We all know good coffee grows near the equator. Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Guatemala, Panama. Aside from a few outliers like Hawaii, it doesn’t grow further north than southern Mexico. And for the most part it grows in poor countries. The cherries all ripen at a different time making picking by hand the preferred method, too expensive at $10 minimum wage.
… So why is one farmer trying to grow coffee in California?
Good Land Organics – California Grown Coffee
I first exchanged emails with Jay, owner of Good Land Organics, when he subscribed to Angels’ Cup. His email address rang a bell because I had just watched this youtube video on the LA coffee scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYryKbPjm4s
It’s really a short documentary that first takes us on a tour of the Good Land Organics farm, and then to an Intelligentsia cupping table where it’s on the table with Geishas. Here’s their conclusion:
“Pretty damn good for a California coffee, that’s exciting to see. It definitely surprised me, the coffee was more complex than I expected, it really surprised us all. Pretty awesome, that’s a victory for California coffee.”
That’s a solid endorsement from a reputable company, that wasn’t under any pressure to say nice things. I haven’t actually tried the coffee yet, so I can’t really weigh in on the conversation. But the 2016 harvest is starting now and those coffees should be hitting the market in a few month. I’ll be first on line, super excited to give them a try!
I think variety is the biggest driver in quality. And then then whole post-harvest world, there’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of things you can do to accentuate the varieties, either define a region or re-define a region.
Jay was a little crazy to start growing coffee 13 years ago, but today it’s not so crazy. That’s because the specialty industry has really caught up and consumers are more educated on the origins of coffee and are willing to spend more money. I believed that we had a market, and then I pushed us to stick our heads out and send product to coppers to get some honest feedback. And that was very scary but we got some positive feedback which was very encouraging!
The reason we have 13 varietals is because originally when I started I thought what plan would survive – they all survived. I said ok which one is going to produce – the all produce. And then we said which one is going to cup well enough – the call cupped between 82-89 in the first year.
I’d say that we will constantly be developing the flavor profiles of our coffees. But we have reached a level where we’re able to selling all of our product every year. And I’ve been able to ask a price point that lets us sustain coffee growing here.
Diversity of farms is essential for our food system. Coffee has opened my eyes to say there are companion crops. Things like avocado and coffee and passion fruit have all grown in very diverse ecological climates, jungles. It’s only modern agricultural systems mainly derived from crops like wheat and corm where we look at monoculture systems. Then we take fruit trees and put them in that monoculture system, and what I like to see is having a diverse system. Originally it was looking at an ecologically diverse system, and that’s kinda cool. But what’s really capturing the eye is can we have an ecologically diverse system that’s also economically diverse. So that you have crops that cash flow differently. We’re looking at farming a system that no longer just who can get the highest yield on avocados, but who can get the highest yield. Who can get the best profit and revenue with the least water resources and nutrition.
Jay likes growing things that other people think he can’t. That may be what inspired him originally to try it out. Eventually the excitement and the hugeness of the coffee industry and the impact we may be able to have it is what inspires us today.