The Night Owl, Revisited

It’s been about a year since we introduced our readers and attendees to the The Night Owl Hot Brews, Shambhala’s very own coffee shop.

As many of you may have guessed, coffee is something near and dear to our hearts. I often joke that the Shambhala production team is 80% powered by caffeine (the other 20% is powered a team of unicorns that sneeze magic pixie dust, which coincidentally looks a lot like sparkles).

Really Good Coffee has become a beloved ‘perk’ for our crew at Shambhala Studios. I’d be hard pressed to think of many other local businesses that routinely support their workers’ coffee addictions with such great coffee, save people that work coffee shops.

Even in my early days of working for Shambhala, before we had a “real office”, we worked out of a house on Stanley Street, a couple blocks up from Oso Negro (the local roastery that makes our Night Owl Blend for the festival). It wasn’t unusual for someone to arrive in the morning with two of those cardboard cup holder things full of Oso coffee. And at lunch time, we’d put the kettle on the stove in the kitchen and get a couple french presses going.

Once upon a time, this was our office. Not even that long ago – 2007.

I think you’re getting the point – we really love our Oso Negro. Recently, I re-read the blog I wrote to introduce the Night Owl Hot Brews, and I thought it merited a re-share with some updates. Below you’ll find my 2013 edit of the story. Enjoy!


What happens when Shambhala Music Festival teams up with Nelson BC’s Oso Negro Coffee?

“There are 21 grams of coffee in a double shot,” Anne said as she jotted it down on a piece of paper. “450 grams in a pound, so 21 double shots per pound.”

Oso Negro Roastery

It was a sunny day in May 2012. I was at the Oso Negro Roastery in Uphill Nelson with our 2012 Beverage Director, Jen, and Anne, who’d been helping us craft a unique blend of Oso Negro coffee.

Over the past few months, we had diligently tested different blends of coffee beans, writing down our impressions of each one on sheets by the coffee maker.

The blend was more or less decided at this point – now we were trying to figure out the volume of beans we’d need to order. Which, as we threw theoretical numbers back and forth at each other, was proving to be a difficult task.

The Night Owl Hot Brews was one of our team’s highlights of 2012. The project began brewing (forgive the pun) in early January last year and it was so amazing to watch it blossom from idea to reality. It was one of my favourite things about last year. With input from every department, and a main product that a lot of us are really passionate about, it was hard not to be excited about it. It was really unifying.

So much went into the Night Owl.

Almost exactly a year ago, on May Long Weekend, we mapped out where the building now stands. It’s strange to think that just a year ago, the Night Owl was just a bunch of lines on the ground and surveying stakes.

Phil mapping where the Tea Tree would be built, May 2012.

We had the cabinets and counters for the Night Owl made by our lead carpenter at Shambhala Studios in Nelson, our year-round office.

We thoroughly tested one of these giant coffee machines (I like to call ‘er Bessie the Espresso Shot Robot) before the Night Owl took flight last August. Bessie now has a permanent home at our office, and her sisters come visit during the festival.

This coffee machine means business. Can do 100 cups per hour!

We enlisted local artisan, Pixie, from Shprixieland Studios (just over the Kootenay Lake Ferry) to make these beautiful, handmade owl-themed Shambhala coffee mugs.

Each mug was decorated with messages like, “My Happy is Loud,” or “Shambhalove”. (If you didn’t manage to pick one up last year, these beloved mugs will be making a return in 2013!)

Shambhala Night Owl Mugs by Pixie.

Notable Canadian artists Mugwort & Shwa came together with a series of collaborative pieces that graced the counter panels and really tied the owl theme together.

So many people contributed to forming the heart & soul of the Night Owl.

But back to the Roastery…

There we were, speculating on how many cups of coffee we’d need to make, in a building that was currently no more than lines on the ground. Theoretical coffee to be made in a theoretical building.

We were doing “coffee math,” which I found very amusing. It was like all those ridiculous equations you did in high school that involved calculating random things… except real life. And you thought they were completely useless.

Jen & Anne doing coffee math.

What was the result of the coffee math? We over-ordered. By a long(espresso)shot.

But at least now that we’ve got a year of running a temporary coffee shop under our belt, we can make a more educated guess as to how much we need. And in any case… better to have too much than too little. I’d hate to see a coffee riot at Shambhala.

The Night Owl turned out fabulously, and even hitting it at it’s peak time, around 11am, I didn’t mind the wait. I really enjoyed the conversations I had with people as I waited for my coffee each morning during the festival. It was the exact hub of activity we envisioned it would be.

It was so satisfying to hear people say how much they liked the coffee, or watch as they marveled at the giant mustachioed Owl our Farm Dec crew had dreamed up and perched above the building.


Photo by Novus Photography

I love the Night Owl. I feel like I’m getting so much more than a cup of coffee. I’m in this strange position where I can see where it’s all come from, what it took to get here. And when I drink my Night Owl coffee, I really feel like part of a community.

That may be a bit sappy for some of you, but that’s truly how I feel.

In any case, we’re looking forward to filling your cups again this year with these specialty brews, and giving you a real taste of what the Nelson area has to offer. Brewed with Love.

Mug Love

Wanna cut down on waste created at the festival? Us too!

We would love it if you brought your own travel coffee mug. We can easily give your mug a little rinse and fill it up with a nice cup of coffee for you. Same goes for the Tea Tree. So bring us that travel mug!

Local Focus

Coffee roasted in Nelson, cabinets & counters made in-house, one-of-a-kind mugs from just across the lake… are you starting to see a pattern here?

The Night Owl Hot Brews is one of 3 Shambhala specialty drink vendors, along with the Farm Phresh Smoothies and The Tea Tree and Apothecary (tea house) with a focus on locally sourced products.

We’ve got some pretty amazing stuff here  in the Kootenays – wild crafted teas, locally made Chamela Giri chai, beneficial cocoa (think extra healthy hot chocolate), locally sourced produce and (of course) locally roasted coffee.

This is about a week’s supply of coffee ’round here.

Caffeinate the Masses

Once again, our drink vendors will be staffed with colourful, costumed, high-energy people who are hand-selected for their super awesome customer service. Does this sound like YOU? We’re still hiring Night Owl Night Crew! Join the Farmily!

You’ll find friendly faces at the Night Owl!  🙂

Want to learn more about why Oso Negro is such a great fit for us? Read on…


Once upon a time, well over a decade ago, two small (now prominent) businesses in the magical mountain town of Nelson, British Columbia were in their infancy. Nelson was magical because despite its small size and its relative remoteness to the rest of the world, it was bursting with imagination, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

These two businesses got their start on the dead end of Hall St, in a small, historical, brick building, that is now home to Bibo and The Nelson Star.

This little building, just off Baker St, was the perfect place for both of them to grow.

One of these businesses was an electronic music festival. The other, a coffee shop that roasted their own beans by hand.

And while they occupied this little building at different times, their seeds were planted there, and both businesses grew up to be iconic of Nelson.

The little door to our first Office.

The festival office was tiny and cramped, where 3 people worked together in close quarters, all at the same long desk. The festival was small, and electronic music wasn’t particularly popular at the time, but those involved shared a dream that one day it would attract 10,000 people, and put little Salmo, BC on the map.

How far we’ve come!

The coffee shop was unique – no other shops were roasting their own beans. The Nelson community had a penchant for locally sourced products well before “Buy Local” was the trendy new sustainability slogan. Oso Negro café naturally appealed to that. Their customer base grew, and eventually, they outgrew the little brick building on Hall St, moving to a larger location Vernon Street with a roastery on Latimer St., and eventually (outgrowing that space as well) moving the café to its current location on the corner of Vernon and Ward St.

This is a picture of Oso’s current location.

Shambhala’s office moved to several different locations, before settling at Shambhala Studios on Lakeside Drive in early 2008. There were four employees at that time. It took a while to grow into the large building (although now we’ve almost outgrown it with 20 full-time, year-round staff).

Shambhala achieved its once lofty dream of 10,000 attendees in 2008, has won 2 Breakspoll Awards for Best Large Event (2011 & 2012), was awarded Nelson Business of The Year by the Nelson Chamber of Commerce, and has been featured in many publications – putting Salmo, BC on the world map, just as they had always dreamed.

These two businesses have deep, intertwined roots. Oso Negro has always been the brew of choice at the Shambhala Offices.

In 2012, a good 13+ years after the Hall St days, both parties proudly, in partnership, presented the “Night Owl Blend” of Oso Negro coffee for Shambhala’s Night Owl Hot Brews.

We plan to be filling your cup with the Night Owl blend for years to come. ❤

Sh!t’s gettin’ real. 5 lb bags.

The Oso Roastery’s impressive collection of espresso cups.

LOTS of beans!

Where the magic happens…

Stamps for different blends…

Oso roastery’s mascot.

About Shambhala Music Festival

It's all about the people on the dancefloor.
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1 Response to The Night Owl, Revisited

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