Local entrepreneur Shane Whittle joins Bob Marley’s son to crack the Vancouver market with Marley Coffee.
The first thing you notice about Shane Whittle is his alertness. The 33-year-old looks you in the eye and exudes the kind of rude health that makes you wish you drank less, got to the gym more. He and I are sitting on the patio of Kits Coffee Co., discussing his recent foray into gourmet coffee. That’s not the stuff we’re drinking, mind you – although he calls the Kits brew “not bad.” Whittle is the CEO of Marley Coffee Inc., the four-month-old coffee company he founded with Rohan Marley, the seventh son of the legendary reggae singer Bob Marley.
Marley Coffee has 16 employees split between its offices in Vancouver, Los Angeles and Jamaica. While the coffee isn’t yet available in your local café (that’s coming soon), you can order it at marleycoffee.com or speak to someone at La Grotta Del Formaggio on Commercial Drive, the company’s local distributor.
Whittle was born in North Vancouver; Marley, 37, was born in Jamaica. The two became friends six years ago on a Los Angeles soccer pitch, and the money-making ideas soon followed. Whittle, a serial entrepreneur who developed businesses in document editing and medical testing, describes himself as “proactive, aggressive.” Marley, in Whittle’s telling, is just the opposite: “He’s very relaxed – and he likes his marijuana.”
So tranquil a business partner may not always be desirable, but it’s no secret that the company hopes to trade heavily on what Whittle calls Rohan’s “legacy,” his father's ’s name. Here’s what Whittle would want you to know about his coffee: it’s organic, sustainably grown and ethically farmed – much of it on the 21-hectare Marley family estate in Portland, Jamaica. “Pure food from the earth,” reads the label, “is physically and spiritually beneficial.”
Cant like that is familiar to the denizens of liberal, coffee-saturated cities like Vancouver – you find such sentiment on T-shirts and reusable shopping bags. In a market glutted with premium beans, goes the idea, if you can’t win on taste, win on metaphysics.
But Marley Coffee has more than a global icon and high-flown morals going for it. I just brewed a pot in our office’s battered Black & Decker drip machine. I have to say, it’s really good.