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The SanFranRoaster Blog......

Inside Caravan Coffee's Responsible Buying Program: an interview with Chris McMullan

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Wed, Apr, 25, 2018 @ 10:04 AM

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

An Interview with Mariana Faerron, Owner of Tico Coffee Roasters

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Fri, Apr, 20, 2018 @ 00:04 AM

Mariana Faerron has a special connection to coffee.  Growing up in Central Valley, Costa Rica, she remembers being surrounded by it, whether it was the fragrant scent of the cherry blossoms or while drinking it brewed as a child.  She always knew she wanted to own a business, and after receiving a degree in the agriculture field, she moved to the US with her husband, Thomas.  While living in the US, Mariana was unable to find the quality and consistency of coffee that she was used to, and she realized that she had the opportunity to introduce Americans to high-end Costa Rican coffees.  Tico, a nickname for natives of Costa Rica, represents Mariana’s heritage and connection to coffee.  While educating customers about high-end specialty coffees, she has also been able to portray the amount of hard work and dedication that goes into coffee on behalf of the farmers.   I talked to Mariana to learn more about her heritage, being a finalist in the Good Food Awards, and what it is like to be a woman-owned business in the coffee industry.

Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Can you tell me a little bit about Tico Coffee?

We are a small coffee-roasting company from Campbell in the South Bay, California.  We specialize in high-quality coffee beans from around the world and also fine teas from China, Japan, India, and South Africa.  Most of our coffees are direct-trade.  I come from Costa Rica, so for me it is important to not just work and buy from a farmer but really to understand how they are growing these coffees, what it means to them, and to find ways we can help them beyond just purchasing their harvest.  We do a lot of wholesale to companies here in the valley. 

How did you get introduced to coffee?

I grew up literally surrounded by coffee.  I grew up in a small town in the Central Valley in Costa Rica.  That was my introduction to coffee, it has been in my life all this time, and I’ve been drinking coffee ever since I remember.  For me, this is something that I truly enjoy, but it’s also a part of who I am and a part of my culture.  It’s how we relate, it’s really meaningful for us.  My love for nature and agriculture comes from my childhood and from my father who was a farmer.  I studied agrobusiness in university, because I wanted to have a job that would allow me to spend a lot of my time in nature, and that was a great fit.  While I was doing that, I worked with some coffee farmers, and that’s how I got to know the industry a little better.  When I moved to the bay area, I was missing my country and really missing my coffee here in the states.  There were coffee shops everywhere, but the quality wasn’t really there.  I was always bringing coffee when I came back to the US, and I was thinking there had to be a better way to do this.  That’s when I decided to start Tico.

Did you know you always wanted to work in coffee?

In Costa Rica, I always knew I wanted to own a business, but I wasn’t sure what kind of business.  Being here, missing my country, bringing coffee back, and hearing that people liked it, that for me was the aha-moment to say, “I have friends who are coffee farmers, I can work with them and expand my business to other countries and farmers”.  

 

You were a finalist in the Good Food Awards.  What made you want to compete?

I’m pretty proud of the work we have done.  I moved here with nothing, just suitcases.  My husband was here, but I came and pretty much had to just start my life from scratch again.  For me to be able to come and start this company and learn to roast, being able to transform those beans into something people enjoy, makes me feel humbled but also proud, because it has been a lot of work.  I have put a lot of effort into this.  I wanted to give it a try, because roasters that I really respect from all over the country are sending in samples, so I was really honored to be selected as one of the finalists.  We just sent in one sample. 

What is your process when you select green coffee and roast it?

We started with two coffees and then we went to five, and now we have about eighteen different coffees.  If it’s something that people really like, we keep purchasing from that farm.  If it’s something unique, we might be able to incorporate it into our portfolio.  Basically, that’s the first criteria.  The second one is we want a variety of coffees.  Do we want a honey-process or a natural process to be able to provide a great experience to our clients?  Then, if it’s one of the farmers that we work with, we visit their farms and get samples from them, do a sample roast, and evaluate that coffee from them.  We really try to determine the great characteristics those coffees have and then from there, we can really develop our roasting curve so we can replicate every single time.  To do the roast, we roast at different temperatures with different variables to figure out which is the best way to roast that coffee.

Where can people try your coffee?

Mostly in the South bay in coffee shops and several restaurants that have our coffee.  We are working to launch a coffee trailer.  The idea is to have it where our business is but also to take it maybe within 50 miles around the bay area. 

Favorite coffee you’re roasting right now?

I really like the Ethiopia Gotiti that we used for the Good Foods Award.  That one is clean and a really light roast.  For the medium roast, I would say one of my long-time favorites is the Costa Rica La Minita.  It’s a washed coffee, very clean and balanced.  It has a lot of caramel and chocolate notes, a little bit of citrus, so overall, it’s a very pleasant coffee.  I think it appeals to a lot of peoples’ palettes.  It has the flavor I’m trying to look for, it’s very familiar for me.

Anything else you would like us to know?

This is a woman-owned business, and it’s from Latin America.  Being from Latin America, the approach to coffee is with respect and has different ties and connections that I want people to feel when they talk to me or try our coffees.  I want people to realize and value the effort farmers put into this beyond how many points a coffee has or how trendy a company is.  It’s really who is behind this project that everybody loves.

Tico Coffee will be pulling shots at our Expo booth on Saturday, April 21 from 1-2 PM.  For more information about Tico Coffee, visit their website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.  

All images courtesy of Tico Coffee Roasters.

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

Sonder Coffee: Rooted, Timely-Growing. Fragile, Ever-Changing.

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Wed, Apr, 18, 2018 @ 00:04 AM

In the suburbs of Denver, Colorado sits Sonder Coffee, a bright and airy coffeehouse and roastery.  Opened by three friends, the space had been a project in the making for years prior to becoming a reality.  Wife and husband, Julia Minayeva and Ernest Minayev, along with their friend, Pop Nuntanavooth, traveled around Scandinavia in search of inspiration, learning about specialty coffee in the process.  After returning home, the trio started developing their business plan, combining Scandinavian influences, craft coffee, and adding their own unique attributes to the project.  The company opened with the goal of combining quality coffee, excellent customer service, and a beautiful, comfortable haven for their customers.

Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

How did the three of you get together and decide to open Sonder?

Ernest: Me, my wife Julia, and Pop got together, because Pop and I previously did other businesses, and we were messing around with stocks.  We wanted to start something that was more people-driven, and we had a coffee shop in mind.  A year passed, and we came back and were like, “what happened to that idea?”.  We got sucked into life.  After that, we got together to do research and start a coffee shop.  We traveled to Scandinavia to learn a little more about coffee, and the concept is based off of the shops we were inspired by.  We got to see some of the starters of specialty coffee.

What is your approach to coffee?

Julia: Our philosophy with owning a coffee shop is to add value to peoples’ lives in small ways.  In the beginning, we wanted to have a hospitality-oriented shop, and it wasn’t until after our travels that we discovered craft coffee and fell in love with it.  Seeing the story behind craft coffee and how there’s so much intentionality behind it paired with our desire to serve customers in a way that’s intentional.  Our philosophy running the shop is three-fold: we emphasize the coffee quality and experience, the atmosphere and creating a place where people feel welcome and that they can be themselves, and customer service and building those relationships with people over time.  Inviting them into this crazy, complex world of coffee that we slowly, and still, are discovering ourselves.

That was such a beautiful description.

E: We would have never gotten there.  We just do the back-room stuff like roasting, she’s the one with customer-service management skills.

I think that’s the best part of owning a business; you all kind of complement each other.

J: Oh, for sure.  We have such different strengths and weaknesses.  It means a lot that we have each other, because we really couldn’t do it on our own. 

Pop: There’s no way that just one of us could have done everything. 

I know you talked a little bit about your Scandinavian inspiration, but how did you come up with the name and branding for Sonder?

J: The name itself took six months to find, and the logo took another six months to create.  We wanted [a word] that was unique, something that you couldn’t pinpoint in the English language, and something that communicated the deeper vision that we had.  We came across the name on the Dictionary of Obscure Words, and when we read it, it really hit home.  It made an impression on us, so we kept that in mind.  As we wrote our business plan and continued our vision, the word ‘sonder’ continued to stick out, and its meaning began to unravel in the context of our coffee vision.  With that, we were thinking of a logo.  It started with a tree and the idea that the branches, trunk, and roots all connected growing into something deeper.  That idea ultimately replenishes peoples’ lives whether that’s a coffee beverage or more profound things like connections and relationships, and it really symbolized life’s unfolding and interconnecting.  And then the butterfly was added on.  We like to say with the tree: Sonder, a story rooted timely growing.  And with the butterfly: a story fragile, ever-changing.  The definition of Sonder paired with that and kind of plays with the idea that everyone has a story, and as a coffeeshop, it’s really cool to be that crossroads where peoples’ stories can unravel and lives can change and interconnect.  The part of life that is changing versus the part of life that remains the same pairs around those concepts.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about some of your flavored drinks and the inspiration for those?

J: In the beginning, before we knew about craft coffee, we kind of just assumed we would buy flavored syrups.  When we started playing around in the kitchen with unique flavor profiles, we fell in love with that more and more.  When we look at our seasonal drinks and our mocktials, we just have fun making it, and we start off brainstorming flavors of the season.  We are really inspired by herbs, fruits, and spices that are in season and we try to pinpoint that to the feeling that the season gives.  We brainstorm with our team and then research recipes to see how we can make these flavors come to life.  We’re discovering by using real ingredients that we’re finding benefits to our bodies as well.  Rose, for example, is good for depression, your heart, and womens’ health.  It’s funny when customers tell us they feel better after drinking it, or when nutritionist customers tell us that rosemary is linked to concentration, and someone is finishing up homework at the shop.  It’s cool to see something we’re creating can help your body and mind as well. That plays a part in our Sonder vision too.  In the suburbs, people aren’t used to our unique drinks so they have a lot of fun with it, and it’s cool to see people actually liking something you just created.  

What has been the best part about owning your shop?

J: For me, it’s the relationship aspect, which is really funny, because I’m not a people-person.  Constantly being around people and managing takes a lot out of me, but it’s actually the most rewarding.  That also connects with seeing that word ‘sonder’ literally come to life every day as customers meet each other and become friends or two different customers come in and know each other by chance.  It’s funny seeing the word played out in our shop.  I’m realizing it’s really rewarding working with our team as well.  Having the opportunity to invest in other coffee and customer-oriented people, giving them opportunities to grow is really cool too.  Developing the relationships with our staff and customers is intrinsically rewarding even though it’s hard and takes a lot out of you. 

P: My parents own a couple of Thai restaurants, so I really enjoy just being in the service industry.  I grew up finding joy in serving people.

Ernest: For me, it’s probably the educational side.  Learning so much about coffee, there’s nowhere to stop growing in the industry and seeing people grow as well.  You hire someone and they have zero knowledge of coffee, and you just see them flourish.  Seeing them thrive in customer service is so awesome.  Our staff gets the vision and just go from there.

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

Pob: My favorite at the moment is a natural Ethiopia Limu.  It’s has a very unique flavor-profile; it’s mild, very fruit-forward, very clean. 

Ernest: That’s probably my favorite as well, and it’s definitely our customers’ favorite.  We also have a washed Guji that’s pretty good as well.

Pop, Ernest, and Julia will be pulling shots at our Expo booth on Friday, April 20 from 12-1 PM.  For more information on Sonder Coffee, visit their website, Facebook, and Instagram.  To learn more about Sonder's business development, visit Julia's blog, Dream a Latte.

Photos courtesy of Sonder Coffee.

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

Community and Coffee at The Kookaburra: an interview with Spencer Hooker

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Tue, Apr, 17, 2018 @ 00:04 AM

The Kookaburra, located in St. Augustine, Florida, is made up of three locations and a roastery.  Through their success and growth, the company has maintained the local-centric focus that has helped make them popular with both Floridians and tourists.  Inspired by his dual American-Australian upbringing, co-owner Spencer Hooker and his partner, Megan Vidal, opened Kookaburra back in 2012.  Combining an American-style café with Aussie influences has helped the company develop the precision and attention to detail rampant in Australian coffeehouses.  I talked to Spencer to learn more about Kookaburra’s growth, green-buying policies, and their commitment to St. Augustine’s community.

Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

You describe yourself as an Aussie-American café.  Where did those Australian influences come from?

I’m actually a dual citizen.  My mother is Australian, my father is American, so I grew up going back and forth.  My business partner and significant other is American, born and raised in Colorado.  We decided to tie in a bit of my Aussie influences using some family recipes for our Aussie pies and other baked goods in addition to the attention to detail that is found with the Australian coffee scene.  Doing a cool coffee company was the genesis of the idea, and we’ve evolved it from there.

What made you want to bring an Aussie-style café to Florida?

We were living in Atlanta, Georgia, and I wanted to be on the coast, that’s where I spent all my time growing up.  I had done my undergraduate and graduate in Colorado, that’s where Megan and I met.  We were working our way to the coast and we had a few different places we were considering.  One was going back to where my family is in Australia, and we were thinking of some coastal towns in different states.  I have an aunt and uncle in St. Augustine, so we came down to visit and just loved the area.  We were totally unfamiliar with the northeast coast of Florida, so we were not only really impressed with the environment, but with the people.  We saw a gap in the market for specialty coffee.  We quickly realized this would be a great place to try out our concept and see if it worked.  We haven’t looked back from there.

It seems like your shop is very community-oriented.  Did that come about naturally?

We are 100% community-focused.  That was our intent out of the gate.  St. Augustine has a very strong tourist-based economy.  In 2012, we were on the upswing from the recession, and we saw that there was a lot of domestic tourism coming back into this area.  But really, we saw that there was a strong and vibrant local community that we wanted to be a part of.  We thought immediately that that would be our focus.  We found a great location right in the heart of historic downtown St. Augustine, and we wanted to focus on becoming a part of this local community.  The tourist traffic would just simply be a seasonal influx of business.  We wanted to establish ourselves as a community-centered specialty coffee shop, and that has been our approach ever since.  We have four locations now, we’re very much involved in the St. Augustine community through donations and community events.  It’s a fundamental part of who we are. 

I grew up in Vegas, and living in a very tourist-centric community, it’s great when you find locally-focused businesses.  You can kind of feel left out of your own city when you live in that type of environment.

My hometown in Alaska, Ketchikan, is very much the same.  A lot of people tend to see the tourist-traffic and think “that’s what this place is about”.  But when you get beyond that and see there’s people that live and work in these areas, oftentimes because they’re catering to people from out of town, it almost makes the community stronger.  People who are there year-round come together a little more.  Locals here are proud of the fact that they live here.  It’s very gratifying to be a part of that. 

Why did you decide to start roasting your own coffee?

When we decided to open a shop, we started to look around for a like-minded roaster.  Unfortunately, we didn’t find one in St. Augustine.  The city was in a weird transitionary period, and the local roasters who were here were going out of business or changing hands.  It was a strange time for the local coffee scene, so we found Bold Bean in Jacksonville.  We were immediately impressed with their product, we went out and met up with Zach and Jared.  We knew right away that these guys had the same mindset that we had.  They were doing what we wanted to do.  We bought exclusively from them right out of the gate, and we didn’t start roasting until three and a half to four years in.  It was fantastic.  We watched Bold Bean grow, and we got to kind of be a part of their growth, and they continued to get better with their coffee.  It was a great thing for us.  I told Zach at one point, “we basically have grown our business on your shoulders in a way”.  It was pretty neat.  With roasting, the whole reason we ended up going with San Franciscan is because Zach recommended [The San Franciscan Roaster Co.] when I started shopping around for a roaster.  He was like, “It’s the best roaster we have used”.

Was roasting for yourself always the long-term plan?

It was something we considered initially, but we realized our focus was going to be the retail aspect.  We wanted to make sure our customer experience was dialed in.  We were doing everything on that end to the best of our abilities first, and then we would start to look at our supply chain and slowly try to take control of that, so we can put out the exact products that we want to put out.  It was the intent from day one, but we didn’t want to rush it.  Coming out of the gate, using an awesome roaster like Bold Bean, we knew that until we got to a point where we were fully comfortable serving their products as they should be served, we had to meet the bar with our own products.  For us to roast was kind of a big step, and it was more daunting than I thought it would be, because Bold Bean set the bar so high.  We took our time with that; we purchased the roaster, buckled down, and went through a lot of green coffee before we got to the point where we were comfortable with what we were putting out. 

Was that mostly through trial-and-error, or did somebody have an influence over your roasting?

Bold Bean was our mentor in a lot of ways.  I had talked to Zach at-length about their approach to roasting.  I also spent a lot of time studying the science, just kind of getting into the nuts and bolts of everything from equipment to coffee chemistry.  We gleaned as much information from the roasters that we thought were doing it right, and then that trial-and-error process seemed to go pretty well for us.  It went quickly, because we were able to get so much great information from the roasters that we admired and respected. 

How do you go about choosing green coffee and roasting it?

We try to make connections at origin in areas that we would like to purchase our beans from.  Our first connection was in Guatemala.  It was facilitated by Bold Bean, so we did an origin trip with Zach and his roaster at the time.  We traveled through the Huehuetenago region and made some great contacts down there.  We have some other great contacts that were facilitated by Bold Bean and just furthered the relationship.  Now we try to establish strong relationships with people at origin, either farmers or people representing the farm.  We visit the co-ops, sample the products, and make sure they’re in line with our coffee-buying strategy.  We are trying to get some time at the farms as well once we’ve decided that we’re going to use a bean on a consistent basis in our rotation.  We start to plan origin trips, try to send our employees, and build a deeper relationship with the coffee suppliers.

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

I have a beautiful Guatemala from Acatenango.  The co-op is La Asuncion.  It has this beautiful, silky mouthfeel and a nice, floral body.  We also have an Ethiopian Sidamo that we got from Olam, and it’s a limited release.  Whenever we have a coffee that is limited release, that’s what I gravitate to and get a little fixated on. 

Anything else?

The coffee scene in Florida is definitely growing, and it’s been cool to see specialty shops popping up all over the state.  It was cool to get lucky with the timing and come in to the market at an early point.  The Florida scene is definitely one to keep an eye on.  It’s not just cold beverages, people are really developing an appreciation for proper coffee beverages.

The Kookaburra Coffee will be pulling shots at our Expo booth on Friday, April 20 from 11-12.  To learn more about The Kookaburra Coffee, visit their website, Facebook, or Instagram.

All images courtesy of The Kookaburra.

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

MoAV is changing Billing's Perception of Coffee

Posted by The San Franciscan Roaster Co.

Mon, Apr, 16, 2018 @ 00:04 AM

Named the most beautiful café in Montana, MoAV Coffee resides on an old corner in downtown Billings.  The space, originally a hotel built in the 30s, had been neglected for years.  After getting laid off from his job, co-founder Jeff Hosa knew it was the perfect opportunity to open the shop and help change downtown Billings.  Once co-owner, Paul Aspen, stepped in, the two were able to create a coffee culture that helped propel MoAV into the successful café that it is today.  They now own two coffeehouses with a third shop, a combination of a café, roastery, and kombucha brewery, in the works.  I talked to co-owners, Jeff Hosa and Paul Aspen, to learn more about how MoAV is changing Billings and the city's approach of coffee.

Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

I saw an article where your company is listed as one of the most beautiful cafés – where did the name and design come from?

Paul: The name originates from Montana Avenue, and that’s the street that our café sits on. 

Jeff:  Initially, the design of the café was a full remodel out of an old space.  We’re in a 1930s building downtown that used to be the Carlin Hotel.  Being in Montana, everyone goes with this old, country-chic styling, and we both used to live in cities so we were trying to bring a modern style to the café. 

P: We’re in a city where a lot of people still do ranching and hunting, it’s a very prominent thing here, so we’re trying to do something a little different.  Throughout the summer, probably about 40% of business is people who are traveling, and they’ll say it reminds them of a café from Seattle, Portland, Nashville, or something.  It’s very forward for what’s going on in Billings right now, so that’s fun.

Why did you decide on Billings, MT?

J: The coffee scene in Billings wasn’t on par with what it should have been.  The ultimate goal was to really step up the coffee scene in terms of specialty coffee and bring it more conscious-forward to the community and to our customers.  The biggest thing, other than trying to have the best cup of coffee, is we truly believe in empathy with how we treat each one of our guests.  We find that interacting with the customer, showing empathy, and having this true engagement is the most important part of our café.  That’s what keeps them coming back other than the coffee.  Another reason of choosing downtown Billings is that this was known to be a really bad corner and was never known to be good for the community, so by turning this building into a café actually turned this corner into a spot for the community and for downtown. 

What is your philosophy when it comes to coffee?

P: There’s a lot of cafés that still serve Italian sodas here.  That’s kind of the climate that we’re up against.  We’re not too far from that, but at the same time we are.  We have four flavors: we make vanilla, caramel, and chocolate now, and the white chocolate is Ghirardelli.  We want to be unique and have a different approach to coffee.  There’s not a lot of learning out here in terms of roasting, so it’s kind of learning a lot of stuff from the internet.  It’s a lot of trial and error.  We’re developing our own style and our own flair.

J: It was super important for us to start roasting for ourselves.  Prior to that, we used Huckleberry Coffee Roasters from Denver, Onyx Coffee, we dabbled with a little bit of Cat & Cloud.  The biggest thing was bringing that philosophy behind coffee and letting people experience coffee in its true form.  We want to make sure in our engagement with our customers, we’re educating them.  We always have one single-origin coffee on drip, and that usually doesn’t change, because we want that consistency.  Our blend, the Dapper Lion, stays very consistent.  It’s got a juicy Tanzanian in it, because we want someone to have that experience with espresso, but we also know our clientele and know that when it’s blended with a flavored drink, it’s going to stay consistent and have more of those chocolate and nutty notes.  If you throw a single-origin Ethiopia natural process into a 16-ounce latte with chocolate in it, it’s probably not going to meld very well.  Understanding our clientele and catering to them while having experiences such as pour-overs is opening new doors for our guests to experience new things and broaden their horizons. 

Can you tell me a little about your sustainability practices?

P: It’s hard in Billings, because recycling isn’t mandatory, and there’s not a lot of recycling options here.  One of the big things we do is exchange our stir sticks for pasta so you can stir your coffee with pasta instead of plastic.  Just some fun nuances that you wouldn’t typically think of.  But it’s hard to be sustainably conscious in a city that doesn’t care.  It costs more to be sustainable here.  We also get our milk from Costco every Monday and Friday, so we always know how much we have.  There’s no question if we’re going to run out of it, there’s no waste on something that has been checked-over, we check everything that comes through here.  I can’t remember the last time we threw away a gallon of milk.  As far as sustainability with people, we work it into our business to where we want our employees to be thinking about other peoples’ needs.  If somebody comes in and they graduated or got engaged or whatever, we let the shop buy them a drink and celebrate with them.  We keep that joy going through the rest of their day.

How did you get started in coffee?

P: I got started probably ten years ago at City Brew, and it has a million flavors and it’s kind of like a small Starbuck’s here.  I jumped around from City Brew to Starbuck’s to Caribou, I lived all across the country.  I was working at another company here in Billings and gave that job to a friend, worked at The Annex, and then Jeff asked me to be a part of MoAV. 

J: My coffee background is very small.  My first experience with a great cup of coffee, I remember, it was a French press cup of coffee up in the mountains.  My brother-in-law fresh-ground it right in front of me, and we had this awesome cup of black coffee.  I got to experience having a good cup of coffee properly brewed and just enjoying it for what it is and not adding any flavors.  That’s what initially piqued my interested.  Prior to that, I was actually an engineer in the oil field, but my brother-in-law was very passionate about coffee and worked [in the industry], and we always had this vision of opening a shop down the road.  The oil field had a slump, I got laid off, and I got this opportunity [to open MoAV].  Prior to that, I did a lot of pour-overs at my house, talked to baristas around town, learned from my brother-in-law.  He was actually in El Salvador for a bit working on a farm down there.  Ever since then, it’s all been self-taught and on YouTube looking up to people who are really running the standard right now like Chris Baca and Jared Truby.  That’s where I kept growing my love for coffee.  For roasting, we just threw some beans into the roaster, and it was just like “go for it”.  With the huge amount of connections and resources we have, having a lot of help from coffee shops that are already doing it, opening their doors and knowing we’re not competition, we’re a community.  My coffee career has only been about 2 ½ years.

P: That’s where Jeff and I make good business partners, because I have had a whole bunch of bad experiences, and I’ve seen the whole spectrum of where coffee is, so I can bring that knowledge into moving forward with other stores and staffing.  I have a feel for that where Jeff has a different perspective than me.

J: I traveled a lot, so getting to go to bigger cafés and cities, understanding their culture and then coming back to Billings and realizing I’m not getting that consistency was where I learned to integrate at MoAV.

Is there anything that has been particularly rewarding opening a shop?

J: There’s your downs and ups opening a business.  Getting to bring Paul on, I feel like that’s when we actually opened MoAV.  When it was me and Paul, I felt like we had a cohesive vision.  We knew how we wanted to treat people, and from there, it’s been more positives than negatives.  You’re going to have your stressful points in running a business.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.  It’s getting to see wonderful people every day, getting to grow new friendships, seeing your team members grow not only in coffee but in life.  I would never have imagined seeing all our team members on their days off wanting to come chill at our coffeeshop.  If someone gets slammed, they’ll without question just jump on bar and know that they’re ingrained into this culture.  It’s this amazing shed of light that I never thought I would ever have.  Interacting with our guests every day is super rewarding and enjoyable.  It’s surpassed any job that I have ever had.  Getting to be a barista or roast coffee for somebody, that just hit me a month ago.  Like, people are drinking the beans that I roasted.  That’s huge. 

P: One of the most rewarding things for me is seeing one of our team members who was really struggling when he first came on.  He was drinking every day and not taking care of himself very well.  There was a lot of hardship in his life, so we have just been committed to seeing his life change and walking through that with him.  There was one night when he was closing, and we have a music venue right next to us, and he went out and got plowed and didn’t finish his shift.  And we were like, “Look man, we’re going to show you grace, we’re going to love you and walk through this with you, but if you do it again, you’ll be fired”.  And since then, he’s totally turned his life around.  We’ve invested in who he is and what he’s passionate about, trying to get him into that stream.  And now, he’s just a phenomenal employee and a friend.  He’s impacting peoples’ lives through us tough-lovin’ him.  We say all the time that coffee is important, but peoples’ hearts are way more important.

I see that you opened a second location.

P: Yeah, there’s a church here in town called Faith Chapel, and their café struggled for the last ten years.  They lost a ton of money last year, and pretty much all the staff go to church there.  They were like, “Either you guys say yes, or we shut the entire thing down”.  We started seeing cool connections being made in our café downtown, so we wanted to know what we could do to help people in this environment.  We spent a lot of money making the space much more intentional.  On Good Friday, this guy was standing in line and had a new mug, we were pouring a latte for him.  And he was like, “Yeah, I had to buy a new mug, because I just lost everything in a burglary”, and I knew I had to figure out something to do for them.  I gave them two $50 gift cards, and the guy just started weeping – he hadn’t experienced that grace.  It was one of those moments where I realized it was totally worth the money and time we put into it.  

Favorite coffee that you’re roasting right now?

J: We have this Kenyan Konyu that we just started roasting, and it’s our first Kenya.  I’m stoked about it.  It’s just a gorgeous coffee, it’s super vibrant and juicy.  It’s one of those coffees that you serve to someone who’s used to having Folger’s or a dark cup of Starbuck’s.  You give this to them, and they’re experiencing flavors out of a coffee they never thought they’d taste.  It gives us that option to really excite our guests.  Another great process that I’ve loved doing is our espresso blend.  It’s so fun to roast with and mess with, because it started off with a mild Ethiopian Limu that has more chocolate than fruit notes, and then a simple Colombian.  It was popular and good in milk but understanding that I can put in a Tanzanian or Costa Rican honey process to liven it up just a little more, I find that’s one of the greatest parts of roasting.  You’re engineering these coffees to have these taste profiles accentuated in the coffee.  While I love single-origin coffees, blending different flavors to make something well-balanced and amazing no matter if it’s covered in milk and flavors or just an espresso.  Those are some of the most exciting parts of roasting coffee.

P: I’m mostly excited about our decaf right now, honestly.  It’s a naturally processed Mexican, and it’s just been really fun to serve people delicious decaf.  There’s so much negativity behind decaf, but we’ll pull them a shot, and it just blows peoples’ minds. 

J: Yesterday, we did a Peru, it’s an old technique I learned early-on, where the coffee was singing at one temp level, but it was also really good at another temp level.  So what I did is roasted it two different ways and blended that, and so you have this crazy, cool blend of coffee that you couldn’t get roasting at one level.

Anything else about MoAV?  Fun facts?

J: First, we are super grateful for [The San Franciscan Roaster Co.], Mahlkönig, and Synesso.  We couldn’t do it without those machines, and we’re super excited about that.  We’re ordering an [SF25 Roaster], because we’re expanding to another brick and mortar with a proper roasting facility, café, and kombucha brewery.  That’s something new and exciting that will be happening this year.

A fun fact about us: We’re super into cars and the car scene.  Paul started the Zip Tie Club which does some great stuff with the car community in town.  Paul drives a Passat wagon, I have a couple old Mercedes we roll around, one of our employees runs an old BMW.  That’s a fun, quirky scene we get to be a part of.  Also, I have a wife and four kids, and Paul is Paul!

MoAV will be pulling shots at SFR’s Expo booth on Saturday, April 21 from 2-3 PM.  For more information on MoAV, visit their website, Facebook, and Instagram.   

Images courtesy of MoAV Coffee.

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