A surge in planting in Southern California could make it the first state on the mainland with a coffee growing industry.
Now that single origin coffee has proliferated throughout the coffee culture, one fact has become clearer than ever before: Most of the best coffee comes from nowhere near the United States. Instead, far off continents like South America and Africa provide the ideal growing conditions for great coffee beans. The lone American exception at this point is well off the mainland—Hawaii. But now, serious efforts are being made to bring quality coffee to the continental states thanks to the aging avocado farms in parts of Southern California.
According to the New York Times, about two dozen farms between San Diego and Santa Barbara are finding success growing coffee bushes in the shaded areas under their old avocado trees. The paper calls it “what may be the first serious effort in the United States to commercialize coffee grown outside of Hawaii.” Trying to turn the region into a future bean mecca actually makes sense for avocado farmers. Older trees produce less fruit, meaning less income, but high-quality coffee bushes also thrive in the shade, something these trees are able to provide plenty of. The cost of producing coffee in the area is higher, but if the beans are good enough, the price of a resulting cup can still be in line with similar premium products.
Though production in California is still relatively minimal, the NYT reports that the hundreds of pounds of unroasted beans the state produces per year now are still 30 times greater than what the state produced just 13 years ago when Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics, considered the father of California coffee, first started planting the crop. “We probably roast more coffee at Peet’s in one day than is being produced on all the farms growing coffee here, but I’m looking at this as cup half full,” said Doug Welsh, a roastmaster for Peet’s. “It’s early days, but I think it could at least get to be as big as the Hawaiian coffee business.” A single origin coffee from Santa Barbara certainly has a nice ring to it.