Most coffee shops in United Stated are brewing their Joes with beans from countries like Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Yemen. But seems like today’s world a change is coming in the US coffee industry where they are now embracing coffee farming with a new crop of coffee growers is working to get coffee brewed from California-grown beans.
The coffee farming idea in California was started by Mark Gaskell who worked in coffee-growing regions in Central America, and when he moved to California he noticed coffee plants growing in gardens and wondered if large-scale production was an option.
He started his coffee transplant in 2001 in the University of California Cooperative Extension, and he found out that the sub-tropical plants could thrive in the Golden State. Later on, Gaskell recruited Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics to help with trials, hoping coffee could be a valuable niche crop to help sustain small farms.
Ruskey started to grow coffee on his farm in Santa Barbara California in 2002.
“We learned that we had the ability to grow very good coffee with a very unique flavor,” Ruskey explains. “There is a misconception that you can’t grow coffee outside the Tropic of Cancer.”
Local farmers in California quickly embrace the new adventure of coffee farming and started to plant their own crops. According to the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, “the burgeoning state industry now boasts 30 farms growing more than 30,000 coffee trees.”
They foresee that there were at least two dozen more farms are expected to begin growing coffee this 2018.
Coffee farms are now widely scattered throughout California, and the biggest producer today is in Santa Barbara and San Diego counties. Although these coffee farms are still starting, Gaskell believes that the coffee production in California will double year over year.
“The California coffee industry is growing very quickly,” he says.
Later on, Ruskey founded Frinj Coffee to supply plant materials, provide post-harvest processing and manage sales of California coffee. Last year, the 24-member coffee cooperative harvested 250 pounds of beans. Blue Bottle Coffee purchased the entire crop.
The coffee beans are considered premium and it was introduced by the Blue Bottle in cafes in California, New York, Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C.
A single cup sold for $18. The coffee sold out within two weeks.
“Curiosity was the number one factor that made people want to try it,” Habegger says. “Having coffee produced in [mainland] America is almost too good to believe.”
The price is high for a cup of Joe but it’s not the most expensive coffee in the world.
“To people that are used to drinking cheap coffee, it might seem like an abomination,” said Habegger. “But, relative to all of the other things we’re willing to spend $18 on — like a glass of wine or small-batch bourbon — investing in the memorable flavor experience of a great cup of coffee is worth it.”
Even though the number of California coffee growers is expanding rapidly, Gaskell is confident that the drink’s continued status as a specialty crop will keep prices stable for farmers.
“The market is so huge compared to the volume we have,” he says. “It’s going to be a very long time before we can even begin to meet the demand.”
We are thrilled to see what would be the future of this started coffee farming in the mainland America, but we know this has a bright future and will change the game in the US coffee industry.