When Terrah Yeager moved to South Carolina six years ago, she noticed boykin spaniels everywhere. They are the state dog, after all. “I kept seeing this dog, this cool little brown dog, on boats and running around on sandbars,” she recalls. “I met some friends that had one and fell in love with the breed.” Soon after, she found a new best friend in a boykin of her own, Charli. They started every day together, a ritual that would eventually inspire Yeager’s coffee brand Bird Dog Coffee. “Boykins are pretty high energy, so each morning as soon as the coffee was done, I’d take her on some sort of adventure,” says Yeager. “After a walk one day last year, I was sitting there and thought, ‘Does everyone who has dogs start their days this way? Probably.’ So I decided to put the two together.”

Yeager started learning everything she could about coffee. She even went to Seattle to look for roasters to team up with, but then someone referred her to Paul Kelly with Charleston Coffee Exchange. “We met up, and he thought my idea was cool. He was interested in roasting, so we put our minds together.” By December 2017, Bird Dog Coffee was born. Naturally, the first blend was dubbed the Boykin Blend — a smooth, medium roast highlighting the distinctly Southern flavors of bourbon and pecan. It’s still Yeager’s favorite of the many blends that Bird Dog now produces, each one representing a different dog breed. “Last December, we sold maybe 300 bags, but we’ve quadrupled sales this December already, especially as we’ve been adding breeds.”

“Each dog breed has a specific blend related to a look or a personality,” explains Yeager. “The Retriever Blend is a really dark flavor because I’ve talked to a lot of hunters who prefer a dark coffee.” There’s the Irish Setter Blend, a cinnamon dark roast to match the dog’s cinnamon-hued locks. The multi-colored springer spaniel gets a blend of chocolate, cinnamon, and hazelnut. The warm color palette of the beagle’s coat called for a toasted hazelnut blend. “The cool thing is that even people who typically don’t like flavored coffee love these. The flavor is roasted in with the coffee and then grinded or kept whole instead of adding a bunch of powder or syrup at the end,” says Yeager. “I’ve been super pleased with the quality. We do a grind every week, so everyone’s getting good quality, fresh beans.”

[image-1]

Yeager has also introduced three Christmas blends just in time for the holidays — Santa’s Favorite Cookie, a blend flavored with vanilla nut and cinnamon; Peppermint Bark with notes of chocolate and, well, peppermint; and a dark roasted Holiday Blend sourced from four regions and well-suited for espresso. They each come presented in metallic red, green, and silver packaging. Pair one of these with a rustic Bird Dog coffee mug, and you’ve got a perfect gift for the dog-lover on your list.

The coffee concoctions don’t end there. “We kicked it up a notch this month and also added a premium blend, the Black Honey Micro Lot coffee from Costa Rica,” says Yeager. Black Honey doesn’t refer to literal honey but to a processing method that yields a coffee with a sweeter profile. To say that a coffee is a micro lot coffee means that these particular coffee beans were the cream of the crop. Out of all the beans growing at a particular farm, the micro lot beans are considered premium and are cared for and processed separately. “Paul [Kelly] will go to the farm in Costa Rica and oversee the coffee from start to finish,” says Yeager. “For a non-flavored roast, that one is really high quality. It’s been a big hit.”

Bird Dog gives a percentage of sales back to four different rescue organizations: Boykin Spaniel Rescue, Operation Little Brown Dog, Southeast German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue. She’s still working through the details, but is looking for ways for Bird Dog to give back as it continues to grow. “Part of my business plan for the upcoming year is to reach out to local rescue organizations and create blends for specific dogs in need. Another idea is to sell our coffee directly in shelters, and proceeds will go toward helping that animal shelter.” She’s also looking for a home for Bird Dog to set up shop. Right now, Bird Dog coffee is only available online or at Woof Gang Bakery. Yeager has big dreams for a coffeehouse complete with an attached dog park.

For now, Yeager says she’s happy to see fellow coffee and dog lovers in Instagram photos —”People take pictures and tag Bird Dog. It’s become one of my favorite things to see people with their happy dogs and their coffee.”