Caitlin Campbell fell in love with coffee all the way down in Lynchburg, Virginia. The university town had tons of locally owned specialty coffee shops and roasteries, and it there the then-student started drinking specialty iced coffee and iced lattes, gloriously unlike any coffee she had ever tasted before. These shops became home for Caitlin, and the staff like family.
“Coffee is a beverage that creates community,” she says. “People gather at a central location and bond over a shared love for it. I noticed how much life happens at a coffee shop, from job interviews to dates to forming new friendships.”
Back home in Toronto, Campbell’s pops, Ross Campbell, was growing weary of drive-through coffee and wanted to make his own. He found a local roaster who helped him discover the world of specialty coffee, which eventually led to him roasting his own beans. Once Caitlin was home, he says, she wanted in.
“This became something Caitlin and I did together in our spare time as we dove deeper and deeper into creating quality coffee,” he says. “The first few batches we roasted were a little rough, but eventually we settled on a roast profile that our friends and family loved and kept requesting.”
Coffee wasn’t Ross’s only passion: he’s also a long-time advocate for better support for folks experiencing homelessness. Could his family create coffee that not only tasted good but did good as well?
“I knew that coffee was one of the most consumed beverages in Canada and we knew that if we could provide a high-quality craft-roasted coffee to the market, we could use the passion for quality coffee from our community to benefit the homeless,” he says. So, in 2019, he and Caitlin started Street Brew. “The mission of Street Brew has been to create a community of coffee lovers who support Street Brew and allow us to donate part of our proceeds to ending homelessness.”
Within a few months of launching, they’d forged fundraising partnerships with many big corporations and non-profits. Then COVID-19 hit and decimated their event plans. The jovial pair has soldiered on, however, their trademark good cheer intact, and have just debuted their own Street Brew coffee trailer to help caffeinate people with drip and pour-over coffee, espresso, lattes, and cold-brew and iced coffee, and keep generating those donations somehow. They roast in smaller quantities, ensuring the beans are roasted to their maximum flavour profile without being over-roasted. “We don’t roast for inventory or consistency,” Caitlin says. “We truly believe that when you treat the coffee beans with respect and allow them to properly develop to their full taste profile, they will provide an amazing taste experience.”
Eventually, they want to use the trailer to also do street outreach at night. But the ultimate goal is to open up a Street Brew brick-and-mortar coffee shop that employs folks transitioning out of homelessness. They also want to raise funds via limited-edition coffee-related merchandise. “We continue to seek unique sources of coffee beans that most people would not have experienced,” Caitlin says.
The demand is there, with Street Brew customers already spread as far away as the U.K., Australia, Scotland and Italy. More global clients are sure to follow, thanks to Caitlin’s status as a TikTok star; her fandom is ever-percolating, with 331,000 followers in love with her positivity and wholesome coffee recipes (including chocolate-bar lattes!). Now, she’s often recognized when she’s in public.
“I’m passionate about coffee,” she says. “I encourage coffee lovers all over the world to support their local specialty coffee roasters without pushing Street Brew coffee on everyone,” Caitlin says. “I receive dozens of messages every day from people thanking me for helping them learn how to brew better coffee or helping them get interested in coffee, and that’s my favourite thing.”
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