More than a Cup of Coffee
By Stephanie Park
Throughout history, coffee houses have been a hub of heated debates, important business decisions and revolutionary thinking. Today, a local family has opened cafes throughout the area that have provided a place for strangers to fall in love, friends to reconnect, and for everyone to share delicious Zimbabwe coffee. It is more than just a cup of coffee; it is a philosophy, a global connection, a conversation and friendship starter.
David and Amy Wilding-Davies have spent over a decade building their coffee estate and are now award winning coffee farmers. While traveling in Zimbabwe on a holiday, David was quickly enchanted by the majestic country. On their honeymoon, David and Amy ventured to Africa and made a life changing business decision. At the time, the farming industry was prospering in the Southern African country which enticed David and Amy to start their farm in 2000. David stated that it was “a love of farming” that encouraged him to start this business. After growing up on a hobby farm, he had always dreamed of farming one day. Since coffee is grown in the prettiest part of the country, David and Amy decided to pursue a career in coffee farming.
As the political climate of Zimbabwe became hostile, causing negative effects on the farming industry, they decided to relocate to their hometown area in 2005. David describes this as a “catalyst to come back to Canada and get more involved with selling the end product.” Ashanti Coffee was initially sold through a coffee broker in England, inspiring them to gain more control in the distribution of their products.
The Farm to Cup model allows them to have more authority over their product, as well as to oversee the environmental and labour practices. When asked what Ashanti Coffee is most known for, David was quick to respond “the taste.” He also added that their farm is known for “the fact that we have a unique origin of coffee from Zimbabwe and…that we have the whole process under our guidance.”
David explained that “we think that we are the only place in Canada where you can buy Zimbabwe coffee” and that Ashanti is one of the few roasters that are responsible for doing their own production. These two factors demonstrate the importance of the Farm to Cup model in providing customers with great tasting coffee that is accountable for their environmental and labour practices. The direct connection between Africa and our small town of Thornbury through mere coffee beans is incredible.
But there are more than just geographical connections established through this coffee, there are also personal and business relationships generated over a warm cup of java. David describes that his proudest moments are when “I go in there and I see people enjoying nice coffee as they are making friendships. We have had people who have met their spouses, people who started businesses at Ashanti Coffee, and made friendships. It is just a really nice environment.” It is evident that these cafes have kept with the tradition of coffee houses in providing the general public with a place to conjure up new ideas, catch up with old friends or brew new relationships while getting their caffeine fix.
You can get a great cup of coffee at the locations in Thornbury, Collingwood and at the Alpine Ski Club. Each café offers bagged coffee, tea or espresso based drinks, as well as light lunches and baked goods. I highly recommend a warm London fog with cinnamon on a frosty winter’s day!
The future ambitions of Ashanti include opening more cafes in various locations, as well as building a partnership with a neighbouring farm in Zimbabwe to include macadamia nuts and tea to their repertoire.
Ashanti Coffee can be purchased at the cafés in Thornbury or Collingwood. It can also be purchased at several retail outlets, including: local shops, several Toronto locations, Sobeys, Foodland, Winners and Homesense Stores.