NORTH RIVER, N.S.
Sergio Garrido has always been fascinated with coffee.
Growing up in Guatemala, coffee was a big part of Garrido’s upbringing and culture, whether served with a meal or being produced from scratch.
But it wasn’t the coffee that initially piqued his interest as a child.
“For me, I was always interested in how the coffee was produced,” he said.
“My great uncle used to produce coffee, and when I was little, I would often hang around the barn where he made it. He would give me coffee cherries to take home, and I would sun-dry the seeds and roast them in the oven, just to say I made my own coffee.”
So when Garrido decided to switch his major at Acadia University from music to business, it came as no surprise he wanted to produce coffee.
Now his coffee brand, Aroma Maya, is being sold in 18 outlets across the province, providing high-quality craft coffee roasted from imported Guatemalan coffee beans, and continues growing.
“One of our biggest highlights lately was getting into Masstown Market,” said Garrido.
“The market started selling our coffee over a year ago, and then in December, they switched from their previous coffee to serving our coffee in their café. They have it at their Five Islands location as well.”
While Garrido’s company is known for only using Guatemalan-sourced beans, what makes Aroma Maya’s coffee stand out is the roasting process he uses, Garrido said.
“In some other common brands, one may notice the coffee has a kind of bitter after taste,” he said.
“That isn’t a thing with our coffee. We use a slow-roasting process that allows the sugars in the coffee beans to caramelize as opposed to burn. I also use software to track my temperatures, which shows me a graph that I follow to make sure my roast profile is consistent every time.”
Garrido started business in 2014 using a roaster in Annapolis Valley and selling the coffee online out of his Acadia dorm room.
Now Aroma Maya’s coffee is roasted, packed and shipped onsite from the Riverrun Golf Course clubhouse in North River, a move Garrido and his wife Kristi made a few years ago. However, recent growth and rising demand has left the company in need of a new production location.
“We’re looking for a place where we can expand our production and have space for our expected growth, which is really exciting,” he said.
“We have almost taken over the basement of this place, and we need room for a second roaster. We produce quite a bit some weeks, so we need a one-floor facility where things can flow efficiently, but also have ample space for storage.”
While it was used mainly as a production site, the clubhouse functioned as the Aroma Maya coffeehouse, where golfers could get sandwiches and baked goods along with a coffee or latté.
As Garrido looks for a new facility, though, there are no plans to re-open another coffeehouse.
“We mostly want to focus on production right now,” he said.
“Wholesale is our business and we already have some local vendors in Truro who are serving our coffee, which is great. That allows us to focus on our production and wholesales, which was the plan anyway.”
Outside of coffee production, the company has also started facilitating fundraisers, supplying coffee at $10 a package to schools, sports teams and organizations for grassroots fundraising in Nova Scotia, allowing the fundraisers to keep any extra they make from sales.
With Aroma Maya’s growth since moving to Colchester, he plans to keep the company in the county for the foreseeable future.
“The community here has been incredibly supportive of our brand and what we are doing,” he said.
“I think if we expand outside of the province or even outside of the Maritimes, we can still produce here in Colchester County. My wife’s family is from here and we would like to stay in the area, plus it’s nice to live so close to work.”