Named for its San Diego neighborhood, Bird Rock is all about community.
Why the name Bird Rock?
We are named after the neighborhood in which we were founded, the Bird Rock neighborhood of La Jolla, California. There is a giant rock just off of the coast where many birds perch, including brown pelicans. We are very proud to represent our little slice of heaven on earth.
Tell us more about the San Diego coffee scene.
The San Diego coffee scene is growing steadily — lots of really great local cafés serving very nice coffees and food options. It really started to explode with new openings about three to four years ago.
Explain the concept of “Farm to Cup.”
For BRCR, “Farm to Cup” represents the coffees we source from importers who have sourcing pedigree. In this case our importers use their resources and relationships to source first-rate coffees with clarity and distinction and have traceability to our importer’s facility. So, these are coffees we feel we can trust, where the farmer has been treated with respect and paid a fair price.
Why is the notion of community so important to Bird Rock?
Community is the essence of what we do. We all love great coffee. But being local, interacting in our communities, supporting the people who support us, is what is most important. We really feel social media has made the world feel closer to us wherever we are. And at the same time, we all have become so distant to those around us as we stare at our phones on the social inter-webs. The notion of community is taking on an even more important role in our coffee shops and we need to embrace it, welcome it, and prop it up as one of the three pillars of what we do: Great Coffee, Great Space, and Represent our Community. We are empowered by great coffee to do great things. The Company Social Responsibility team has built community relationships with local museums, Title 1 elementary schools, and joined our customers in beach cleanup events.
How did you get started roasting?
We were started by Chuck Patton in 2002 on a small home roaster in his garage and sold at local farmers markets. He opened his first café in 2006 in the Bird Rock neighborhood where he roasted on a Giesen 15k. (Now we roast on a 35 kilo Loring roaster).
BRCR is now a partner company to PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. in Topeka and Kansas City. PT’s purchased Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in January 2017. Jeff Taylor and Fred Polzin are the founding partners of PT’s and we started roasting in 1997. We first sourced coffee at origin in 2000. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters was named Roaster of the Year in 2012, and PT’s Coffee was named Roaster of the Year in 2009. We are the only company in the USA with two of those titles.
How has your relationship with producers changed over time?
Our friendships are deeper each year. With social media we watch each other’s families grow and feel as though we are part of the process even if we are countries away. We talk family as much as we talk coffee. When it’s time for harvest, we just work out the details and cup the coffee to best cup and agree upon a price. Our relationships have lasted in some cases nearly 20 years. Our newest relationship is now three-years old. But all are strong and more than just coffee.
How does Bird Rock approach sustainability?
Sustainability is very important to us as a roaster and a member of our community. We recently promoted one of our finest baristas, Jessie Romine, to Sustainability Manager. She will be charged with improving our environmental, social, and economic sustainability within our cafés and at origin. This includes generating reports, working with our Coffee Buyer Jacob White, and each of our producing partners. Our new packaging is Biotrē™ and earth friendly. At origin, we work with producers who are dedicated to environmental health, whether they are certified organic or simply committed to soil health and coffee quality through pesticide-free farming. We know our producers well enough that there is trust and personal verification with each of our annual visits.
Tell us more about your team.
Bird Rock’s recent growth to a six-café team has allowed us to refine our coffee quality and broaden availability throughout Southern California. This growth has generated opportunities for baristas to take on more responsibility in the structure of the company and leadership roles. Many baristas are currently enrolled in school, prosper as artists and/or are involved in a business endeavor of their own. We encourage our team members to share their ideas for company enhancement as well as supporting personal aspirations. For example, baristas from any shop are encouraged to submit their artwork, which will function as wall art in cafés as well as a platform to sell their work. We are proud of our international team, employing wonderful baristas from New Zealand, Korea, Philippines, and Mexico.