Most of the specialty coffee growth seen locally the past few years has been a proliferation of third wave shops and an increase in the number of roasters — up to nearly three dozen. And, last June, a handful of partners and employees gathered in a Carmel Valley kitchen to start the third green coffee trading company in San Diego.
11585 Sorrento Valley Road #108, Sorrento Valley
Global Coffee Trading has quickly grown to ten employees, and is on track to import two or three million pounds of beans this year from points international. In March, Global debuted its newly built-out Sorrento Valley headquarters. While dealing green coffee beans is the company's primary function, the new space is equipped with a retail coffee bar and a 15kg Loring roaster.
Managing partner Dave Bacon has worked many sides of coffee. He started out as barista and roaster for Temecula's Café Bravo, then spent several years roasting for Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. He then worked for six years as a trader for InterContinental Coffee Trading, where he developed many of the relationships with both customers and employees that helped Global get off the ground.
"We really focus on relationships," he says, betting the approach will help Global Coffee jibe with other local coffee interests. "We looked at the craft brewing scene here in San Diego and how these guys are very open to talking about their ideas, working together.... Why can't we have the same concept with coffee?"
While much of the trader's clientele is spread out across the country — up the west coast and the length of the eastern seaboard — the new space is built to welcome customers here in town, and to share freshly sourced coffee with enthusiasts. Bacon says his staff is dedicated to helping fellow coffee businesses succeed, whether it's custom-roasting beans for a local shop or helping roasters improve quality control.
"You want to come in," he says. "We'll show you how to cup coffees properly; we'll show you how to sample roast; we'll rent our QC lab if you want to use it." He adds, "Yeah, we want to sell you something at the end of the day, but we also see the potential to collaborate. As specialty coffee becomes more prevalent to the average everyday consumer, if we're all better at what we do — roasters, importers, cafes, and whatever — everybody's going to win."
Bacon's partners include Edward Kariithi, a Kenyan whose family has been farming coffee for three generations, giving the company a potential edge on sourcing the increasingly popular origin. Global Coffee Trading routinely acquires beans from several African nations, Indonesia, and well-known coffee-producing countries throughout Central and South America.
One of Global's traders is Alice Peters, who, like Bacon, is a certified Q Grader — an expert in evaluating coffee quality. There are only 350 Q-graders in the U.S., and just a handful here in San Diego. Most of them work for one of the city's coffee brokers, including InterContinental and InterAmerican Coffee in East Village.