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Coffee Origin: California
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Coffee Origin: California

Pleasant temperatures, cool ocean breezes, complex soil, and evening layer of fog contribute to the successful growth of California coffee.

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4 min read

October 20, 2022

Coffee shops across the state and across the nation are placing increased emphasis on a coffee’s origin. Whether focusing on a particular area or a single farm, these distinctions have defined the gourmet coffee world, with every region carrying its own unique flavor profile. This "Bean Belt" of coffee-growing countries—which lies between latitudes 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south—has become increasingly threatened over the last decade, with temperatures rising and world climates changing. A survey published in 2018, conducted by Mordor Intelligence, showed that while approximately 44 percent of the U.S. coffee demand comes from millennials, who are increasingly drinking and demanding the best coffee, the effects of climate change lead to drastic price fluctuations for coffee beans and, ultimately, a supply shortage.

Although this presents challenges for the environment and for more traditional coffee-growing regions throughout the world—such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Brazil, and Colombia—it also creates an opportunity for regions previously overlooked as suitable contenders, including California, to produce high-quality coffee beans. California coffee has never seemed more intriguing.

Coffee Origin: California
Coffee beans come from the inside of coffee cherries. Each cherry contains two green beans that must be dried and roasted prior to being ground and brewed to make a cup of joe.

Does coffee grow in California?

Much like creating the ideal conditions for wine production, California’s pleasant daytime temperatures, cool ocean breezes, complex soil, and evening layer of fog also contribute to the success of coffee plants, regardless of sitting 18 degrees north of the tropics. Since gourmet coffee is a highly artisanal product with a single annual harvest in California, rather than the multiple harvests possible in the equatorial zone, a region’s microclimate is the main determinant in deciding where in the state to plant.

As such, to put it bluntly, yes coffee does grow in the Golden State. The coffee grown in California is known to have a slower growth rate than coffee from other cities, and that is actually the secret ingredient. This process gives the coffee cherries an enhanced flavor. The percentage of coffee production in California is surprisingly high, and even if the way farmers grow these coffee cherries requires a bit more effort, the results are astounding. There are also an increasing number of coffee farms in California as well, with a lot of them using new forms of technology to optimize the growing and harvesting process.

How to grow coffee in California? If you are eager to know more about this, do not fret! As there are a lot of coffee farmers that have shared the experience of growing coffee beans in California. Why not give it a shot yourselves?

A cup of coffee on a bright morning is unmatched.

Where is Coffee Grown in California 

Did you know that it is possible to commercially grow coffee only in Hawaii and California? In fact, although the US is not part of the major coffee producers of the world, it could become one at this pace. Southern California is known for its avocado groves and is currently undertaking experimental projects on them to optimize its revenue. Along with these avocados, people are also experimenting with growing coffee beans in California, and if these projects succeed, we could be witnessing a boom in the industry.

California’s main coffee producer, Frinj, focuses on high-elevation coffee varietals and imitates the high altitudes of equatorial regions with latitude, making the Southern California coastal climate the perfect substitute for tropical conditions. The weather variations from day to night add complexity to the beans by triggering the natural chemicals within the coffee—changing the flavor profile as much as altering the roast from light to dark would. This acute attention to detail in recreating growing conditions has led to great success for Frinj, which sold its entire 2017 crop to the Oakland-based Blue Bottle Coffee. Though this rare California coffee could be purchased in stores and online in 2017, the unique bean may have proven cost prohibitive for many, as it was priced at a whopping $18 per ounce, in contrast to quality coffee from other regions costing $18 per pound.

Coffee Origin: California
Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee purchased the entire 2017 crop of California-grown coffee beans from Goleta's Frinj. The interesting weather and soil conditions in the state contribute to the complexity of the beans and the resulting beverage.

Frinj’s success story dates back to 2002 when Mark Gaskell—after moving to California from the coffee-growing regions of Central America and identifying coffee plants growing in gardens—hired Jay Ruskey from Good Land Organics to begin trials of large-scale coffee production. These trials were fruitful and led to the founding of Frinj Coffee, which set out to provide California farmers with the opportunity to intersperse coffee plants with older avocado trees, whose production had slowed in an increasingly pressure-filled market. This tactic allowed farmers to diversify their offerings while reducing the nutrient depletion that soil experiences when continuously sowed with a single crop. Since its inception in Goleta, Frinj has aided in the production of at least 30,000 coffee plants across 30 farms throughout California. Since Frinj takes a holistic approach—providing the plants to farmers, washing and processing the coffee, offering training and a direct relationship between farmers and roasters, purchasing the harvest, and subsidizing up to 70 percent of the final price of the beans—much of the risk typically inherent to farming a new crop is absorbed.

Coffee beans grown in California guarantee a very smooth taste.

With less risk, high demand, and environmental benefits, it is clear that California presents a viable landscape for the creation of gourmet, single-origin coffee beans. As more farmers enter the marketplace, it is likely that the cost will be driven down, allowing pounds of California coffee to sit on shelves beside artisanal coffees from the rest of the world. This will not only decrease the total carbon footprint of coffee production by reducing the shipping requirements, but it will also lessen the time spent between field and cup, resulting in a better, fresher coffee experience.

Could the Golden State be the next major coffee producer in the world if they can uncover the best way to grow coffee and make their mark in this ever-growing industry? 

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.




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