Downtown Santa Barbara: David Mebane

A couple of years ago, our good friends the Rusky’s came over to our house for a BBQ with an unexpected gift in hand – two small coffee bushes! Jay knows I am fascinated by the wonderful and exotic things he grow on their beautiful farm above Goleta, CA, and when he became the first to grow coffee in this area I was stunned. I didn’t know we had the climate in our area for coffee, but one look at Jay’s hundreds of coffee bushes all heavy with red coffee beans, I was amazed.

We planted the two bushes in our back yard against a fence and eagerly waited. That year the plants grew a few berries - not enough to harvest but enough to get us really excited that we were growing our own coffee plants. This past year was different. Late this spring, both plants got heavy with red berries and not knowing a lot about coffee, we waited until we thought they were ripe and picked every berry on those two bushes.

These plants are still small – about 3 ½ feet tall, but they gave us enough berries to try and make some of our own coffee. My wife removed the beans from the berries and let them dry in the air for a few weeks. Then she removed each husk around the bean by hand. Then, using a cast iron skillet slowly roasted the beans until the darkened and we could smell the delicious aroma of coffee coming off of them. People who know about processing coffee are probably shaking their heads reading this, but we were winging it!

My wife’s grandmother from Germany had given her an antique coffee mill some years ago, and we put that thing to work. When ground, the put the coffee in a vintage Chemex coffee maker. It was absolutely delicious.  Now, it was a lot work for the amount of coffee we came away with, but there was something deeply satisfying about growing, drying, shelling, roasting and making excellent coffee from our own home. Thanks Jay and family!

David Mebane

December 2, 2014