It was a little over a year ago that we first spoke. The idea for Caneland Coffee was just beginning to swirl about in Brandon’s head and I was trying to help him define his brand. “My wife was a little wary,” he mentions as we speak now a year later, “she said ‘you do a lot of stuff but not for a long time’ and she was right. I had just purchased a DJ table and sold it, because who am I kidding. I don’t want to be a DJ. But coffee roasting, it just felt different.”
Brandon Spencer, owner, operator, chief roaster, Mr Everything at Caneland Coffee didn’t always know what his dream was. In fact, he told me something that I’ve heard in varying forms from many dreamers, “If I could sum up my the first thirty years of my life in a couple of sentences, it would be this. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had been told I could do anything, so I wanted to do everything. I couldn’t focus. I just kind of did stuff because I had to pay the bills.”
BOOM. That sound you hear going off is my brain exploding because my insides are resonating so hard with the words carrying all the miles from the Midwest through the phone to me here in the middle of the Southwestern desert. I know that feeling. My whole life I was told the same thing. My opportunities were limitless like Brandon’s. “You can do and be anything. You have an education or you can get the one you need. Work hard, be creative, use your intelligence. Be what you want to be.” And you are left with the question….
Who do I want to be?
This is a question Brandon found himself faced with. He sat down at his kitchen table and began to assess his gifts and resources. And began to dream about roasting coffee. It just felt right. “It felt different than all of the other things,” he says. He bought a popcorn popper to roast his first batch of beans in, became entrenched in the mechanics and science of it, and even went to Seattle and toured several shops.
And then he built his own roaster. “I love how it brings together so many different things that I enjoy doing. It makes me feel half Heisenberg, half Mr Wizard. I have to be doing science and marketing, but also using my hands. And, I love coffee.” He quickly learned that he was good at it and Caneland Coffee was born.
Brandon’s desire is to make good coffee accessible to everyone. He noted the “certain coffee culture” that comes along with roasting your own. “I mean, I don’t wear suspenders or have a mustache,” he joked, “but seriously, if you like what you drink then I think you’re fine.” He told me the story of a tasting he did in Seattle that made a profound impact on him. It was the first time he was able to pick out distinct flavors that coffee often hints at. “The first one I couldn’t quite capture. It was peach. And the second was blueberry, full vibrant, sweet. The guide said this thing I’ll never forget, ‘If you’re tasting something that I don’t that’s fine and if I taste something that you don’t it’s fine.’ That’s what I want to teach people about coffee. It's not about the experience I think you should have. It's just about the experience you have.”
That’s where Caneland’s idea for the passport subscription came from. It’s a simple way to try out new coffee without having to agonize over what to choose. You sign up for the service and once a month you get a new coffee in the mail from somewhere in the world. With it comes an info card that tells you where the coffee is from and a little bit about roast. You learn more about coffee without feeling as if you’re being spoken down to. It’s your experience. Caneland is just the vehicle that gets you there.
Dreamers like Brandon and I have a hard time finding our big dreams. Maybe it’s because we were created for a few things. Maybe it is because we find the world around us so fascinating it is hard to stand still for more than a minute or two and focus. When I asked him why he was still doing this dream, why this had him so captured, he told me this. “Mornings are busy, it gives me a four to five minute window of standing still that are mine. For five minutes I can think and dream about whatever. That becomes the eye of the storm for me. The more often I do that the better my day goes. At that point the coffee becomes the vehicle for those moments.”
From here, Caneland Coffee has big plans. Brandon wants to continue expanding the subscription program but another passion of his heart is working behind the scenes with the growers. When Caneland is big enough, they will be able to participate with an organization that promotes sustainability in coffee growing regions. This organization supports education and teaches women how to run small businesses. They are also involved civic projects to help offset the fickle nature of the coffee market.
Brandon’s dream continues to mutiny and I am so happy to have he and Caneland Coffee as a sponsor of this Mutiny. With the non-stop pace of this journey, I will need those moments of pause, eyes in the storm. And you do too. Let Caneland Coffee inspire your dreaming and doing.
Mutiny Well, Dreamer.