8 Coffees from Southern California Roasters

12 min read


The ever-evolving world of specialty espresso continues to see fast development within the space of product differentiation, with a powerful emphasis on processing innovation on the farm degree. Within the final decade or so, because the story of every particular person espresso has develop into extra essential to the patron, it’s variation in processing methodology that appears to get probably the most consideration.

Maybe that’s as a result of processing methodology, much more than tree selection, has the capability to decisively alter cup profile, permitting farmers to direct outcomes and make their coffees stand out in a spread of sensory instructions. Experimenting with processing methodology additionally carries much less long-term danger for farmers than planting new tree varieties.

Sundown view of downtown Los Angeles, broadly the house of Regent Espresso, Espresso Republic, and The Reverse Orangutan.

This month, we concentrate on the contribution that roasters from Southern California are making in what’s a very innovating and thrilling time in espresso. Nevertheless, coffees from the eight roasters featured right here should not wild, envelope-pushing merchandise of anaerobic fermentation or the end result of different experimental strategies comparable to including fruit, wine yeasts, or lactic acid to fermentations — practices which might be at present trending all through the excessive finish of specialty espresso. As an alternative, they’re somewhat pristine conventional washed-process coffees or coffees meticulously ready utilizing the now basic pure or honey strategies. However, all concentrate on processing of their narratives — although extra on the standard and nuances of processing than on novelty or distinction. As you learn the opinions related to this report, you’ll perceive why — every espresso is exemplary in its processing class, and every espresso’s story speaks to the care round processing on the farm degree.

Basic Washed-Course of Coffees Are Nonetheless Related

Whereas farmers and specialty espresso roasters throughout the globe are busy determining their relationship to processing experimentation (how funky is just too funky? How a lot manipulation is fascinating? Are anaerobics a passing fancy?), basic washed coffees nonetheless have a spot in shopper’s hearts, so even cafés serving molecular espresso cocktails at $12 a pop haven’t deserted them.

Three Southern California roasters whose washed Kenya, Ethiopia and Honduras we evaluate this month are examples of the highest-quality washed processing, evidenced not solely by roaster and farmer narratives but in addition by the coffees’ presentation within the cup, which impressively foregrounds the basic character respectively related to every of those origins.

Crystal Pier at Pacific Seashore in higher San Diego, California, residence of Jaunt Espresso, Nostalgia Espresso Roasters, and Fowl Rock Espresso Roasters.

Jimmy Silva, of San Diego’s Jaunt Espresso, says, “The SoCal espresso scene is targeted on high quality espresso, meals choices and the store setting. Our position in our group is to offer distinctive espresso, create relationships with faculties, organizations, and neighborhoods that encompass us, and have choices that attraction to our various district. The San Diego espresso group is eclectic within the sense that, relying on the place you go, you can see cafés that symbolize their native communities and cultures fairly effectively.”

After we blind-cupped Jaunt Espresso’s Kenya Nyeri Gathaithi (93), we knew it was a Kenya based mostly on aroma alone. Telltale black currant notes — alongside wisteria, lime zest, tamarind and cedar — peg this espresso as a Kenya. It’s wet-processed utilizing the normal Kenya “double-washed” methodology, that means that after fermentation and washing the beans are soaked a second time in contemporary water, selling the readability related to the best Kenya coffees.

Silva says that Jaunt’s plans embrace increasing its café area and making a devoted space for simply roasting. He provides, “We’ve managed to remain related by specializing in the standard and worth of our choices, centering our consideration on group assist, social media (advertising and marketing), and, in fact, our workers. With out our robust and supportive workers, there’s no manner we may proceed to maneuver ahead.”

Kim Anderson, co-owner of Handlebar Espresso, behind the bar in Santa Barbara. Courtesy of Handlebar.

Considered one of two roasters reviewed this month which might be fully new to us is Handlebar Espresso in Santa Barbara. Based in 2011 by a Kim Anderson and Aaron Olsen, who met on the skilled biking circuit, Handlebar is a hub within the burgeoning culinary scene in Santa Barbara. The title of the micro-roastery is a nod to their shared love of biking.

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Handlebar’s Honduras Marcala (93) is richly nutty with an inviting butterscotch undercurrent and a balanced, bittersweet construction that provides it complexity and gravitas. Head roaster Geoffrey Leech says, “This explicit espresso from Honduras got here throughout our desk virtually three years in the past. We have been initially in search of an espresso part, and after cupping the Marcala, we have been splendidly stunned that not solely did it have the standard that we needed so as to add to our espresso mix, nevertheless it was so pleasurable that we determined to supply it as a standalone providing on the cabinets. We’ve carried the Honduras ever since and has develop into a staple in our cafés. The espresso is effectively balanced, providing slightly little bit of acidity and brightness however not a lot to discourage the on a regular basis shopper.”

Aerial view of Pacific shoreline overlooking Santa Barbara, California, residence of Handlebar Espresso and up the street from Moore Espresso & Tea.

How is Handlebar wanting forward after the tough pandemic years? Leech says, “Like so many companies, we’re working our manner again to pre-2020 normalcy, getting our meals program up and operating once more with the hopes that we will once more present the complete potentialities to the local people.”

Fowl Rock Espresso’s Ethiopia Raro Boda (94) is the epitome of a basic washed Ethiopia with its citrusy-sweet, richly cocoa-toned and floral cup profile. Fowl Rock’s enterprise mannequin has lengthy centered on growing sturdy relationships with growers, and that is the third yr operating that the roaster has carried this espresso. It was processed utilizing the normal Ethiopia washed methodology: The freshly pulped espresso is fermented underneath water for 24-48 hours, washed, then soaked in contemporary water for about two hours. After soaking the espresso is dried on raised beds for about 10-14 days. Co-owner and roaster Maritza Suarez-Taylor says this processing methodology promotes a cup with floral, tropical, and citric aromas.

Co-owner Jeff Taylor provides, “The SoCal espresso scene, very similar to the remainder of the U.S., has actually grown up to now 10 years. Our focus, for the reason that starting of Fowl Rock Espresso in 2002 (and first café in 2006), is on high quality, distinctive varieties and general superb espresso. We’ve many direct relationships with producers that we’ve maintained for 13-plus years. That communication and friendship/partnership permits us to find nice coffees persistently and concentrate on what’s new and thrilling on the farm degree. We aren’t an organization that chases cupping tables for high quality; we concentrate on improvement and upkeep with the producers we work with yearly. Our producers belief us to symbolize them with nice roasting method and high quality within the cup.”

5 Coffees on the Pure-Honey Fruit Continuum

The remaining coffees we reviewed for this report have been all processed by both the pure or the honey strategies, variations on the theme of intensifying a inexperienced espresso’s impulses towards the expression of fruit within the cup. The pure course of merely signifies that the espresso cherries are dried in the entire fruit (somewhat than stripping the fruit off the bean earlier than washing), and this historic, now-classic processing methodology permits for improvement of a variety of fruit notes within the aroma and on the palate. Honey processes, pioneered in Brazil however refined and popularized in Costa Rica, take away the pores and skin however depart various levels of fruit flesh on the bean, partly in an effort to modulate the depth and character of fruit notes within the remaining product. Each pure and honey processes are actually ubiquitous all through the coffee-producing world, and the variety of coffees on the natural-honey spectrum we get for evaluate within the Espresso Evaluation lab annually outnumber the washed-process coffees. So, we really feel assured in categorizing these two processes as basic at this level in specialty espresso’s evolution.

Taylor Fields of Nostalgia Espresso Roasters and Felipe Trujillo, proprietor of La Ventolera Farm, strolling to his farm in Colombia. Courtesy of Edgar Ontiveros, Nostalgia Espresso Roasters.

Two natural-processed coffees rose to the highest scores on this month’s cupping — Moore Espresso & Tea’s El Salvador Aida Batlle La Florida Pure and Nostalgia Espresso Roasters’ Colombia Geisha Cordillera Pure, each of which landed at 95 for his or her clear however intensely fruit- and floral-driven profiles.

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Proprietor and roaster Gayla Moore, of Ventura-based Moore Espresso & Tea, echoes the concept profitable SoCal roasters purpose to excel in each meals and beverage, and that espresso continues to be a central a part of that story. She says concerning the El Salvador La Florida reviewed right here, “I’ve adopted Aida Batlle for a while, and I make it a precedence to go looking out girls producers. Batlle’s [use of the natural] processing methodology ends in a style profile that matches each my palate and the roasting model I’ve developed over time, which is balanced and lingering.” The La Florida pure is a richly floral- and fruit-toned espresso with tropical notes of ardour fruit and star jasmine.

Moore continues to advertise the work of girls on each the producer and retailer sides of the enterprise. She says, “It’s heartening to know my espresso is well-represented in my group, in addition to being appreciated by prospects throughout the nation. I’ve been in a position to keep related as a result of, at the start, I supply top-quality espresso. I additionally watch the marketplace for style and financial developments and am in a position to adapt to modifications whereas staying true to my dedication to wonderful product and customer support.”

Taylor Fields, proprietor of Nostalgia Espresso Roasters, has nothing however reward for Felipe Trujillo’s Colombia Geisha Cordillera, which additionally earned a rating of 95. This natural-processed Geisha is deeply chocolaty and spice toned with throughlines of dried blueberry and magnolia.

Fields, who simply returned from visiting Trujillo at his farm, says, “What attracts us to any explicit espresso can also be what our prospects love about it. Each single espresso we provide needs to be approachable, distinctive, direct commerce, and enhance the lives of those that work with it. This Colombia Geisha hits all of these factors instances 10!”

She provides, “This Geisha can also be distinctive due to our direct commerce relationship and story behind the espresso. Felipe is really serving to to form the following technology of specialty espresso producers in Colombia. In partnership with [exporter] Unblended Espresso, he takes an amazing position in mentoring younger producers and creating pathways for them to enter the specialty market in the USA. We have been in a position to go to with each Unblended Espresso and Felipe on the finish of June, take part in a discussion board and work immediately with the younger producers on tips on how to enter the market and take the leap into investing in high quality over amount. Felipe is an inspiration to so many, and this Geisha embodies all of his laborious work.”

Making ready to replant espresso timber at Felipe Trujillo’s La Ventolera Farm. Courtesy of Edgar Ontiveros, Nostalgia Espresso Roasters.

Sadly, though this was Trujillo’s first harvest of this Geisha, it should even be his final for the following few years, as all of those Geisha timber died as a result of extreme rain and chilly.

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After we requested Fields about her roastery’s SoCal ethos, she replied: “I initially fell in love with espresso whereas in Chicago, as these cafés provided a respite from the bitter chilly winters and welcomed all forms of espresso lovers. At Nostalgia, our vibe, values, and approachable roast profiles purpose to evoke that sense of hospitality, embrace, and pleasant nature whereas sharing the sunny SoCal heat with as many individuals as attainable. On the finish of the day, Nostalgia is a fusion of Midwest hospitality with the idyllic Southern California way of life.”

Two honeys and one other pure spherical out our top-scoring coffees, all scoring 93.

Chino-based Espresso Republic’s Ethiopia Gigesa Pure (93) is fruit-toned and sweetly herbaceous with notes of Bing cherry, marjoram, honeysuckle, salted caramel, and fresh-cut oak. The roaster didn’t reply our request for remark by publication time, however the espresso is price looking for out amongst choices by Southern California roasters. It’s a sun-dried espresso within the basic Ethiopia fruit-and-herb model.

Leon Nie, founding father of Regent Espresso in Glendale, loves Costa Rica’s Hacienda Sonora (93) a lot that this lot, produced from the regionally developed Villa Sarchi selection, is the third espresso he’s carried from this farm. Leon, who got here to the U.S. from China searching for higher alternatives for his household, now operates a profitable roastery in his adopted residence. He says of the Southern California espresso scene, “I feel SoCal specialty espresso is in a really quick growing interval. My spouse, Di Yao, and daughter and I moved to the U.S. in 2015, after which, it wasn’t straightforward to discover a respectable specialty espresso store. I’m so fortunate and honored to be among the many rising quantity now.” He nonetheless considers himself a pupil of espresso and hopes to develop organically with a concentrate on high-quality coffees and chilly brew. The Costa Rica Villa Sarchi honey is juicy, balanced, and cleanly fruit-forward.

Jamil Radney (left) and Geoff Clark, co-owners of The Reverse Orangutan, in a self-described “enjoyable kinda ‘we’re gonna drop the toughest mixtape’ shot.” Courtesy of The Reverse Orangutan.

One other roaster discovery for us right here at Espresso Evaluation is The Reverse Orangutan, a Glendora-based roaster whose Ethiopia Shantawane Buncho Honey (93) we loved for its vibrantly sweet-tart profile supported by candy herb and cocoa notes.

Jamil Radney, co-owner, roaster and lead barista, says, “The specialty espresso scene right here is experiencing a fantastic new stride as espresso retailers proceed to push the bounds on scrumptious espresso. There are such a lot of new gamers within the business with so many alternative approaches to sourcing, roasting and philosophy, it’s fantastic. Our position is to ship critical gourmand shit with an approachable demeanor. We predict espresso must be good, straightforward to understand, and one thing you’re excited to take pleasure in. Our company love that we aren’t afraid to usher in enjoyable experimental tons, they usually get enthusiastic about new and rising flavors coming from these gifted farmers and mills.”

Radney and Geoff Clark, co-owner and director of inexperienced buying, who collectively based The Reverse Orangutan in 2018, have 20 mixed years of expertise within the specialty espresso business working for numerous cafés within the Southern California area. Radney says, “We minimize our tooth as baristas within the burgeoning third-wave scene, the place latte artwork and pour-overs turned the norm. Throughout our tenure as baristas, we noticed the business turning into too unique, and we imagine we will make a change in that regard. We imagine espresso must be approachable, informal, and critically gourmand. Our firm’s title is an homage to a chess recreation that occurred within the Nineteen Twenties. One of many gamers consulted an orangutan about what their first transfer must be, and the chess opening has since been known as ‘the orangutan offensive.’ Our enterprise philosophy is that the world has made its first transfer, so we’re enjoying our counter-offensive, The Reverse Orangutan. Our title is our tenet in how we method the espresso recreation.”

It was clear in speaking with these roasters, each the skilled and the newcomers, that along with a laser concentrate on high quality and obsession with meticulous processing, one other SoCal theme emerged concerning the necessity for accessibility and consumer-friendliness. We wholeheartedly second this aspiration, as high quality and entry should not — shouldn’t be — mutually unique (as is usually the case with wine).

We have been barely in a position to contact on the expansive vary of specialty roasters and coffees in Southern California this month, however even with this small collection of basic washed, pure, and honey-processed coffees, it’s clear that the area is upping the specialty espresso ante for us all.



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