Oceana Coffee just returned from the mountains of Costa Rica, one of the finest places in the world for growing specialty coffee. But even here in the flatlands of South Florida, Scott Angelo, husband half of the husband-wife team behind the company, is still flying high.
The weeklong trip trekking by 4-wheel-drive through some very precarious terrain to visit the main coffee producing locales of Middle Valley, Central Valley and Tarrazu brought Scott full circle since he and Amy started Oceana Coffee in 2009.
“The coffee beans we originally roasted in a converted popcorn popper before going into business,” says Scott, now an accomplished Arabica Q Grader, “was Costa Rica coffee. To work in the field with the fair trade coffee farmers who likely had a hand in growing those same fresh coffee beans we roasted in our kitchen back then was amazing. What a journey it has been for Oceana Coffee.”
Scott and a handful of other buyers hit the dusty, remote and nearly vertical trail immediately, visiting six to eight small family coffee farms and three to four processing mills in each of the main coffee-producing areas. “Our schedule was full,” Scott says politely, but with a knowing grin hinting of long days packed with hard work and tough travel. “However, when you’re as passionate about coffee as we are at Oceana Coffee, it doesn’t feel like work.”
According to Scott, the crew of tasters cupped an average of about 14 coffees per day, with an eager 21 on Day 1.
“The coffees we purchased came from micro-lots, with some batches as small as a single 150-pound bag,” Scott says. “Those are very exclusive, and of course the quantities available are exceptionally limited. Others may not even make it to the retail shelf in our shops and end up in my personal reserve or in competitions like the Golden Bean North America or the Good Food Awards.” Spoken like a true coffee aficionado first and entrepreneur second—arguably the magic behind Oceana Coffee’s wild success.
“It’s important to me that a coffee be well balanced, medium-bodied and have a nice sweetness,” Scott says. “But the taste must also have a unique quality. Some of these Costa Rica coffees, for example, have characteristics to them not unlike our African coffees with fruity qualities. I treat the cupping of these types of coffee like a window into their potential for what I have to work with when I get them back home to our coffee roaster in Tequesta.”
What customers are willing to pay has to enter into the equation at some point, of course, Scott says. But the cost of bringing top-shelf Joe to market is way down on the list of priorities. “If I won’t drink it, and frankly love it,” he says, “I won’t sell it.”
The other part of the magic, and high on the list of musts for Oceana Coffee, is where the coffee beans come from. Scott and Amy scour the world not just for the best tasting coffees, but also organic fair trade coffees grown on small family farms by people who understand sustainability.
“We want to be part of the solution,” Scott says, “not add to the problem. We paid these farmers quite well for their coffee and we’re proud of that. We’re also proud to be involved with the growers at this level. We visit with these families, share meals, work in their fields, listen to their stories. I can’t wait until next year and return with roasted, packaged bags of coffee grown by these remarkable people, and brew them a cup of what they’ve essentially devoted their lives to. It will be labeled ‘Oceana Coffee,’ but what’s inside is theirs.”
It’s too soon yet to tell which of the Costa Rica coffees procured on this trip will be for sale, coffees that Scott scored on the SCA scale from 86 to 88, and that his colleagues scored in the exceptionally high 90s. But according to Scott, those that will be for sale will be coming through the Oceana Coffee roaster in June or July of this year. “Yes, we’ve upgraded from the popcorn popper,” he says with a laugh. “We’ve also become quite adept at the art of roasting coffee since those days. But that’s a whole different story.”
“I just hope folks keep up with us online,” Scott says. “Because when these coffees are ready and for sale on our website, they’re going to fly out of here.”
When the fruits of Oceana Coffee’s trip to Costa Rica do come to market, they’ll be available right here in our online store, at the Oceana Coffee café on Hwy. 1 in Tequesta, Florida, and at the Oceana Coffee roasting facility around the corner from the café.