History of Moja – An Idea is Born

Moja SignThe start of Moja actually goes back to Doug Finley’s time in Whistler and Squamish. In the Summer of 2001, Finley began research on opening a micro roasting coffee business in Whistler. Considerable time and energy was spent on trying to find the right location and talking to various café and grocery store owners about the prospects of having a local coffee source. After a year of planning, Finley determined that the necessary requirements to help a business flourish were simply not available in the Whistler/Sea To Sky market at that time.

Andrew Wentzel

In 2002, fresh off the announcement of Vancouver/Whistler winning the bid to host the 2010 Winter Games, Doug and his wife Tania decided to sell their home in the Sea To Sky Corridor and move back to North Vancouver, where they lived for many years. In the process, they decided to allocate money from that sale to accelerate the development of the business plan to open a roasting / café business.

It was during the summer of 2003 when Finley approached his brother-in-law, Andrew Wentzel, and presented the complete business plan for the coffee roasting business. Of note, the working name of the company at that stage was “Jambo Coffee.” Following an extensive 20-minute review by Wentzel, he proclaimed his interest in the project… The rest was history, as they say.

Finley knew that Wentzel, who had a technical background with equipment and heating/cooling systems, would have a key role to play in the future success of the company. It was at this stage that the company divided its working responsibilities, making Andrew the person in charge of the roasting operation and Doug the person in charge of sales and marketing.

Learning the Coffee Trade

Both Finley and Wentzel then started the hard work of travelling and learning the trade of coffee from a first-hand perspective. Wentzel flew to Kenya to visit friends who work in the coffee business and to introduce himself to the fine art of coffee cupping. He was also able to visit coffee farms and meet coffee brokers. The highlight of the trip for Andrew had nothing to do with coffee… the highlight was completing the climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Finley became friends with Gary Sawyer, the owner of Fidalgo Bay Roasting in Mount Vernon, Washington. Sawyer, a veteran of over 40 years in the specialty coffee business, played a huge role in the early days of our company. Finley, Wentzel and Sawyer co-developed the initial blends and recipes that Moja still uses to this day.

Developing Our Style

Doug Finley

Our coffee roasting style is largely influenced by the coffee scenes in San Francisco and Milan. Sawyer was one of the early players in the the Bay area’s coffee revolution – the forerunner to the styles of coffee we now love.

During a trip to Italy, Finley and Wentzel took samples of our espressos to be tested and scrutinized by Italians working in the coffee industry. Having experienced some of the finest cafés in Italy, they were most influenced by the style and substance that was Milan. This northern city, near the Alps and fashion capital of Europe, allowed us to dream of what could be if we ever had our own café.

In the spring of 2004, they decided to name the company Moja, because it was the Swahili word for “one”. The name represented what we believed was the best way to showcase coffee (offer single origin beans) and it honored our family roots (Andrew’s father was born in Moshi Tanzania).

The Roasting Begins

Our Probat roaster arrived in April of 2004, followed shortly by Finley’s first child, a baby girl. With the new family business, and the new family, Doug and Andrew collectively jumped into the deep end and started swimming. And have been swimming ever since!

To date, Moja has roasted over a million pounds of coffee in that same Probat roaster. 12 kilos at a time, day in and day out. It’s what we do, and we will continue to grow our business using the same basic principles that our company was founded on; source the finest beans from around the world, roast and deliver them fresh to our customers, and always try to make the next day better than the last.

In 2012, we welcome a second roaster to Moja – a handmade Joper roaster that is capable of roasting 30 kilos at a time. The Joper was handmade by a family-owned company in Portugal using cast iron with the latest latest PLC touch screen software – a great mix of old and new.

Thanks for taking interest in our story.

In the news

Check out what some customers have to say about Moja…

  • North Shore News shares that “Moja Coffee [is] not to be missed”
  • Clean Hot Dry says “it’s so refreshing to see people trying new things and changing it up every once in a while.”
  • Digital Doodles calls our coffee “first class” and our service “top notch.”
  • Vancouver Coffee comes for a daily visit, calling our cafe “simple, modern, comfortable.”
  • Vancouver Foodster calls us a “gem that is worth your discovery” with baristas that have “true passion” and places us high on the BEST Espresso Macchiato list.
  • Also check out some reviews by our customers on Yelp where Chantal shares how Moja became her office and the baristas her friends, where Roanna calls our coffee “sublime” and more!

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