Photos by Samantha Presta.
Born from a simple desire to get more involved in the local neighborhood—along with a mutual affinity for the powerful beans—it’s been full steam ahead after the official launch of Pushwater Coffee about eight months ago.
Small time roasting and pop-up events from time to time have morphed into an entirely different beast, due to wholesale inquiries and collaborations with other local tastemakers keeping the Pushwater calendar busy into 2017.
AMPLIFIER recently sat down with the brains behind the operation, Peyton Hayslette and Corbin Cansler. After briefly speaking with them, the passion for this new venture—and for providing Charlotte and beyond with a quality cup of joe—is beyond evident.
[Jarrod Hayslette] To start, just introduce yourself and say a little about what you do at Pushwater.
[Peyton Hayslette] I’m Peyton Hayslette, and I mostly handle the business, marketing and day-to-day operations of Pushwater Coffee.
[Corbin Cansler] I’m Corbin Cansler. I spend the majority of my time with Pushwater Coffee on sourcing, roasting and brewing our coffee.
[JH] How exactly did the idea of starting Pushwater Coffee first come about?
[PH] Pushwater Coffee came from a number of conversations that Corbin and I had around getting involved in the local arts and community scene. We both wanted to work on something that would not only support the growing specialty foods community in Charlotte, but would also give back to those individuals who we source from. Having been, and currently being, heavily involved in the corporate and startup tech scene for a number of years, I’ve always enjoyed tackling new products and business initiatives. It really is a lot of fun.
[CC] My obsession with specialty coffee, manual brewing, and small local businesses turned into a mission to be a part of that same scene. I was inspired by other specialty coffee businesses around the country that I discovered through my and my friends’ travels. They were innovative, obsessed with quality and dedicated to sourcing responsibly—and I wanted to bring that to Charlotte. I mentioned the idea of starting a coffee business with Peyton, and he was instantly excited about it. Peyton and I met at UNC Charlotte and worked together for a non-profit startup here in the city. Not only do we have a passion for coffee and for helping the underserved, but we also have a passion for the local food and beverage scene.
[JH] Since day one, you’ve been committed to using only organic coffee beans from locally sourced farms and farmers. Why was this a cornerstone of the business model for you?
[PH] Most coffee drinkers aren’t interested in the sourcing, profiling and origination of their coffee. But that way of thinking has been changing in the coffee community the same way that artisanal methods of production have overtaken the beer industry. It’s only a matter of time until the third wave coffee revolution takes hold, and we want to help shape the model of how roasters and brewers should conduct business.
[CC] This past summer I traveled to Bolivia with UNC Charlotte’s outdoor program. We climbed mountains, backpacked through the Andes and studied development in poverty stricken communities. We stayed in tiny villages with families who lived in homes with dirt floors and mud-caked walls, and it wrecked my perspective. I witnessed first hand the difference between relief and development and how Fair Trade and similar organizations make a major impact on the communities they serve, and I wanted to be a part of that.
We recently set up a direct trade relationship with a farm in Panama. This is the beginning of our long-term goal to make all of our offerings direct trade. We want to ensure that farmers and their workers are getting a fair and deserving price for their product. We’re hoping through direct trade we can make more of an impact on coffee growing communities.
[JH] You’ve gone out of your way to get involved locally in Charlotte, doing pop-up events and partnering up with local businesses on collaborative creations. Why was a sense of community another driving force behind the idea of Pushwater?
[PH] Starting Pushwater Coffee, we wanted to provide our community with great coffee as well as the knowledge and education that should come with it. Just because someone may not know the best way to brew their coffee doesn’t mean that they should have to suffer through a cup of subpar coffee every morning. With every event and pop-up we do, it’s about talking to people who are truly interested in what we’re doing and helping them understand the importance of sustainability.
[CC] There’s such an awesome community here where local businesses are so willing to partner up and look after one another. We wanted to be a part of that. So far, Charlotte has been very excited and supportive about what we are doing, and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to start a business.
[JH] There’s no denying the boom craft coffee culture has experienced in recent years. What do you think consumers are concerned with most that lead to this movement taking shape, and in turn, raising the bar of quality for everyone in the coffee industry?
[PH] Quality and inclusion in the scene. The moment someone realizes that they can get coffee of significantly higher quality than what they’d find at most shops and also not have to pay a premium for the brand, they’re converted. Being a part of a community that cares about quality and the methodology behind the madness is the second part of it—being able to geek out over which brewing method highlights different roasts better or a brand new piece of equipment is what it’s all about. Just like any scene, the personalization and inclusion factors are what make it unique to everyone.
[CC] I think people are just becoming more aware about what they consume altogether. Also, now that coffee shops are offering freshly brewed pour overs from recently roasted coffee, consumers are being enlightened to the idea of high quality specialty coffee. People are now given the option to taste the difference for themselves, and it’s changing the way we think about coffee. We want to be a part of that movement and continue to educate on specialty coffee.
[JH] Since Pushwater launched back in the spring, it seems like the community has really embraced the mission and the brand. Were you surprised to have such a positive response right off the bat?
[PH] It’s really been great. Having such a receptive community full of supporting businesses and individuals has been amazing. We knew that we wanted to do something special, but what we didn’t expect was the genuine passion that our city has for what we’re doing. We do everything we can to partner up with and support not only the craft coffee community but also the various other organizations and businesses in Charlotte. If there’s a slight chance that we can work on something cool together with someone who shares our passion, we’re going to pursue it.
[CC] Yes, very much so. What we’ve discovered through our launch is that Charlotte loves their coffee and stands behind [and helps] its community.
[JH] What’s next for Pushwater? What is the plan for the rest of this year and moving into 2017?
[PH] Through the rest of the year we’ll continue to focus on online sales, handling event requests and coordinating pop-ups all over the city. As we continue to expand, we’ll also be taking on the challenge of supplying retail and office locations with our coffee. Our calendars are getting pretty full, so if you want to work with us on an event let us know so we can get in on the books!
[CC] We’re currently working on bringing in a larger roaster so we can get more specialty coffee to the good people of Charlotte and beyond. We’re also working on having a more permanent spot to pop-up during the week. Stay tuned by following us on social media and keep an eye out for our blog updates!
[JH] Any final words or thoughts?
[PH] We’re really excited to be a part of a growing community in Charlotte where individuals are passionate about what they’re purchasing and genuinely want to support others in any way that they can. The fact that we can provide an avenue to do that, while also providing kickass coffee, is pretty sweet.
[CC] If you are interested at all, even in the slightest, about our coffee or our mission, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always looking for new partnerships, new friends or just new conversations. We have really enjoyed the new faces and experiences since launching Pushwater Coffee, and we look forward to many more to come!