In conversation with Nicole Scott / ModRec


ModRec – fkn cool coffee. I discovered them after BP&O asked me to review their branding (nice work by Blok Design). Their coffee subscription allows people to sample the best small batch roasters from unusual corners of the world. Each series is released with its own Spotify playlist. I can’t get enough of this brand. They don’t care about convention. They’re moving slow. They’re building something that will last. I caught up with Nicole, co-founder of ModRec, to find out what kind of imagination it takes to create such a brand. Here are her influences, ideas and hopes wrapped up in a neat little Q&A. Thank you, Nicole.

In conversation with Nicole Scott / ModRec

Co-founders Nicole Scott and Jess Steffy in Sweden with Joanna Alm (owner of Drop Coffee Roasters and Swedish Barista 2018).

Where did the idea for ModRec come from?

ModRec started through conversations while drinking coffee. I was falling in love with specialty coffee and the people behind it. My good friend Jess Steffy, co-owner of Square One Coffee in Pennsylvania and Q-grader and competition judge, really opened my eyes to what was happening. Story after story, cup after cup, I got more excited and began sharing what I was learning and tasting with the people in my daily life. There were talks about starting a coffee shop, as well as roasting. Then there was a coincidental moment when a subscription ad for craft beer in Europe fell out from within a magazine. That inspired the idea to curate craft coffee roasters in the same manner.

What happened next?

We created an international subscription that gave the people the opportunity to sample coffee from all over the world in the comfort of their own home.  Let’s be honest, when you’re not in the specialty coffee world, it can be rather intimidating. We wanted to bridge that intimidation by curating a starting point. ModRec is a safe place to come and enjoy coffee without the worry of know-how, or how-to. I mean, like we say, it’s just fkn coffee. Most importantly, we wanted to connect people directly to the roasters themselves. This is why we always leave the coffee in original packaging. It’s art, it’s genius and these roasters have worked really hard.

We then partnered with Blok Design in Toronto for the web design and identity. They put everything we shared with them into a tangible design with brilliant style and deliberate expression. They understood what we were doing (at times maybe even more). Everything we do has intention, and a lot of it is found in the details.

What makes fkn great coffee?

For us, great fkn coffee, is an emotional experience. It’s the stories, the noises, the smells, heck even the atmosphere that surrounds one in that moment before taking that first sip. Experience brings more dimension to the cup and it always will. With that said, specialty coffee keeps us in a state of wonder. With so many different types of coffee, and various ways of roasting, one’s taste buds can always find explosive satisfaction in all of its, fruity, chocolatey, nutty and floral notes. Each cup promises new tastes, aromatics and deliciousness.

Is this why you pair coffee with music? 

Ah, yes, our Spotify playlists. We wanted to curate an experience with this coffee – take our customers to a place abroad while sitting at home or the office. Coffee is epic, music is forever. With that said, ModRec has a secret weapon and this brilliant person delves into the world of music and curates it in such a way that provokes emotional transmissions while one drinks coffee from a place not commonly experienced. For example, there are several Afro-beat tracks found in our Mexico Series 06 playlist. This music was chosen because it truly embodied that rhythmic, pulsing, energetic vibe that is Mexico City – not necessarily just Mexican music for the sake of featuring Mexico.


ModRec giving it the flying V.

How do you choose the roasters? 

There’s no method to our madness in picking out unusual roasters. There are unique stories everywhere, so it becomes about WHO excites, inspires and moves us in our day to day life. I am so fortunate to have a friend that partnered with us in curating this year’s line-up. These were roasters she has either known, loved and/or been inspired by. It was neat to see her call attention to roaster Talor, from Talor & Jorgen, who then in turn called out Joanna Alm, from Drop Coffee Roasters, which had us hopping on a plane to Sweden to visit her two days after spending time in Oslo with Talor.

Does this mean you get to travel often?

We travelled to Norway in May 2017 to meet up with Talor & Jørgen. We were stoked to learn that Talor not only wanted to meet, but also show us coffee in Oslo. We café hopped for a day with her. We were so hyped-up on coffee! Spending time with Talor was incredible. She is an indomitable force who is wonderfully passionate about the people in coffee. She never stopped smiling the entire day. They both have a distinct vision and an incredible creative way to connect who they are and their brand with everyone. We were really excited to work with them and have the honour of sharing them with people all over the world that otherwise wouldn’t know they are killing it in coffee (and donuts) right now.


ModRec co-founders Jess Steffy and Nicole Scott indulging in the Icelandic tradition of eating a hot dog. 

And back home … Best coffee in Toronto right now? 

Right now, Reunion Island, in Roncesvalles, is a fav. Adam Pesce is totally nailing specialty coffee in Toronto and he’s worked really hard doing it. The staff there are brilliantly kind, inspiring and amazing at bringing coffee together. As for the coffee itself, well it’s fkn delicious! Like seriously, he had one roast months ago that we, my family, cannot forget. I still dream about it. And when I order, I typically ask those serving what they’re excited about. I mean, I drink amazing coffee at home – always – look who’s been on our roster so far, so going out to a café, I let those who know the beans suggest what I should drink.

What are your creative influences? 

Everything and everyone influences our work. Our Instagram embodies that. You won’t find latte art, pics of coffee, beans or coffee shops – we tend to show everything else but. I’m interested in counter culture. I believe that comes across in ModRec. I’ve always done things my own way but never out of defiance, more out of just seeing the world and experiencing it differently. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a cancer survivor. That changes how you grow up and the way you experience life. Time slows down and I believe that is one of my biggest advantages here. ModRec can continue to bloom slow and steady without worrying if it is relevant, popular, trending, getting those mega IG follows, making millions of dollars etc. When time slows, it’s easier to get a clear vision of where you’re going and to build the strength to do it. Moving slow and steadily has us counter to the fast-paced demanding culture we often experience.


ModRec in print. 

And books? 

I cannot get enough of books, journaling and poetry. My favourite read is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I’m currently reading Animal Farm (again) and The Canterbury Tales (again) by William Chaucer. Reading two at a time is the superpower I get with ADHD! The current poet I’m into is Rupi Kaur (heart eyes!!).

What other brands do you love? 

A close friend of mine introduced me to What Youth. They are brilliant, from brand identity to voice and culture. Always inspired. They’ve built an incredible community around them. Monster Children is another company that I can’t get enough of. I love their Instagram. Lastly, Spokenworlds is a poetic artistic genius that we have currently partnered with in writing poetry for our featured roasters. Jacob, the poet, has bold language that keeps me in a state of wonder, awe and consideration. His words paired with the photography is, at times, just unreal. IG @spokenworlds.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you? 

In a pivotal moment, my mother, sitting across the bed, told me to listen to myself; to that small voice inside that speaks up in the most inopportune time. She said that no matter where I was, who said what, how deep I was in it, or how terrified I became, that I needed to listen to my inside voice. That advice sparked the beginning of a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. I’d like to think that I’m getting better listening to myself. I’d even like to think that perhaps, ModRec, in some small way, is the response to what I’ve been hearing myself say all these years.


Follow: ModRec on Instagram 

Listen: Series 07 Mexico Playlist


Posted by: Seth Rowden

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