Western Nunavut’s Kaapittiaq coffee venture launches online storefront
“We’re pleased that people can get it across Canada and the United States”
No matter where you live in North America, now you can enjoy a cup of Kaapittiaq—good coffee in Inuinnaqtun.
That’s the name under which Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq, the Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay, has been selling coffee as a social enterprise, with the goal of employing Inuit in the management of the company.
Three-quarters of Kaapittiaq’s annual sales revenue goes into culture and language programming.
“We’re pleased that people can get it across Canada and the United States,” said Pamela Gross, who is in charge of product communications, fundraising and branding for the small-batch, craft coffee line. “We hope someday it will be in stores.”
The beans are sourced through direct trade with Indigenous farmers in northern Peru.
They’re then transformed into what Gross calls “the Arctic’s finest brew” with the help of southern Canada’s Beaver Rock Roastery, although as Kaapittiaq grows, the plan is to start roasting the beans in Nunavut.
Gross, also the historical society’s executive director and mayor of Cambridge Bay, said that in the morning she likes to reach for a cup of freshly brewed “qajaq” coffee, one of the three blends available from Kaapittiaq.
“Life is all about balance. This is never more true than when you’re in a qajaq,” reads its online description. “For those who appreciate an even keel, we’ve created our signature qajaq roast. Medium bodied with a pleasantly strong flavour, this coffee brings out the unique character of our premium beans for a smooth sailing taste.”
Prior to COVID-19, Kaapittiaq coffees were mainly available in Cambridge Bay, through links with tourism-directed businesses in the North, such Adventure Canada, or shops.
With COVID-19 restrictions, that market closed.
But, with help from the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development, Kaapittiaq was able to set up its online store.
Sales to larger stores remain a challenge because it’s hard to keep the prices of the coffee low enough to sell to them and maintain a social mission, said Brendan Griebel, the manager of collections and archives with the heritage society, who is also in charge of product sourcing, sales and marketing for Kaapittiaq.