my road trip to truck stops from Nova Scotia to Ontario,” said Leslie.
After surveying hundreds of truckers, Leslie decided the product was ready to go to market.
“I do it all myself in L’Ardoise. I run my truck company from here in my office, but in the back, I have a roasting and packaging room that I’ve set up. I bring the beans in green in 150-pound bags and I blend and roast six pounds at a time,” said Leslie.
The picture of the truck that appears on the packaging was taken by Leslie during a visit to Costa Rica.
“I spent three hours on a steep hill taking the picture. I had to wait until there was no other traffic on this busy highway that goes right through a coffee plantation,” said Leslie.
The idea of sourcing fair trade coffee became increasingly important for Leslie as he visited coffee farmers in Costa Rica. He saw that fluctuating markets can make survival difficult for many producers.
“I got to meet a lot of the farmers which was pretty interesting,” said Leslie. “I saw how well fair trade works, and it meant a lot to me then.”
Leslie is pleased by the response to the product from truckers and non-truckers alike. Dan’s Truckers Blend is available at several locations, including B&E General Store, McBouch Restaurant, Foodland, and the L’Ardoise General Store which is run by Leslie and his wife, Dawn. Leslie said he has orders from as far away as Alberta and Manitoba and he hopes to continue to expand distribution throughout Cape Breton and beyond.
With the help of his wife, Leslie is developing a new blend, which he plans to launch in the near future. This time, Leslie will take inspiration from the country in which the beans originated.
“I’m going to celebrate Costa Rica a bit. I want their story and their images on my bags and packaging,” said Leslie.
Leslie has been invited to share his coffee at a variety of trucking-related events including the upcoming Annual Special Olympics Nova Scotia Truck Convoy.
Dan’s Truckers Blend coffee has a very active Facebook page where Leslie posts news, photos and a new poem every Sunday dedicated to truckers. Information can also be found at: danscoffee.ca.