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An Interview with A.J. Anderson, Owner of Valhalla Coffee

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Wed, Apr, 04, 2018 @ 00:04 AM

Valhalla Coffee, located in Tacoma, Washington, was originally founded in 2004 long before you heard the terms 'micro-lots' or 'third-wave' being thrown around coffeehouses.  Owner, A.J. Anderson, started his coffee career at Starbuck's before learning to roast at Queen Anne Coffee, later renamed Metropolitan Market.  I sat down with A.J. to learn more about how Valhalla has changed over the past 14 years.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Can you tell me a little about Valhalla?

Valhalla Coffee started in 2004 with a [SF 25 roaster] I use now and purchased from my previous employer.  I’ve been in the coffee business for about 25 years, I’ve had Valhalla Coffee for 14 years.  We started with just wholesale and then moved to another location about five years in and expanded then to wholesale and retail, so we have a storefront where you can get coffee by the cup or pound.  We basically do all things coffee.  About a year ago now, we opened our second location which is inside the 7 Seas Brewery – it’s a large brewery complex with a several-thousand square foot tap room.  In that taproom is our second coffee shop with a little SF6 roaster and next to us is a little restaurant so it’s a unique set up in there.

How did you come up with the name and branding for Valhalla?

In a nutshell, I always found it odd or amusing that so many companies from the Seattle-Tac area  were trying to associate themselves with an Italian name.  [Everyone] added an o to the end – just one of those funny things I noticed in the coffee business.  When I went to create a name and a brand for my own company – I’m Norwegian-Swedish, all my family immigrated here about two generations ago from Norway or Sweden.  My first name is Arvid, that’s about as Scandinavian as you can get –so actually I think the name Valhalla, I was never into Norse mythology, but I think I saw an episode on the history channel on Norse mythology and thought it was a cool sounding name.  I’ve learned more about Norse mythology since then, but it’s marketable – we have a Viking Blend and a Valkyrie Blend, and it just looked good in print so that’s where I came up with it.

I noticed you started back in 2004, I guess before sustainable coffee really became, I don’t want to say trendy, but more mainstream?

The first start I got was in 1992.  I was a senior in high school, I got a job at Starbuck’s.  I am the first of my family from many generations not to go to college so I got out of high school and had to get a job.  Starbuck’s was an interesting job, it seemed cool and trendy in the early 90s.  I got interested in the roasting side of it at Starbuck’s.  I interviewed and got through the orientations and all that, and that was right when the Seattle roasting plant was going to completely automated systems, which I found far less interesting than the hands-on roasting and the creation of coffee.  So I guess at that time, Queen-Anne Thriftway [now Metropolitan Market] – it’s a very high-end bougie grocery store, and they had just opened up in the neighborhood here, this huge grocery complex, and they were roasting inside.  They had that Model 25 SF roaster, which I thought was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life, and I had to get a job there.  I started as a barista, and that was my second job out of high school, and a few months later, I got an apprenticeship roasting.  Sadly, the first person I apprenticed with died of cancer, and I was kind of thrown into his job.

And that’s what kind of got you brought you into coffee-roasting in general?

Yeah, I got the interest at Starbuck’s and saw an opening at this grocery store coffee company [Queen Anee Coffee] and it just seemed to suit me. I’ve always been very mechanical and hands-on with a little overactivated brain.

So you started your own place with their old roaster?

Yeah, so long story short, that company got bought out by a larger, more corporate company.  And they were fazing out the in-house roasting.  They had three stores, and I was based out of the Tacoma store, and I was a corporate employee so I ran their department, Queen Anne Coffee.  When that kind of came about and the corporate changeover and name change, I saw an opportunity to go out on my own which was a plan I had been working on in the back of my head for a while.  It was kind of fortuitous timing, so I scrounged up all the money I could and made them an offer on the roasting operation they had – so the SF roaster, a big afterburner…They accepted my offer, I came in and leased a little 400 square foot warehouse space and started just a one-man operation of Valhalla Coffee in February 2004.

What has been the most rewarding part during the growth of Valhalla?

I guess just the growth itself going from a one-man operation, just a pie-in-the-sky dream of being self-employed. I loved what I was doing but I didn’t love being employed by a grocery company.  They didn’t really understand a lot of what I was trying to do.  So from a one-man roasting operation to a storefront, and a few employees to now two locations and fourteen employees.  I’ve got my own private office that I pace around in and it’s the only place I can find some quiet.  In a booming coffee shop, I could no longer make phone calls or do anything with any peace.  I basically have an apartment in the back of the building.

What is your favorite coffee you’re roasting right now?

It’s a fair-trade, organic Ethiopia Sidamo.

What’s next for Valhalla?

I’ve always been an opportunist instead of forcing things to happen, I kind of just keep my eye on things.  We might expand a little further…Right now it’s just trying to keep the fourteen employees and two locations.  We’re branching out into a little more of equipment maintenance – espresso machines.  We buy, sell, repair.  I have a service department now; I hired a full-time service technician who’s rebuilding machines.  Buying some cheap, beat-up [machine], refurbing it, and selling it on Craigslist.  And all of our whole sale accounts are growing, so we need to be able to service their equipment.

Valhalla will be featured on our Expo espresso bar on April 21 from 3-4 PM.  To learn more about Valhalla, visit their website, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Topics: roaster profile, SF25, coffee roaster, commercial coffee roaster

Herbert Peñaloza Correa: Breaking Down Barriers between Sourcing and Roasting

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Mon, Apr, 02, 2018 @ 00:04 AM

With terms such as 'fair-trade', 'relationship', and 'quality' being thrown around in the industry, it's easy to get lost under the umbrella that is third-wave specialty coffee.  It seems as if these terms have muddied over the years, and many people don't really know what happens at source.  To some extent, most of us are probably guilty of this.  However, one company is working to redefine producer-client relationships: 575 Café, a family-owned specialty coffee farm from Palocabildo, Colombia, and one of our good friends, is striving to educate consumers and reinvent what it means to export coffee.  575 Café will now bridge the gap between farms and cafés and establish genuine friendships between producers and roasters, all while maintaining complete transparency and accountability.  

In addition to redefining coffee exporting, member and director of quality, Herbert Peñaloza Correa, is changing the notion of what it means to be a roaster at origin.  "There’s a paradigm in the coffee industry that origin countries can’t roast, because of the altitude, because they don’t know how, because the coffees are too fresh, or because they don’t have the machinery.  We’ve just surpassed all that; we roast in altitude, we have an amazing roaster, we know how to roast our coffees, so we’re trying to become a force in roast coffee as well".  I interviewed Herbert to learn more about their commitment to implementing horizontal growth in the coffee industry and becoming a roaster-at-origin. 

This interview has been condensed for clarity.

What did you do before coffee, and how did you get involved in the coffee industry?

I worked as a photographer for around 13 years.  I was doing mostly product and a little bit of architecture photography and I had a branding agency, so that’s semi why I got into coffee. My family bought a coffee farm about seven years ago and they gave me a call one day and said, “hey we need some pictures and branding for a new coffee brand” so I began reading about coffee – I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to something new. And that was my approach back then when I was working advertising – immerse myself in the product we’re going to ad or the branding we’re going to do or the photography I was going to take to understand a little bit more.  So I did it with coffee and when I arrived to the farm – I knew a little bit so I took, I think I took like, five pictures the whole week I was there.  I was mostly working and picking coffee and I came back to my studio with a lot of coffee. I was drying it on a terrace, I roasted it on a broiler, and that was my first cup of coffee from my farm and I fell it love with it I think.  I started working a quarter of the time, a third of the time, half the time and I was working half the time and I was trying to move 100% to coffee, I think three years ago.  We bought our San Franciscan and the same day it arrived, my uncle had an accident and he died, so I had to face the choice of getting fully into coffee or sell the farm and not continue it, so that was basically it.

Tell me a little about your coffee operation – specifically the farm.

575 actually started as a roast coffee business.  The main focus from the farm was selling to the [National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia], to the regular Colombian market.  So the main focus of the farm at the beginning was the commodity market that ends up in regular coffee shops, it has nothing to do with specialty coffee, lots of Starbuck’s.  So that was the main focus and I just had like 10% of the production of the farm to do crazy stuff, to go roast it, do some honey, do different processing.  So I started learning about roasting, and we found out that our green bean wasn’t as good as some clients were asking, and we couldn’t aim for the international market.  We focused 100% on local market and after roasting with several roasters in the country and going to several places, fighting with some roasters, disliking a lot of roasting styles, I worked with a very good friend of mine.  He’s a roaster from the US, and he was working here for a couple years.  We had a chance to roast on a San Franciscan in 2014 – the only SF-6 in the country at the time – and he loved the machine.  He had more experience than I did – I didn’t even know how to operate the roast, I was just copying.  He loved the machine he said it was really responsive, everything was happening when it was supposed to.  We were shopping for roasters, we ended up buying the San Franciscan, and that was really the turning point for our business.  We became proud of our production, we became aware of the quality we were producing by roasting our coffee and learning how to roast it, and that was only achievable because the machine we had.  So that was the beautiful part – we were making these great coffees that were getting rejected in the international market, because most roasters didn’t know how to treat them.  So we started the green coffee business and now we do both.  We do green coffee and roast coffee for local and international markets. And we started the sourcing project La Real Expedición Botánica – that project is a consulting and associative product with several other coffee growers who are walking the same path we walked a couple years ago trying to find their place as coffee growers and trying to see if they can export.  So we’re trying to teach them in ways we’ve been doing things for a while and selling their green coffee as well. 

Where does the name 575 Café come from?

The name comes from the coordinates of the farm. 5, -75 is the location of our new farm, and it comes from the theory that there’s no two places in the world that are the same, and the only thing we have as a coffee grower is the piece of land and the people that surround it.  For me, it’s everything.  All of our advertising is in Spanish.  The idea was to create a brand that was very Latin, very Colombian, very farm-like and we created the brand.  Everything is in Spanish, because when I was doing advertising, everyone was talking in English terms, and we hated that.  We thought “we’re Colombians, we need to talk in Spanish”.  So we’ve avoided English at all costs.  We work with people all over the world, but we didn’t change the language.  We tried to rediscover Spanish words, and we kept that for the brand.  When clients meet us, we speak English, and they ask why we advertise in Spanish, but international clients only like the pretty pictures.  There are coffee growers in Latin America, and they want to know what we’re doing, and we teach them over social media.

What is your favorite coffee that you’re roasting right now?

There’s one I’m sharing with you, that has to be one of my favorite ones.  It’s a micro-lot from a woman called Edilma Urresty – I go ultra-light with it, it’s like so floral and so bright and so fruity.  I really like that one and it’s been my favorite.  There’s another called Borrachito – in Spanish it means ‘the drunken boy’.  The name comes from the processing – it’s an under-ripe coffee, we do special processing like long fermentation, and yeast we create at the farm, and homemade liquor; and it’s been weird, interesting, strange, it’s been challenging.  I haven’t been able to tame it, but it’s one of my favorites.

You talk about how your roaster is the highest roaster in the world.  What are some of the challenges of roasting at such a high altitude?

[The Roaster] is at 8,990 ft. high.  The air-flow is one of them.  I’ve always roasted in high altitude, so lately that I’ve been roasting in the US a little bit, I found that reactions happen a lot slower than here.  Everything here happens fast, so you can do really fast and aggressive roasts with good developing and without burning stuff cause it just goes.  I’m a really aggressive roaster here, in Colombia, and that’s mostly because of San Franciscan and what it allows me to do at high altitude.  We actually changed the fan this week finally, I carried it in my backpack from one of my last trips back to Colombia.  We just installed it, so it will change the whole air-flow game once again.  The main challenge is trying to tone down aggressiveness cause you can end up with some pretty underdeveloped coffees but at the same time, if you know how to anticipate some moments, I believe you can develop coffees really well and have really clean roasts because of the shorter time.  That’s something you can’t always get at sea-level, so we don’t have to compromise.

What has been your favorite part of traveling around the world meeting different people in the industry and seeing their shops? 

It wasn’t the intention at the beginning, but I honestly got a little bit tired of the industry in Colombia, in the coffee-scene, it wore me out really fast.  I haven’t been a huge city fan, I’m a farm boy, but when I went out the first couple times and spoke with really good roasters and had time to share with good coffee professionals, I started going to shops where people really understand the craft and really respect the bean, and that’s something you don’t see in Colombia.  We’re a coffee producing country but coffee is so common you’re just a coffee grower and that’s it.  When you go to a coffee shop in the US and meet roasters and people who work in coffee and really love coffee, like damn, you’re a coffee grower –they want know everything.  I love that they respect my work.  And of course having really good coffees you don’t see here – especially origins, things you can’t taste in Colombia. I love meeting professionals, seeing what they do with coffees, some people really work magic and do amazing stuff and really love what they do and are really passionate about it.  Coffee, for me, is a social beverage – you meet a friend at university, and you don’t want to seem like a drunk guy, so you meet for coffee.  You’re interested in a girl, you invite her to have coffee. Or you meet people, want to hang out and talk about something without getting inebriated, you get coffee.  It’s a really social beverage.  It translates into the industry, it’s a very social industry as well.  A lot of people joke that there’s a lot of rejects in the specialty coffee industry, and it’s true of course, but it’s so universal that it allows people from a lot of different disciplines to get into it and that’s great when you meet interesting people within the industry.  It’s great to see people you’ve seen before and they recognize you.  I go there, and I don’t speak of business, I just chill, drink beer, and hang out, and it becomes trips to visit friends more than just working.  The fact that most of us are rejects from other industries, is that we chose coffee and made that decision because we love it, we’re good, it’s profitable – which is a lie it’s not profitable at all.  There’s a saying in Colombia, the only ones who make money are the ones doing the machines, so good for you guys – but we chose to be in coffee so it’s interesting to go around and meet people, it fits your soul.

Where do you see your company going, and what are some of your goals?

We’re mainly coffee growers, without our farms, we couldn’t do anything else.  If we lost the farm, we won’t continue coffee, that’s the heart of everything, what allows you to understand the process of coffee from beginning to end but also people and what you have to go through to produce coffee.  Growing coffee, more than a privilege, is a responsibility with our community and our labor.  The main goal is to grow the farms; we just bought a new farm it’s 54 acres, maybe 15 of that is protected rainforest, we have some rivers and a water fall.  But that’s the main goal: to bring the farm ahead.  Coffee farming is not that profitable, to be honest, unless it becomes profitable.  So I’m starting from scratch; the farm has nothing, not even a road, so we have to bring some machetes and a couple shovels and open a road to get into the farm.  We’ve been having to get 60-70 lbs. of coffee on pulleys on our shoulders up the mountains, we’ve been using mules, horses, we’ve been doing everything by hand.  We want to be able to show that you can start everything from scratch and make it profitable, but at the same time we’re putting like 19 different varietals, a lot of things that aren’t common in specialty coffee, so that’s going to be interesting as well.  But in order to have capital to make that farm work, we need to expand our green coffee business.  This year we will not have production, so we need to make sure everything will grow next season.  Of course, we want to grow the roast coffee business, so we’re looking for a new office right now.  We want to grow everything.  We want to keep the farm as the main goal, the community out on the farm, because we don’t only work with the farm, we work with neighbors as well.  We want to do farm community, grow the green coffee business, and grow our roast coffee business.

Find 575 Café on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To learn more about La Real Expedición Botánica, visit their Instagram.

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Topics: roaster profile, SF25, coffee roaster, commercial coffee roaster

Bold Bean is Changing Florida's Coffee Scene

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Mon, Mar, 26, 2018 @ 00:03 AM

Florida is probably not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about specialty coffee; for years, the west coast has seemed to dominate the US industry.  However, one coffee company in Jacksonville is aiming to change all of that.  Bold Bean, a specialty café and roastery, started in a garage about ten years ago and since then, has gained a rapid following that has lead to the opening of two new shops.  At the forefront of Jacksonville’s specialty coffee industry, Bold Bean strives to help others learn about coffee, whether it’s their customers or other industry professionals.

I sat down with manager, Erin Lee, and barista trainer, Paul Carr, to learn more about Bold Bean’s commitment to the industry and how they are changing Florida’s coffee scene.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What is Bold Bean and what’s your philosophy towards coffee?

Paul: Our mission statement is we want to source, roast, and brew outstanding coffee.  We want to foster community, we want to be great people and have fun.  With coffee, our philosophy is we want to get to know the farmer, know the process, develop a relationship, and highlight what they do as best as possible.  And have fun doing it.  That’s one thing I think is important, we love to have fun.

What is the coffee culture like in Jacksonville?

Erin: To be honest with you, I think the coffee culture now is in part because of [Bold Bean].  When we opened our first shop in 2011, there wasn’t really a presence of specialty coffee in Jacksonville, and since then we’ve opened two other shops.  After we opened the first shop, there was kind of a resurgence of other shops that popped up.  And there are few multi-roaster shops in town now, and there are a couple of other roasters too.  And that’s all happened in the past five years.

So Bold Bean was kind of a pioneering force for coffee in Jacksonville?

E: I would say so, yes.

P: 100%.  And even since then, one thing that’s in our mission and our heart is we want to grow the coffee culture and grow the community in Florida, in our city, and even just probably in the south in general.  The culture is young, but it’s arriving.  The past year, we’ve had a good six or seven throwdowns just within our city.  I want to say the one we hosted had like 64 competitors?

E: Yeah, and there were hundreds of people there.

P: We’re in an area where I feel like where our heart is to grow this.  What Erin was saying, from us starting as a company, there’s been people who have been able to come in and gain knowledge and do other shops or roasting.

E: And as the pioneers in Jacksonville, we want to position ourselves where we can educate people in specialty coffee and where we come from.

What’s been the most rewarding part working, not just at Bold Bean, but within the industry?

P: People.  I’m a huge people person, and it just blows me away the type of people who drink coffee, the variety of people, the conversations you have, the relationships you are able to develop, and the networking that’s involved.  It’s such a huge commodity, and my personal heart, is like, how can I use this commodity to create a positive impact on the people that I see every day?  And people that create a positive impact on me.  I love days when I’m behind the bar and people are walking in, and I’m like, “yo, what’s up haven’t seen you in forever, what did you do last night?”.  So I love the science behind coffee, I love talking about extraction, roasting, process, I love everything.  But for me, without a shadow of a doubt, it’s just the people, and the community, and the culture around it.

E: I think I would definitely piggyback on Paul’s answer with people.  I think one of the reasons Paul and I bond so well is because we’re both people-people-people.  Yeah, coffee is amazing, we all love it, but the driving force is being able to have these connections with people in the community and kind of fostering the culture.

P: I think, too, that even the café.  We’re able to foster a space where that can even happen.  The importance of having a space where people can gather and talk about these things.  Whether it be about what you did or even politics.  It’s like a watering hole where people come from all walks of life.  I don’t care if you’re from the left, from the right, from up, from down, sideways wherever, it’s like you come into this space and hang out.

E: Yeah, and feel the warmth.  And something from the beginning that we want to foster is this complete lack of pretentiousness that comes from the industry in a lot of places.  Making people feel included.  I think that that’s something that really sticks out to me.  If I see someone who doesn’t know what they walked into and kind of feels uncomfortable, getting to pinpoint that person and create this connection, making everyone feel included and not on the outside.  Using better terminology than what a lot of people like to use in the industry to make people feel like they don’t know what they’re doing.

P: A big part of how we train people is how to interact in that way.  Yes, we’re teaching people how to make coffee, but more or less, we spend a lot of our training time on how to recognize who these people are and what their needs are and how can we best fit those needs.  Don’t get me wrong, the coffee I love it, I love nerding out on every aspect.  But the driving passion for me to continue in coffee is just people.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to at Expo?

P: I honestly love our coffee, so the opportunity to get to work with you guys and showcase what we do with coffee is really important and exciting.  Just being around everyone.  I remember the first time I went to Expo in 2015, it cracked me open like a can.  I was just blown away with all these people that I watched on social media make coffee were here in this one room and were talking with me and wanted to know where I was from and what I was doing with coffee and getting to see all this equipment.  It’s almost like I feel like I’m a battery and going to something like that fuels my coffee battery.  Getting to see the technology and all the different beans and getting to taste the coffee.  I tell any person that’s interested in coffee, “If you can go to Expo, please just go see that”.  For me, what I’m really excited about is now not just getting to be there as a spectator but in some way participate.  I’m pumped about that.

E: I’m intrigued to see what Slayer does this year.  I really want to know what they’re trajectory is as a company seeing they just partnered with [Gruppo Cimbali]. 

P: I’m a competitor and there’s a latte art competition tonight that I’m going to, so the fact that Expo brings in all these competitions - I think that’s just spectacular to watch, and that excites me.  Hopefully that’s something that we as a company will be venturing into.  We participated in espresso competitions and stuff, but as a trainer here, it’s something I’ve been passionate about.  So I’m trying to figure out how to bridge that gap. 

What’s your favorite coffee that Bold Bean is roasting right now?

Both: Dude!

E: Ok so, I went to the farm [Finca La Palma y El Tucán] – last year they opened a hotel on their farm, and for about 9 months or so, they had different baristas from the states coming to work at the coffee bar at the hotel.  They were like two-month stints, and I saw it last summer on Instagram, and I had to find out what that was about.  So I applied or this program, it was kind of like a residency.  As a barista, you would go for two months, stay on the farm, and run the coffee bar when clients were there.  And you kind of get to learn about production, you get to pick coffee, and get a bigger macro-view of what production looks like.  So I got to go do that in September and October.  While I was there, I ended up picking coffee for a day and got to hang out with the other pickers, and the coffee that I picked just got delivered here.  I think it’s a mixed process, and it’s a Sidra which is an Ecuadorian varietal that they planted on the farm in Colombia, and it’s actually the first farm that has planted that varietal in Colombia.  Blended with their processing method, and they’re kind of like pioneers in processing…I’ve been waiting for this coffee for forever.  It tastes like Jolly Ranchers, like straight up Jolly Ranchers, I’ve never tasted a coffee like this.  It’s insane.

P: It’s really insane.  And we’re about to celebrate our 10 year anniversary as a company, so we’re actually going to have this as our 10 year anniversary coffee.  So we’ll do a really unique bag or tin of some sort.

E: They’re 100 gram tins, and we’re going to sell them for $24.  We’re going to offer to make a pour-over for them.  It’s steep, but we have less than 200 tins to give out.  It’s so good.  And the fact that we’re going to sell it for that price and then offer to make it for them, I think that justifies the price.  It’s worth it.  That’s the best coffee we have right now.

P: We’ll roast and sell a lot of La Palma coffee, and so with this coffee, we’ve got some other stuff from them that I was able to taste yesterday which is really exciting. Every time I have something from them it’s incredible.  Zach, our green bean buyer and managing partner, I’ve heard him say it’s one of the most progressive farms in the world.  So it’s cool to have a close relationship with them and get a lot of coffee from them.  We love being able to showcase this stuff to our city. Also, we just were in Kenya – we directly source everything – we just picked out a whole bunch of Kenyan coffees which we’re cupping today.  We’re leaving this Wednesday for Ethiopia we’ll be over there for a week and a half, so we’re out there trying to find the best stuff possible.

Who goes on these trips?

E: That’s Zach’s thing.  He does all the sourcing.  His palette is incredible, he can find some really good stuff.  He was in Kenya, he’s about to leave for Ethiopia, and then he comes back from Ethiopia and two days later goes to Guatemala.  I mean, it’s exhausting, it’s not glamorous.  It’s not the best accommodations or a vacation, but the scenery is incredible, the people are incredible, and he gets to experience the culture and try all these coffees.

I imagine it’s very special to see firsthand where coffee comes from and the amount of labor that goes into it.

E: It’s insane.  I think most people in the industry haven’t even laid eyes on a coffee tree in real life.  When I went, I felt very privileged to just see it and see the coffee everywhere.  It is literally everywhere.  And being able to pick for a day was pretty incredible.  These women wake up at 6, they walk to work on a mountain road.  The worth ethic there in South America in general is incredibly strong.  These women just wear these buckets around their waist, and they’re listening to music and picking these cherries trying to find the right color.  It was really humbling to be a part of that for a day.  These women are just badasses.

I feel like there’s a lot more representation of that side of the industry where there just hasn’t been before.

E: The gender role thing is kind of intriguing, because I think that their best pickers are women, because they have a better eye for finding that color.  It was cool to see that.

Anything else you’d like to share about Bold Bean?

E: We’re just excited to be representing Florida on a national scale.  We’re working on making Florida coffee more accessible for people who try it.  And Florida people don’t think of specialty coffee, so we want to impress that there is good coffee here.  We have nitro now, that’s pretty cool, we’ve been distributing that through our local beer distributor.

P: I think that what’s happening in Florida with coffee is amazing.  You go down south, you hit Tampa, there’s so much happening down there.  There’s Panther in Miami, which is kind of a bigger name.  Obviously the west coast being progressive, there’s a lot of forefront and shadowing of what they do, but I see a lot of what’s happening here is just putting the south on the map when it comes to coffee.  And Erin and I talk about how we can do more of that.  Who are these people we can network with to showcase the state of Florida and the south and what we’re doing with coffee?  This year and going forward, you’re going to see a lot of amazing stuff coming specifically out of this state, which is kind of cool.  That’s exciting.

For more information about Bold Bean, visit their Facebook, Instagram, and website.

To read more about Erin’s residency at Finca La Palma y El Tucán, visit her blog

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Topics: roaster profile, SF25, coffee roaster, commercial coffee roaster

Treeline Coffee: Talking Roasting and Re-branding with Natalie Van Dusen

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Mon, Mar, 12, 2018 @ 00:03 AM

Treeline Coffee has seen some changes over the past few years.  Originally titled Little Red Wagon, co-owner Natalie Van Dusen began roasting on an SF6 out of a converted trailer five years ago.  After a change in ownership, Natalie and her business partner, Deejay, decided it was time to rebrand the company, and Treeline was born.  Based on the idea that coffee should fuel you to do what you love, Treeline Coffee is inspired by travelers, adventurers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

This interview has been edited for clarity. 

What’s a typical day at Treeline?

Oh man, Is there such a thing as typical?  In the fall of 2016, we built out our roastery and café which we call the roasting room, and we have our SF-25 right up in front in the middle of everything, and then we have bar in the center of the room.  For a typical day, we have a mix of serving our customers - we’re a relatively busy café - but at the same time, we do all of our manufacturing on-site.  We have myself or Savannah, who’s our other roaster, doing the roasting, and then we have a couple of people who help with packaging, and then we have a full bar staff.  It’s really a mix of a lot of things, and ultimately a lot of coffee conversation, whether it’s our customers talking to us while we’re roasting asking about the coffees or us cupping coffees and debating about them.  We designed the bar to feel more like a bar or a brewery, we have barstools all around it, so people can sit and chat with baristas while they’re making drinks.  So it’s a very community-oriented place to hang out and have a good chat.

How did you come up with the name and branding for Treeline?

Naming is super hard, and when we first came up with Little Red Wagon, it had all this stuff around it, and it was cute and fun, but ultimately, as we grew as a company, we really felt like we outgrew the identity.  We also ran into a trademarking issue around it, so we had a need for a rebrand.  It worked out nicely, because we had a need legally, but also because we felt like our persona was shifting and our name needed to come with it.  Deejay, my business partner, and I were joking around one day, and this is really weird how we came up with it, but she has this tattoo that’s obnoxious that she got as a teenager, it says like “live, laugh, love” or something.  She was like, “I mean, you can buy a pillow with this at Target, I need to cover this up”, and I was like, “I really love the aesthetic at dawn or dusk of the treeline on the horizon, you could tattoo it…”.  As I was describing it, we both kind of looked at each other, and we were like, “That could work as a name”, and it became less of a tattoo and more of a name.  It totally spoke to the personality of the company and being outdoorsy and the whole thing of trees being at origin and trees being where we live, and the whole aesthetic really spoke to us.  We were already using maps for GEO and everything, so it all came together really quickly.

What has been the most rewarding part of owning a coffeehouse and roastery?

I think the people.  That’s kind of the reason I wanted to get into in the first place, but it’s such a relationship-based business from our coffee growers to our importers to our equipment suppliers to our staff to our customers.  There’s just so many people, and it’s such a positive experience to work with all the people that we work with.  Everyone has this love for coffee, it’s indescribable.  I don’t know any other industry that functions like the coffee industry.  People get the coffee bug, and I don’t feel like you hear that [in any other industry] like you do in coffee.  It’s just this really special industry, and it’s really rewarding all along the supply chain. 

What is your favorite coffee that you’re roasting right now?

That’s so hard!  We roast so many different coffees, and get in coffees from all over the place, we’re always trying to explore new ones.  We have this super interesting one from Burundi right now, and it’s just really good.  It’s a newer relationship we’re building through JNP, Janine is the woman who started the company, but she’s done a really nice job at building relationships in Burundi with women farmers and women cooperatives.  She’s trying to sell all the coffees to female roasters, which I guess there’s just not that much of us.  So it’s a really neat story, but the coffee is also really lovely - peachy, juicy, and floral.  We also have a coffee that we had last season, it hasn’t come in yet this season, from Nicaragua that’s another relationship coffee with Finca Los Pinos, and we’ve been able to buy washed and natural process coffees from them, which has been super fun.  Not only is the coffee delicious, but it’s also been a really fun way to showcase the same coffee in two different processing methods and use that as an educational method for our customers.

Going back to being a woman in the coffee industry, what has your experience been like?

My business partner is a woman. We actually started with another woman who’s a close friend of mine, and then my “sister” moved to town, and our original business partner decided she wanted to work on other things.  My sister bought her out, and now it’s the two of us ladies.  I don’t think we really tout women-owned.  In some ways I take the stance of like, “Yeah, we’re women, we own a business, who cares?” and that should be enough, but at the same time, I feel really strongly about this whole movement of women and women entrepreneurship and farming.  I want to do more in the community, and I don’t know how, but I find it a very powerful one.  We’re in Montana, and it’s a little more of a male-dominated area, so there have been several occasions.  For example, we wanted to go buy nitrogen so we could build a nitro-coffee keg, and I went to the distribution center to get it, and they told me I didn’t need pure nitrogen, I needed CO2  and nitrogen, and I was like, “no I’ve done my homework, I need pure nitrogen, coffee doesn’t like oxygen”.  I couldn’t really get them to give it to me, so we let it go.  The next summer, we went to go get it, and another male roaster had gone down and got what we wanted, and I told them what I needed, and they were like “oh totally, so and so is doing that”.  And I was like, “I literally came here a year ago and you didn’t take me seriously”.  It’s little things like that.  But for the most part, it’s been awesome.

I saw on your website that you have these GEO coffee filters – what was the inspiration behind those?

Yeah, so we didn’t invent them or anything, but they’re really popular in Asia in Japan and Taiwan, and someone had introduced them to us really early in our business.  I was really hesitant at first, cause it’s pre-ground and sort of goes against what we’re trying to do here, and we dabbled in it for a long time.  The thing is that they’re really cool.  They’re really wacky and the people who love them love them, and then a lot of people think they’re so weird and don’t understand why it takes a whole 90 seconds to brew their coffee.  It’s like, this isn’t instant coffee, that’s actually really fast when brewing a coffee!  For the most part, people really like them so we started making them, and they’ve taken off.  They’re sort of this side hustle we do, and they keep us pretty busy.  They’re great for travel or roadtrips if you don’t want to carry your French press and hand grinder.  They stay reasonably fresh cause we seal them right away, and they hold up alright. 

Natalie and the Treeline team will be pulling shots for SFR at Expo 2018.  To try their coffees and learn more about their brand, visit booth #2341 on Friday, April 20 from 2-3 PM.

Treeline Coffee is located at 624 N Wallace Ave, Bozeman, MT 59715.  For hours and other information, visit their website, Facebook, and Instagram.

All images provided by Townsend Collective.

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Topics: roaster profile, SF25, coffee roaster, commercial coffee roaster

Roaster Profile: Black Powder Roasting

Posted by Emily McIntrye

Tue, Sep, 23, 2014 @ 14:09 PM

Back in the day, marketing executive Dave Stahlman traveled a lot for work, including to Dubai, where for the first time he tried Turkish coffee, and extensively in Europe. One of his favorite coffee memories is drinking a cappuccino at a street cafe while looking up at the Eiffel Tower. Incidentally, that remembered taste is the flavor profile he seeks when roasting the Black Powder signature espresso blend.
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Topics: roaster profile, SF25, coffee roaster, commercial coffee roaster