Orange County-based Portola Coffee Lab has been named 2015 Micro Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine. The annual competition honors the industry’s most talented specialty coffee roasters across the country, and every year, one small-scale roaster producing less than 100,000 pounds of coffee annually is named Micro Roaster of the Year. Owners—husband and wife team– Jeff and Christa Duggan also plan on expanding its Costa Mesa venue to four new locations within Orange County in the next year.
The Duggan’s focus will remain on empowering the community with quality, traceable, fresh-roasted and fresh-brewed coffee as well as Seventh Tea branded loose leaf teas, “all presented in an artful context – one cup at a time.”
On the recognition, “This is an honor for our entire team, who is perpetually in search for that perfect cup of coffee,” said Jeff Duggan. “Our passion has never been fueled by the need for recognition, but instead the need to present a quality product that we can be proud of. Quality is the foundation and entire reason why we exist. We are so grateful for the partnerships we have forged with our incredible farmers. The beautiful complexities in our beans are a direct result of our farmers‘diligence and commitment to quality and sustainability. This award is as much theirs as it is ours.”
For the Micro Roaster of the Year award, Portola was evaluated on its company mission; company’s commitment to sustainable practices; quality of coffee; commitment to employees and educational practices; commitment to and involvement in the industry; and innovations in roasting, marketing and business practices.
After being selected as a finalist, Portola Coffee lab was asked to submit three unique roasted coffee samples to be judged on aroma, color, imperfections, bean size and a clean cup. The finalists’ coffees were then blindly judged by three separate professional tasting committees, who ultimately named Portola Coffee Lab as 2015 Micro Roaster of the Year.
Created in 2011 Portola Coffee Lab brought a never-before-seen concept and style of coffee to Orange County. Portola Coffee Lab began creating a distinct brand that revolves around producing an artisanal culinary product, Craft Coffee. In September 2012, the Duggans expanded their culinary range with the opening of their 6-seat coffee concept bar, Theorem.
“When we opened, achieving quality meant slowing down and focusing on ingredients. It has never been easy to take such a hard line position in the quick service industry, especially in Orange County where we gave birth to this idea that coffee is a craft beverage,” said Duggan. “Fast forward three years and the need to only use the highest quality ingredients remains a steadfast function of this quality equation. Slowing down is still relevant but with the surge of coffee technology in the last year, slowing down takes on a little different meaning. Essentially, we have been fortunate to exist in an era where the line between speed and quality is starting to blur. Again, for Portola speed will never trump quality.”
Sourcing & Sustainability
Portola Coffee Lab has access to some of the highest quality coffee beans in the world. Duggan has achieved a robust direct trade coffee program in record time. While it usually takes a coffee company several years to establish direct trade relationships to start sourcing coffee at origin, Portola was able to do it within two years.
“While we have gained access to some of the best coffees in the world, the fact of the matter is our work will never be done. However, with greater buying power, we will be able to source and support the producers in ways we were unable to prior based on the small quantities we were purchasing,” added Duggan. “With more stores, we will not only see more unique coffees, but coffees from regions we have not directly purchased from before.”
To focus on sustainable outreach, Portola Coffee Lab has special interest projects at the farm level in several countries – with a goal to expand this effort to every country with which it has farmer relationships. “We have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours supporting farmers in improving the quality of their coffee to generate higher prices – which is the key to sustainability in the coffee industry,” he said. “Immunity to commodity market fluctuations is only attainable through quality. Our growth will give us more resources to continue our efforts in more countries.”
US Barista Competition
Portola Coffee Lab was honored to have been tapped to be a host for the past two Big Western Barista Competitions, qualifying competitions for the US Barista Championship. The Big Western Barista Competitions were held in February and October of 2014 and are a combination of the Northwest and Southwest regions of the U.S. Portola’s Jon Paul Doerr was just awarded one of the six finalists positions to move on to the U.S. national competition.
The United States Barista Championship is presented under the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Barista Guild of America to serve as a platform for baristas to enhance their espresso beverage making skills through a challenging competition. This event will take place in Long Beach, California in February 2015.