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The Legend of Jack Wagon



Some people say that nothing good can come from a calculus class. I respectfully disagree. It was 1995. On a day like any other at the University of Waterloo. During a seemingly routine calculus lecture a chain of events would unfold that would lead to the creation of the Jack Wagon Coffee Company.


In a fit of stress-induced frustration I joked with my friends about quitting school and becoming a cabana boy in the Caribbean. Later that evening while unwinding from the day with some friends (ie. beer), they reminded me of this new career path that I casually mentioned in class. It wasn't a well thought out plan by any means (most ideas provoked by alcohol rarely are) but it began to evolve. This idea stuck for us for our remaining years of university. Over time it grew to include a larger group of friends, more expansive plans of owning a bar and even adopted a rudimentary mascot in the form of a tequila worm. 



As we approached graduation we accepted reality. The cabana plans were never going to be realized. No one dropped out of school. No one established roots in the Caribbean. And surprisingly no one opened a bar...even to this day. Instead we accepted the future that our parents told us we wanted. Our happiness lay in getting a good job in our fields, marrying our university sweethearts and starting families. Life was good and our futures were bright! We didn't need the cabana anymore. We were destined for success by following our corporate career paths.


And life was good! But the cabana idea was not forgotten. In the years that followed, this idea continued to simmer in our subconscious as the promises of corporate life slowly revealed themselves to be empty. With the benefits of maturity and hindsight, we reflected back on the cabana idea. 


We realized what it really represented for us both then and now. The cabana was an attempt to live a happy, low-stress, life that was fulfilling. What we didn't realize at the time was that this half-cocked idea, so many years ago, actually presented us what we needed to be happy. By meeting people from around the world and providing them with moments that were carefree and memorable we would be making an impact on them and ourselves. Through their happiness we too could be happy. Tragically we were all too young and naive to realize this at the time. But now we knew the secret!



Cliche perhaps, but kids have a way of changing your perspective. For us, attaining personal happiness was no longer the ultimate achievement in life. We had bigger aspirations and wanted more. By creating happiness for others, we could be happy too but that was no longer enough. We wanted to feel fulfilled! We wanted to create a real difference in the world and improve the lives of so many more people. Simple and fleeting moments of happiness we no longer enough. 



We didn't want to idly sit by any more. So we looked for ways in which we could make a bigger contribution while building a sustainable business. For us, coffee was the logical choice.


My uncle Jack started a local coffee importing and roasting company long before it was fashionable to do so. He loved coffee, food and everything it represented. He was deeply ingrained in the local restaurateur community and had a true passion for good food, good friends, and great coffee. Although Uncle Jack has since passed on, his legacy and contributions to the local community remain.



No exactly. It's true that I wanted to pay some respect and homage to my late uncle. Both for the coffee business he created and the way that he chose to live his life. He lived happily, gave freely and and helped to brighten the lives of so many other people. Those values are echoed in my own and those of the company.



The history of the word Jackwagon is a bit ambiguous but generally it's a derogatory term for something useless, or a non-vulgar way of calling someone a 'jackass'. Some might find this term somewhat insulting. For us, we wear the name as a badge of honour.


The recent boom in coffee culture and the coffee industry has lead to emergence of a sea of coffee experts. And with that high expertise in all areas of coffee production. Growing, harvesting, storing and shipping, roasting, brewing, even tasting have all become instilled with a deep reverence. At Jack Wagon we're a late comer to this growth of the coffee industry... and we full admit that we still are a bit naive despite the years of experience our master roaster. For this, we're viewed negatively as a newcomer and underdog within the industry.


Calling ourselves Jack Wagon is our own way of accepting this perception imposed upon us with a mix of self-deprecating humour. Our name keeps us humble and reminds us of the effort needed everyday to overcome that opinion. It also gives us the freedom to be naturally irreverent within the industry; a position that we make no apologies for. We don't want to be just like everyone else. 


We believe that our competitors have lost their joie de vivre and speak about coffee with overpowering gravitas. No, we won't name names; we don't kiss and tell. And don't get me wrong, we take our coffee seriously too; just not ourselves. W e like to poke fun at the industry in which we work (and play). Life is too short and we like to have fun! Because, at the end of the day we recognize that your coffee preference is just that; a matter of personal choice. Your palate and mine aren't the same. Why should our coffees be?



It's no secret that the boom in coffee culture can partially be attributed to Starbucks and their massively popular cafes. At Jack Wagon we're not a big fan of their coffee but we are still grateful for the impact they've had to bring coffee to the prominence it's now attained. Still, we believe that there is room for improvement, both in their drinks offered and the impact they're having globally. Its this desire to provide a more positive impact which lead to the creation of Jack Wagon Coffee Co.


While there are several great initiatives in the coffee industry to help preserve and protect the environment and assist coffee growers (Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International) why stop there? Most coffee purveyors hide behind these two well know organizations and use them as a testament to their social and environmental contributions.


The truth is, many coffee purveyors make it extremely difficult to know what their real contribution and impact for change is. They're just not transparent about it! If they really care about our future and the greater good of the world, why aren't they doing more to show how you're making a difference through them?



At Jack Wagon Coffee Co. we believe in being profitable in order to support our abilities to give back. Our #JackGivesBack program has been designed to provide monthly contributions to a charity of your choice. Yes, that's right... YOUR CHOICE.


We don't want to own a charitable foundation and take on the responsibility of making the most effective use of your money. And why should we? There are already numerous organization that do an incredible job at this and it's not easy!


Instead we want to help fund those causes that we believe in that already do a bang-up job! We want to fuel their growth and capacity to help others. It's a far better use of your money than using it to fund another new foundation. So if you know of any that you would like to see represented, please nominate them for consideration ( nominations@jackwagoncoffee.com).


Keep coming back for more updates to our Jack Wagon history. Our story continues to unfold and we appreciate you being a part of it.









Mike Basden
Chief Jack Wagon

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