The Story of Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting

For over 40 years, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting has been dedicated to achieving roasting perfection. Our small-batch roasting process is designed to bring out the finest subtleties from each of our premium quality coffee origins. We believe in establishing strong and lasting relationships with the growers worldwide who provide our coffee, with a firm emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility. Our motto is “quality coffee for quality life” - for coffee lovers as well as our farming partners.

When we first opened our doors in 1978, specialty coffee had not yet become a cultural phenomenon. At this time, the average coffee drinker asked only that their drink of choice was hot, caffeinated, and could be tolerated with milk and sugar. One of our early goals was to educate the public about the wonderful variety and subtle qualities that existed in the different coffees of the world. Soon after, we innovated the BrewBar®, which allowed our customers to enjoy the freshest, most optimally prepared cup of coffee available. Word quickly spread in Santa Cruz, and we soon developed a loyal following of discriminating coffee aficionados.

Ridin' to the Farm

The story of the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company began thirty-eight years ago under the same set of circumstances that have sculpted epic tales throughout history: a protagonist, driven by passion, experiences an event which spurs a journey filled with risk. In this case, the protagonist was a student in Santa Cruz and the catalyst for undertaking the journey was a love of coffee and an assigned econometric study on the coffee industry.

An economics major and lifelong coffee lover, Colleen Crosby conducted a study on the coffee market in her senior year at UC Santa Cruz. Inspiration struck, and she chose to take a leave of absence in order to co-found the first coffee roasting company in Santa Cruz.  Along with Bronson Baker (her then fiancé and soon to be husband) and their friends (in particular Jim Legg, our current Chief Technician and resident equipment genius), the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company was built and up and roasting at the “Top of the Mall” on Pacific Avenue on April 1st, 1978.

Bronson and Colleen dedicated all of their time and energy to managing their small coffee shop located in downtown Santa Cruz. Within the first year of their business, Bronson and Colleen innovated the BrewBar™, a device designed to provide customers with the ultimate individually hand poured gourmet coffee experience. The BrewBar™ was a hit, and coffee lovers were soon lining up out the door and on to Pacific Avenue for the best cup of coffee money could buy. Within several years, there was a greater demand for the fresh roasted BrewBar™ coffee than their store could accommodate. The Aptos Coffee Roasting Company followed in 1986.

In 1989, the original Coffee Roasting location was destroyed in the devastating Loma Prieta earthquake. Bronson and Colleen continued to satisfy the Santa Cruz coffee lovers’ demand by roasting out of their garage. Although this was a cozy arrangement, it wasn’t the most practical solution for the long term. Several years later, a beautiful, spacious cafe was opened at 1330 Pacific Avenue, in the historic Palomar Inn. At the same time, the wholesale/production department was moved to a location in Watsonville, where roasting, packaging, and shipping are currently handled.

In the year 2000, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting became the first licensed Fair Trade coffee roaster on the central Californian coast. By 2001, Colleen, Bronson, and their daughter Sarah had traveled to visit coffee farming families in Nicaragua and to film “In Our Hands: Sustainable Relationships in Specialty Coffee”, a documentary produced to educate coffee lovers about the importance of Fair Trade in the coffee industry. Colleen continued her adventures in the coffee world, traveling numerous times to coffee growing regions in Central America, South America, and Africa to establish personal relationships with the coffee farmers. Eventually, Colleen’s travels led her to the floor of the United States Congress, where she testified before the House Subcommittee on International Relations regarding the impact of the Coffee Crisis on coffee farmers across the globe.

Over the years, Colleen and Bronson both served on the Consumer Marketing and Sustainability Committees of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). Colleen was a cupping judge and quality expert in a number of international coffee competitions in Latin America and Africa as well as a founding board member of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) and a founding board member of the ECAFE foundation.

Sadly, in late 2005 Colleen was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Shortly before her death in 2006, she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Coffee Alliance for her tireless dedication to coffee farming communities around the world and was recognized in the United States Congressional Record for her “lifetime of dedication to others.”

Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. continues to uphold Colleen’s vision and the family’s commitment to excellence in coffee roasting, coffee quality, and quality of life for their farming partners. The Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company remains a local institution; however, no secret this good can be kept for long. Coffee houses across America (and even as far away as Japan) are now serving “The Roaster’s” numerous blends and single-origin coffees, and orders are processed and shipped daily for home delivery throughout the country. Despite myriad boutique roasters across America, the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company retains a loyal customer base of coffee lovers who appreciate the difference.