Jeff Duggan of Portola Coffee, Part Two
OC Weekly: What show would you pitch to the Food Network?
Jeff Duggan: Coffee is extremely flavor complex. As a matter of fact, it has more flavor-contributing compounds than wine. What goes into bringing coffee from seed to cup is not that much different than wine. That being said, of all the fine beverages, coffee is by far the best bang for your buck. A show travelling the world and highlighting the different coffee producing regions and their respective cup characteristics would be very interesting I think for most people, even non-coffee drinkers. With some of the award-winning coffee auction lots bringing in $50-$100 or more per pound to the farmers, we are now experiencing next-level cups of coffee that are appropriately going for $5-$15 per cup.
OCW: What's your favorite restaurant in OC?
JD: Right now I would say Haven Gastropub in Orange. Scrumptious kibbles and delish craft brews from some of the best brewers in the country.
OCW: You're planning to open premises in Costa Mesa. Any other hopes for expansion?
JD: As it stands now, we are taking things nice and slow, one step at a time. The coffeehouse at The MIX in Costa Mesa will be like nothing else in Orange County, or anywhere else in southern California. We are taking elements of San Francisco, Portland and Seattle and putting them all together in one place. It's going to keep us busy for a while. Not only is it tricky to plan, it will require a highly trained and competent staff to perform the types of processes we will be showcasing. But yes, I do see us growing in the future with additional locations in OC. However, I promise to drink a 32-ounce cold cup of 3-hour-old, pre-ground, Robusta-laden, hot-plate-heated, over-dosed, under-temped black coffee if I ever sacrifice quality for profit. There...it is now on record!
OCW: You sell single-source coffee beans from all over the world. Which country's coffee was hardest to bring to market? Why?
JD: Definitely Ethiopia. The country recently went to a commodity exchange system (ECX) for its coffee. Simply put, it was designed to give farmers direct access to market prices while cutting out the middleman, which was a significant part of the previous sales system. While it may sound great, it has created significant problems, particularly with the issue of traceability. With the ECX, coffee would be graded at the mill and grouped by region meaning all the coffee from farmers in Sidama or Yirgacheffe would be blended and sold as simply "Sidama" or "Yirgacheffe." Traceability is lost. There is no way to know on what farm that particular coffee was grown. This is bad for farmers who go the extra mile to produce elite coffee. While there have been "second window" exceptions for certain cooperatives that allow the coffee to retain its identity, traceability still remains a challenge. Ethiopian coffee export timelines have been significantly delayed as a result of this new system. For now, I just wait.
OCW: You only sell organic coffee. What's the benefit to the consumer in buying organic coffees?
JD: Peace of mind. Comfort in knowing the beverage you are drinking is chemical-free. Taking pride in knowing your purchase supports those farmers who dedicate themselves to a methodology that safeguards the health of its workers and the eco-system around them. It's not only about us. It's about the environment and those who work to produce this fine beverage we have grown to love. It's all about each of us doing our small part, not only for ourselves but for others. Speaking selfishly, I want to be able to drink amazing coffee 30 years from now, and sustainable agriculture and practices is the only way to ensure this. That is why we are 100% committed to the organic movement. We demonstrate this by selling nothing but organic coffee. In a world of compromise, we simply don't.
OCW: People who prefer their caffeine in beer form can taste your beans used in the porter at Carlsbad's Pizza Port. Any plans to muscle in on the coffee beers here in OC?
JD: Yep. Actually there has already been one Portola Coffee beer in O.C. It was also a coffee porter that I created about three months ago with Jon Porter (yes, this is his real last name), the brewmaster at Tustin Brewing Company. We're currently collaborating on a second coffee-beer project that will be submitted for competition at the Great American Beerfest this year. It will be a coffee blonde. Bizarre? Yes. Curiously delicious? Absolutely! Jon and I both have a desire to create the unordinary.
OCW: Culinarily speaking, OC has the best...
JD: Chinese food...thoughts of Singapore noodles are dancing in my head.
OCW: What's one food or drink you absolutely cannot stand?
JD: Myer's Dark Rum...bad college experience. It still haunts me to this day.
OCW: What's your adult beverage of choice (besides the Pizza Port porter)?
JD: Schneider-Weisse Original. This is the original hefe with a unchanged recipe dating back to the 1600s.
OCW: What's your fast food guilty pleasure?
JD: Double Western Bacon Cheeseburgers.
OCW: What are your thoughts on decaf?
JD: Decaf is the true coffee lover's coffee, sipped for no other reason than pure culinary delight. It's not going to give you that kick in the pants in the morning, nor will it keep you energized during the wee hours of the morning working that graveyard shift or studying for that mid-term. You drink it purely for the love of coffee flavor. Unfortunately, bad decaf has left scars that won't heal for some...rightfully so. But decaf does not have to mean flavorless muck. There are some killer water-processed decafs that would leave most aficionados scratching their heads in disbelief.
OCW: What's your downtime activity?
JD: Oh yes, downtime activity. I often dream of that.