California may seem like an odd place to grow coffee.
But it once was weird to make wine here, and if Jay Ruskey gets his way, coastal Southern California may become coffee country too.
His company, Frinj Coffee, is closer to a winery experience with a couple new developments.
Frinj is hosting a farm tour and tasting experience at Good Land Organics, Mr. Ruskey’s farm and Frinj headquarters.
Frinj supports 70 farms from Goleta to San Diego. It provides the plants and processes the crop post-harvest.
Among the farms is Carpinteria’s Rancho Delfino. Owner Mike Masino recently received a cupping score of 93 (on a 100-point scale) for his new harvest of Geisha coffee. The result is a cup of Joe with flavors of honeycomb, bergamot and vanilla cola (so says the label).
Mr. Masino, a down-to-earth guy, says he can’t taste the intricate flavors like judges can. But when Mr. Ruskey poured him a cup of California-grown Geisha coffee, he knew he wanted Ranchero Delfino to become a Frinj farm.
“It was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. It was so smooth and good,” he told the News-Press.
Geisha is a variety of coffee plant, and Geisha is hailed by coffee enthusiasts as the most exclusive and purest bean.
It originated in Ethiopia’s Gori Gesha Forest and was popularized in Panama, and now Frinj is sprouting Geisha in Santa Barbara County.
Mr. Ruskey first began growing coffee as part of a research project. He killed a lot of fickle coffee plants but began to develop a system for growing a good cup of coffee.
He was successful growing coffee in avocado groves. It is more sustainable too, as the crops share the resources.
A magazine article about his technique caught Mr. Masino’s attention in 2013.
Mr. Masino had just bought an avocado grove, which served as a retirement gig and a way for him and his wife to relocate to their dream area. But the reality wasn’t so pleasant.
“March 2013, the night after our escrow closed, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees,” he said. “In less than 24 hours, I thought I lost a whole avocado grove.”
The land had been churning out avocados since the ’40s and survived the frost, but it had been neglected and needed renovation.
Now he has plentiful avocado harvests and is producing outstanding coffee.
Frinj receives the coffee cherries the day they are picked and processes the harvest through a multi-step process.
The cherries are checked for density, and the fruit is peeled off the bean. Then the beans are fermented for a few days before a 10-day drying period.
The beans are roasted on demand, packaged and shipped out from Good Land Organics farm.
It’s been years since Mr. Rusky has shown the farm to the public. But he’s excited to show off Frinj’s process in four tours this summer.
“Especially coming out of COVID, we think people are ready to learn more about their coffee. So we’d like for them to come up and share the experience and then hopefully this can grow into something bigger,” Mr. Ruskey told the News-Press.
Guests will hike through the orchards, tasting fresh coffee cherries, caviar limes and cherimoyas produced by Good Land Organics. Those unable to walk through the farm can relax by a pond.
Then the guided tour will explain how Frinj processes coffee. The experience ends with a coffee pour-over tasting.
Staff will explain how to taste the coffee, identifying the many flavors that emerge from a good cup.
Tickets are available for four dates, with a maximum of 25 guests each day. The first is this Friday, followed by tours July 24, Aug. 13 and Sept. 17.
Tickets cost $150. Tickets and additional information are available at frinjcoffee.com/products/june-18th.
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