Delivering the caffeine without the pitfalls, Cafézia plans for bigger, better, more
Photo: Cafézia owner and executive director Jenna Goodhand
JENNA GOODHAND WAS not a coffee drinker, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that, in her words, “I love coffee.”
During early part of the pandemic, Goodhand — who had been working as a public speaker — was running “a little show on Rogers TV, where I interviewed people from the community,” she explains.
Enter Natalie White into this story. “She had this herb-infused coffee that wasn’t supposed to give you the jitters,” Goodhand explains. “I don’t drink traditional coffee because it gives me anxiety, and I just feel generally unwell. And so, I trusted her, and I tried the coffee.”
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The coffee was called Cafézia, and White had recently become a partner in the company. As Goodhand, the current owner, tells the story, the coffee had been invented by Dr. Tomas Dobransky, a London-based neuroscientist, who was in the same running group as White and tapped her as a business partner to market the invention — a coffee roasted with a combination of the herbs cleavers, hyssop and yerba mate.
“[Dobransky] spent a number of years figuring out what herbs, and what plants, could change the effects of caffeine on the brain and the body,” Goodhand explains. “What he came up with, essentially, was coffee that had a lower acidic level — so it’s not as hard on your stomach.
“And then the other really cool thing is that the herbs actually change the way the body absorbs caffeine,” Goodhand continues. “It’s not less caffeine — it’s fully caffeinated coffee that releases caffeine over a longer period of time.”
The effect is gentler on the nervous system, which is “not getting out of balance, so you can drink the coffee and get the benefits that you like, but you’re not throwing your nervous system off.”
Goodhand was sold, quite literally: when White was looking for someone who could take over the business and help it grow, Goodhand stepped up, buying Cafézia in March 2021. The company now contracts the roasting of the coffee here in London, and sources its beans from South America.
Goodhand understands that selling hardcore coffee drinkers on herb-infused coffee can be tough. Even those experiencing negative side effects of caffeine may not be open to an alternative.
“People don’t want to give up the things that give them joy, even if there’s drawbacks,” Goodhand says. But to the doubters, she says: try the coffee. You probably won’t even taste a difference.
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“That’s what we’re excited about, and I think that’s kind of what sets us apart a little bit when we look at our competitors — we are real coffee, and it also tastes really good. We want people to drink it on a Sunday morning, and be like, ‘Oh, that’s good.’”
Since buying the company, Goodhand has taken charge of its growth and development, in terms of getting the brand in stores. “We’re all the way from Sarnia, Windsor…up to Brockville, Kingston and Ottawa,” she says. “I got on the 401, and I just started getting into new cities, one at a time.”
They’re now in just shy of 100 or so stores in the province, and selling online. She recently hired her first three part-time staff members. “I’m building a team, and really learning how to manage a team,” she says.
Goodhand has also just secured a Toronto-based distributor who will be placing the brand in several Toronto-area grocery stores.
Throughout the last two years, she’s been working out of The Grove — “one of my teammates, really, from the beginning,” she says. Cafézia is in the process of moving to a slightly bigger space withina the facility that Goodhand hopes will serve as a launch pad for the next growth stages for the business.
“There’s a big gap between selling at a farmers’ market and being on the shelves of a big grocery store,” Goodhand says. “Finding a distributor who can connect us to the stores that really fit our vision – the Whole Foods, the Farm Boy, the Goodness Me! — that’s a big thing for us.”
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As that process plays out, Goodhand remains steadfastly committed to the experiential marketing process that has helped get her where she is now, she says. It’s nothing magical — it simply comes down to getting a cup into the hands of a coffee drinker who’s open to something new and having them try it. What she sees in their customer retention rate is that people who like it will become loyal customers without much prodding.
“Our barrier to growth is having people try it, then they find out it tastes great, and they feel great. And that’s kind of like a big win for them,” says Goodhand. “If someone specifically chose this coffee because they have negative effects, they really do feel very excited and happy that they found something.” Kieran Delamont