While the sale recently came to fruition this past January, Taylor says that it’s been years in the making.
“I’ve known Chuck for at least eight years,” he said. “Whenever we would speak, I would subtly mention that if he were ever looking to sell, that I would love to live in San Diego. I mean … Who wouldn’t? Finally, I received a call from him last summer saying, ‘We’re ready to sell, and I think you’re the person for this.’”
Taylor, a former photojournalist with loads of energy, decided to quit his “day job” back in 1993 and open a coffee shop. As he says in jest “in Topeka, Kan. of all places.” This was during a time when the coffee market, typically static, was in a slump. During this time, coffee was selling for roughly 45 cents a pound, so the farmers in less-developed countries were making next to nothing. Coffee mills, where laborers “clean” the seeds, were in poor condition and dirty. Rather than exploit cheap labor, Taylor reversed PT’s business plan to ensure that the farmers were paid more for their efforts. This, in turn, allowed them time to pay attention to their crop.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters has been direct-sourcing their coffee for many years, as has PT’s. Taylor cannot stress enough that this will remain a staple of their business model. Having used similar sources as former owner Patton, Taylor now will be procuring coffee for both companies.
“In regards to the transition, currently, you take stock of where you are and what you need. I visited a few coffee shops yesterday, which has been the evolution of a month-long process,” said Taylor. “We are going to remain focused on direct-sourcing quality coffee from Latin America, Africa and Sumatra. With 10 and 15 years of the practice between Chuck and myself, respectively, the relationships are there.”
Direct trade allows for Bird Rock Coffee Roasters to offer coffees that wouldn’t otherwise be available in San Diego. Initially, Taylor was brainstorming a way to assimilate his two businesses, but, after being advised to “keep them different,” that is the approach he is taking.
A bit of a coffee nerd, Taylor boasts an encyclopedic knowledge on the complexities, pouring method and nuances the magical bean holds. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is a huge proponent of “pour-over” coffee, in which select coffees are poured over ground coffee beans, which allows the water to extract the flavor without overcooking. Using a Guatemalan and Salvadoran Red Honey coffees to explain two major sects of the business, Taylor delves into differentiating processes and how they affect the overall taste.
“In the Guatemalan coffee, the fruit has been cleaned from the beans, which ultimately leaves you with a floral note,” said Taylor. “The Salvadoran coffee beans were sun-dried with bits of fruit still attached, so that leaves it with a sweeter taste, but not in the traditional way. I cannot stress enough that both of these Latin American treasures are unique to San Diego.”
Much like wine, coffee maintains various flavor profiles. Taylor points out that even one cup of coffee can project different reactions in all the senses.
Residing in Carmel Valley with his wife and child, Taylor is looking to expand the business into North County and other locations citywide. Still new to the area, he is doing his research to find what areas are underserved, or simply where could use a terrific coffee location.
Taylor says of the expansion that, “We are going to bring world-class products to San Diego. Also, we are looking to expand our staff as well. The thing I’ve learned about the coffee business is that everything ties together, so long as they are executed properly. I am fortunate to have a tremendous staff here as well as at PT’s in Kansas City.”