Meet the South Bay Roaster Importing Coffees as Rare as a Holographic Charizard Card

In 2009, when Hiver van Geenhoven began brewing coffee at Barefoot Coffee (later Nomadic Coffee, now Paper Moon Coffee), he had no idea he would become a fixture of the South Bay coffee scene within a decade. And he never imagined he would be a green coffee buyer sourcing some of the finest beans in the Bay Area.

Chromatic Coffee, a San Jose-based coffee roaster and cafe, opened on October 13, 2012, and immediately introduced high-end coffees to a comparatively sleepy specialty scene. He now sources ultra-rare coffees by establishing relationships with farmers in coffee-producing countries’ rural regions. A recent peak water level? A Gesha peaberry variety that won the Cup of Excellence and sold for an impressive $31 per bag last year. “It’s subjective, but in terms of quality coffee in the world, it was among the top 20,” explains van Geenhoven. This coffee was the holographic Charizard.

He pays a premium for these rare coffees; in 2021, it was common for him to purchase coffees for $16 per pound and, at the most expensive, up to $65 per pound, paying an additional $120 for shipping. Now that he is the first San Jose Cup of Excellence judge, he and his team at Chromatic not only source award-winning coffees but also assist in awarding them. In order to sell Yemeni beans, he partnered with Port of Mokha, a coffee company run by San Francisco coffee activist Mokhtar Alkhanshali.

Van Geenhoven is so passionate about farmers’ access to American coffee drinkers that, upon request, he will connect a customer with the coffee’s producers. Customers anticipate him to bring back their favorites, such as Chromatic’s Finca San Jose from El Salvador, season after season. “I desire this close relationship,” says van Geenhoven. “I am not here to con you.”

Fans can currently purchase Luiz Saldhana’s thermally shocked Brazilian beans for approximately $25 via the Internet. You can also purchase anything from a fancy pour-over to a yeoman’s vanilla latte at the shop, which has a decidedly DIY, industrial aesthetic. It is a small store on Lincoln Avenue, which is acceptable to van Geenhoven because he wants the focus to be on the farmers and cooperatives. “Yes, baristas are rock stars, but it’s always been and always will be about where the coffee comes from and its origin story,” says van Geenhoven.

Read more • sf.eater.com

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