Every happy moment right now is fodder for fond memories in the future, a concept Nostalgia Coffee Roasters is embracing as it expands in San Diego.
The business that first hit the streets three years ago in a mobile cart recently brought aboard Brandt Radowski, a former roaster for Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, to help grow the in-house roasting operation.
Nostalgia Coffee Founder Taylor Fields told Daily Coffee News that once the company started roasting, demand quickly outpaced the capacity of Nostalgia’s 800-gram Arc Roaster. A 12-kilo-capacity US Roaster Corp. machine is slated to join the Arc next month inside a 1,000-square-foot production space in Miramar.
For now, Nostalgia is working with a shared San Franciscan SF25 machine located at the California Roasting Collective co-roastery north of San Diego, where Radowski turns green coffees brown.
“When we first got into roasting, Brandt had connections from Bird Rock and some importers, so we really reached out to a bunch of importers and got a bunch of samples in to create [Nostalgia blend] Memory Lane,” Fields said of the company’s first roasted coffee offering, which earned a 92-point score from Coffee Review. “It wasn’t direct trade, but it was all sustainably sourced coffee — we made sure of that. Obviously being a small roaster it’s nearly impossible to get those relationships out of the gate. Now we’re focused on getting everything direct trade. Everyone in coffee always says ‘improving the lives of the farmers and the producers, and everyone in the whole chain,’ but we actually mean it.”
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Nostalgia currently deals with importers InterAmerican, Cafe Imports and Sustainable Harvest for a range of sustainably sourced coffees, while it has also dealt directly with Colombia-based exporter Unblended Coffee, Brazilian exporter Carmo Coffees, Guatemala-based eporter Vides58 and Sumatra-based, women-led trader Ketiara in Indonesia. One example of a fruitful relationship came through Colombia-based Unblended Coffee, who connected Nostalgia to 29-year-old Antioquia-based farmer Andres Cordona for a coffee that ultimately led to a 94-point score on Coffee Review.
“I think it’s ridiculous that the cost of coffee is measured as a commodity in Guatemala versus Mexico versus African coffees, when there are just so many different costs that go into it for the farms to be successful,” said Fields. “The way we’re approaching coffee now is, when I was talking with Andres for example, I said, ‘How much money do you need at the production level, the farm level, to succeed and grow from year to year, and how much do you need to be able to pay your employees? As a business, how much do you need per pound to make that happen?’ That’s what we want to pay for coffee.”
Once those coffees reach the cart in San Diego, they may be sent through a Slayer espresso machine paired with a Nuova Simonelli Mythos 2 grinder. From there guests can either take them away or lay the basis for fond memories among tables, chairs, music and abundant potted plants Nostalgia sets up around the cart for a mini outdoor cafe experience at San Diego’s Lane Field Park and at local farmer’s markets.
“We’re bringing that experience of a cafe that you maybe grew up with, or you went on your first date with, that kind but also elevated experience, like you knew the barista but the coffee is also exceptional,” said Fields. “It’s also a place you can hang out feel welcome. I’m gay… we’re LGBTQ, we are open, inclusive, diverse — come hang out with us.”
Fields said the company is close to finishing a $500,000 seed funding round that will support production of a batch brew-in-bag product for to-go purchases. The company also has grand plans for a brick-and-mortar retal location, potentially coming this fall.
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Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.