Behind the brew

With a wholesale approach and an affinity for custom roasting, Patrick Dunham remains focused on his just-right sized business

Photo: Patrick Dunham of Patrick’s Beans

MAYBE IT’S THAT first sip you take after sitting down at a café to catch up with an old friend, or maybe it’s the last thing you taste when you’re out at a favourite restaurant; it can be a taste that’s deeply familiar to you, or one that surprises you.

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Either way, the taste of a cup of coffee matters, not only to coffee aficionados but to the myriad of businesses that rely on the humble cup of joe as an integral part of their identity. And for Patrick Dunham, the man behind coffee roastery Patrick’s Beans, happy and ­successful clients mean a happy and successful Patrick.

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“Each of my customers — the cafés or the restaurants — has something that they can stand behind and say is uniquely theirs, and it’s different than the establishment that is down the street,” Dunham says. “I want to make sure the coffee that I’m supplying reflects the restaurant or the business I’m ­supplying. My business grows by helping my customers.”

In a coffee world that, over the last decade or two, has become saturated with small indie cafés and upstart ­roasteries, Dunham and Patrick’s Beans cut a markedly different path, focusing instead on wholesaling and ­private labeling. He doesn’t have a café and says he doesn’t want one. And surprisingly, he only started to get into ecommerce during the pandemic. In many instances, he says, the work he loves to do remains hidden to the end consumer.

Behind the brew Patrick Food & Beverage

“I wanted to do something that was strictly wholesale and develop a company that provides a really good, high-quality cup of coffee to ­clients, and to make it very approachable,” he says.

Patrick’s Beans was launched nine years ago this fall, Dunham says, and he’s deliberately kept a ­somewhat low profile. A former chef, he was familiar with the food ­service and hospitality industries and was looking for an opportunity to get out of the kitchen — away from its demanding hours and tense work environment.

“I want to make sure the coffee that I’m supplying reflects the restaurant or the business I’m supplying. My business grows by helping my customers” —Patrick Dunham

He spent a year and a half commuting to Mississauga, ­borrowing roasting equipment from a friend before he was able to secure a loan to purchase his own. Once he started roasting coffee beans, he quickly realized most of his ­culinary skills transferred over. “It’s a roasting process,” he notes, “just like if you’re roasting roast beef, or pork or chickens.”

The bread and butter for Patrick’s Beans, Dunham says, is working with restaurants and businesses to nail down a ­custom blend for their operation. “Every café, every ­restaurant, every organization will have different ­preferences and a different customer base, so instead of just offering one medium roast, I fine tune a blend to their ­individual preferences. It’s a lot like the days when I was cooking.”

Since launching, Dunham says things have been on a relatively steady trajectory. He hit his first sales benchmark a couple months out of the gate, and within his first year he says the business was on stable footing. Since then, he’s just continued to plug away. “Every single month new customers are coming on,” he says. “I’m taking it slow-ish — I like to balance my ­personal life with a business life.”

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The pandemic was a challenge, of course, but he says the business ventured into e-commerce to get them through the lockdowns and uncertainty of the past few years.

Dunham has a simple, working-class attitude towards his work, and a big part of that is finding ways to make his coffee have a positive social impact. Most of his beans are sourced from a farmer-owned collective in Guatemala, and he launched an initiative called the Beanstalk Project, which sees around 50 pounds of beans a month donated to local ­shelters and organizations such as Sanctuary London.

Behind the brew Patrick Food & Beverage

Above all, Dunham says he’s happy to work with a product he loves, and with customers who share that appreciation. He also gets to work with his kids now and again, both of whom have pitched in on the business from day one.

“I love being at the shop, roasting a thousand pounds of coffee a week and bagging it up,” Dunham sums up. “That, for me, is not boring or monotonous. I really enjoy it.” Behind the brew Patrick Food & Beverage Kieran Delamont

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