Thanks to Stumptown Coffee for these beautiful pics
Since I started working at Augie’s I have had a handful of customers come in and ask if our coffee is grown locally, to which I’ve replied (with a bit of rambling) something like, well it’s roasted in our back-room and it’s prepared fresh here with the best methods possible, but no it’s not really grown locally. Often the customer’s reply, with some disappointment, is that the he/she wants to support small local business, shops at farmers markets and wants to shop ethically, which is why they asked in the first place whether the coffee was grown local.
We love and respect those that want to shop locally and support small business and American production of items. Without this sentiment a business like ours could never make it, so hats off to you devoted small business supporters. This being said, coffee doesn’t really grow in North American climates (with the exception of Hawaii, which has a much more balmy environment and which also has the benefit of not being anchored to our continent).
Coffee plants and cherries do their best growing and blossoming in countries closer to the equator, stretching North approximately to the tropic of Cancer and South to the Tropic of Capricorn. Coffee plants require temperatures of over 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round and rich moist soil to really thrive. Some coffees are shade grown in rainforest environments and others are grown more in the open. Some specialty coffee plants require exceptionally high altitudes to yield their best fruit and end up having super unique flavor profiles when compared with lower grown varietals. A coffee tree after being planted only starts to bloom and produce clusters of beautiful cherries after around three to five years of maturing. The plants are delicate and costly and take a lot of patience and care from farmers (similar to the vines on vineyards).
Coffee grows on an evergreen shrub, which if left unattended can reach up to 30 feet high. These plants on a farm are pruned from 6-9 feet high to make harvesting the cherries easier. These plants come in a surprising amount of varieties, again like grapes, and produce different types of cherry-like fruit varying in color from yellow to red and a few other colors in between. All these fruits contain seeds, which are actually the beans we end up roasting and making our coffee from.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve seen coffee shrubs in Huntington Beach and heard handfuls of stories about people that have tried to grow coffee plants in beach cities throughout the continental United States, but the end result has always been subpar. The fruit ends up not tasting quite right, the beans roast up with funny flat flavors and the proof is in the pudding that coffee’s flavor is an environment issue, nature vs. nurture or something. Anyways, that’s just a scratch in the surface of the science that goes into coffee growing but it’s also the answer to why we don’t grow it here in Redlands.
Although I’m sure if we could yield a tasty crop, being obsessed with good coffee production, we would probably try growing it too.