By: Adrianna Michell

For the past ten years, Relay Coffee Roasters has been bringing quality cups of ethically-produced coffee to the hands of Hamiltonians. Throughout the decade the husband and wife team behind Relay have seen their roastery grow into the thriving business that it is today.

Relay Coffee Roasters first set up shop in Hamilton in 2008 under at the name Red Hill Coffee Trade. At the time, Hamilton wasn’t the city it is today, with its booming restaurant industry and influx of creatives and business owners. Instead, the Hamilton that Relay co-founder Jason Hofing moved to had only a few restaurants and cafes, and lacked a well-known coffee roaster.

Relay’s current reputation in the city’s food scene took years of relationship building with community members and restauranteurs.

Hofing remembers the challenges of Relay’s beginnings, recalling a lot of polite declining of his services. The few restaurants and cafés in the city already had established relationships with coffee providers.

“We had to… build a name for ourselves as a roaster. We had to get cups of coffee in people’s hands,” explained Hofing.

“One of the reasons that I started is that I wanted to make a business that did good for the people we were roasting for, so our local community and [coffee] farmers.”


Jason Hofing
Relay Coffee Roasters

To create a reputation for themselves and get cups to the community, the team tabled at Art Crawl. Monthly, the roasters set up a stand in front of Christ Church Cathedral in the artists market. Since their first Art Crawl in 2009, Art Crawlers have come to depend on a cup of well-crafted coffee to enjoy while exploring the local arts scene.

As the roastery grew, so did their lineup of events and restaurants. Relay has attended the Festival of Friends and Supercrawl, and has partnerships with the Hammer City Roller Derby, SACHA’s Chocolatefest, the Hamilton Philharmonic, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Early days saw partnerships with the Twisted Lemon in Cayuga, Papa Leo’s and Jack and Lois.

In 2011 Relay’s coffee bar opened in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, marking the first retail location for the company. Next came the coffee bar on Concession Street, and with that their rebranding as Relay Coffee Roasters.

“That’s a really fun part of this job too,” says Hofing, “teaming up with a lot of these organizations and events. I feel like the community really sees us as a positive influence.”

After ten years of growth, two coffee bars, and countless festivals, Hofing reflects on what first brought him to roasting: a love of coffee.

“One of the reasons that I started is that I wanted to make a business that did good for the people we were roasting for, so our local community and [coffee] farmers.”

All of Relay’s roasts are fair trade and certified organic. To Hofing, making sure that the coffee beans are fair trade and the farmers are paid a fair wage is important.

Over time, the company’s love of coffee has grown into a love of creating. Restaurants that source their coffee from Relay incorporate the roasts into their recipes, using the blends to create exciting culinary collaborations. Most recently, Relay teamed up with Merit Brewing to create a coffee porter for the brewery’s Unstrung Hero series of beers.

Hofing’s goal for Relay is for it to be Hamilton’s favourite coffee roaster, but he recognizes the work necessary for the company and its relationship with the community to grow.

Relay soon may expand to a third coffee bar and will be adding new origins and blends to their roster this year.

A decade in, Jason Hofing and his wife Rachel have learned that nothing really goes according to plan. When the duo first moved to Hamilton they thought they would build a roastery with ethical, flavourful origins — now they have expanded to blends and opening coffee bar, all while cultivating a community of restauranteurs and locals that share their love of a good brew.

With their sustainable, unique roasts, Hamilton can hopefully look forward to another decade of Relay Coffee.

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