Fringe of the Tropics: California Grown Coffee

 
By 22 December 2011
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This feature comes from our “Not New News, But Still Interesting” desk – California coffee is no passing fad, confined merely to the kitchens of Finca La West Oakland. A farm near Santa Barbara, featured by the LA Times and elsewhere, is producing coffee with some interesting attachments and mysterious endorsements.

Jay Ruskey (of Good Land Organics) has been growing and cultivating coffee  in the Goleta area of SoCal for the last several years. According to this interview with Food GPS, Ruskey’s partner Mark Gaskell first sourced the coffee trees from El Salvador, taking with him back to California shrubs of the Catturra, Typica and Amarillo varietals. Ruskey is harvesting, processing and self-roasting his coffees at Good Land Organics – a process that hints at wider ambitions:

We feel that it’s important to vertically integrate. One of the models we’ve looked at is the Kona coffee model. They’ve been successful growing in an area that has high labor costs by producing their own coffee on the farm, not only growing it, but also processing it and post-havesting and roasting it, including doing farm tours and selling their coffee from the farm. That’s been a very successful model. So we think with the Kona model and the interest in farm tours – like some of the wineries have in Santa Barbara – that type of hybrid approach is going to be a successful model for coffee in the Santa Barbara region.

Buried elsewhere within that Food GPS interview, Ruskey mentions that he’s received advice and a farm visit from Price Peterson, he of Hacienda La Esmeralda fame. More interesting still, Mr. Ruskey seeks to form a Santa Barbera Coffee Cooperative, and has been distributing coffee seeds to nearby farms.

Good Lands Coffee is grown at an elevation of about 600 feet, which is not much of an elevation at all, especially in terms of specialty coffee (as a quick reference, the aforementioned Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee is grown at more than 1500 meters, more than 5000 feet above sea level). But it’s still pretty exciting stuff – and according to this second interview with the website “Eat Drink Explore” (unpunctuated), Ruskey’s Santa Barbara coffee has been vetted by coffee types in the know:

According to Ruskey, coffee experts were then invited to taste test the new product and subsequently gave encouraging reviews.

“They said that we have some promising coffee,” Ruskey told us.  So, the growing operation continued with about a dozen varieties of beans and more than 1,500 plants now being grown in the Santa Barbara area.

Our question for you is this – have you tasted Jay Ruskey’s California-grown coffee? Were you one of the “coffee experts” invited to cup recent or past crops? Let’s get our sticky hands on some more information about these coffees – any SoCal area Sprudge readers feel like tracking down this stuff at the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market? If you go, take pictures, and please send them along to us at californiacoffee@sprudge.com – we’ll post shots and notes on the site.

 
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