I love to be back in Cali to do our cafe/roaster profile. This time it is Klatch coffee company, which just picked up the America’s Best Coffeehouse award at the Seattle Coffee Fest. Meet the company owner Mike Perry who is here with us today.
V. Hi Mike! Congratulations on your victory! You must be really excited. Tell us about the competition.
P. Hello Max! Yup, we just came back from CoffeeFest where our shop from San Dimas just got awarded America’s Best Coffeehouse title. It was a great competition because you got a team of three baristas working together in unison in the same environment as they do on a daily basis in a regular coffee house and the judges have to see how the baristas can handle it. That was really fun! Some great, reputable companies were in it with us – Heart out of Portland, and Dog River Coffee from Hood River, so competing with these strong companies was really exciting and coming out on top was a great accomplishment for all of us.
V. Why do you think you won?
P. Being a roaster, I would like to think it was our coffee. (Laughs) However, I know that the other coffees from our competitors were good as well, and I think ultimately it just came down to the barista techniques that Heather (Heather Perry is a two-time US Barista Champion and placed second in the 2007 World Barista Championship) has learned and applied over the years. She teaches all of our crew, and for all of them being able to work together, dealing with different situations, having fun and loving what they are doing just payed off. That is why we won.
V. Excellent! Congratulations from all of us here at CoffeeTalk. So, now, please tell us about the history of your company, how did you get started?
P. I got into coffee business by accident. Back in 1991, I sold my first business – a construction company. So I suddenly had a pile of money in the bank and didn’t know what to do with it. I dropped out of college when I was 18, and regretted it since then, so I decided to go back to college and get my degree. I enrolled full time at University of California Riverside to get my biochemical engineering degree.
Then going to school and not working and having wife and kids, one thing that I found out is that if you don’t work you actually spend more money. Then I realized what I thought was a pile of money was almost gone, and my wife and I decided to open up a coffee shop to support ourselves. So we opened Rancho Klatch in a historical old winery building in Rancho Cucamonga. We immediately fell in love with what we were doing in the coffee business and even though I graduated from the university and had multiple job offers, my heart was really in the coffee industry. We have never looked elsewhere since.
V. How and when did you start roasting?
P. In the beginning I was actually buying coffee from different roasters. Today you hear about this popular multi-roaster thing and I was doing that back in 1997. Because I found out that some roasters are good at one thing and some are good at another, it made me think it would be a good idea to roast my own to reach consistency and quality that are acceptable for me. So then, coincidentally around that time, my friend told me that he just bought a company, and it had a Diedrich roaster in it. We made a deal that I could use that machine to roast all of my coffee for free, and in exchange I had to roast some coffee for him.
At that time, 1996-97, there were no schools – nowhere to learn roasting, so I was applying what I learned in engineering. I started plotting and developing my own profiles, and I would plot every variable imaginable and then taste every single roast to see what worked and what didn’t. I developed a system of experimentation and cupped the results to find what was really good for our company. Then I decided that it was time to get my own roaster, and we got a 25 kilo Diedrich roaster. We put it in our shop in San Dimas. Little by little, people started to come asking us to roast for them and to sell them some coffee. We have been cruising ever since, and in 2007 we bought our own building where we now roast all of our coffee.
V. Why is your company called “Klatch”?
P. When we started out we called it Coffee Klatch. Coffee Klatch means coffee and conversation or coffee and gossip. It is what we wanted it to be about when we started out – a place where you can have a great coffee and great conversation. A few years ago, we changed it to just Klatch, where coffee is the conversation – people talking about the coffee. This little twist emphasizes that coffee is what people talk about now here in Klatch.
V. Your whole team’s victories, your coffee and stories are really inspiring for those who are just now starting in the coffee industry . What word of advice could you give to new and future coffee business entrepreneurs?
P. Unless you own a business, you really have no idea how much work is involved. We worked as much as 70 to 80 hours per week, and many things didn’t work right in the beginning. For us it wasn’t that bad, because we didn’t have to go to work, we got to go to work. We love what we do, and I think if you love what you do, the work is enjoyable. So I think if anyone is thinking about getting into business they want to make sure that they love the coffee and this industry.
[iconbox title=”Klatch Coffee Inc.” icon=”adress_book.png”]
1848 W. 11th Street Suite A
Upland, CA 91786