After years of selling its own Costa Rica-grown, California-roasted beans online and at Southern California farmers markets, vertically integrated Moon Mountain Coffee has opened its first brick-and-mortar cafe in the Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach.
Awash in soothing blues and grays, the 1,274-square-foot space with rustic wooden accents is situated between a pair of popular bars and restaurants.
“My favorite thing about this space is the location, on the prime beach and with tons of walk-by traffic,” Moon Mountain Founder and Roaster James Evans told Daily Coffee News.
As of this month, customers have been treated to espresso drinks ground on a Weber EG1 single-dose grinder and extracted on a two-group Royal Synchro espresso machine, or drip coffee brewed in batches by a Curtis Gemini brewer.
The beans for these drinks are grown and processed on a farm owned by Evans at the southern tip of Costa Rica, in the Talamanca Mountains roughly 5 kilometers through the jungle from the Panama border.
Ranging from roughly 900-1,500 meters above sea level, the total land owned by Evans is just under 1,000 acres, roughly 80 of which (about 32 hectares) is dedicated to growing coffee.
“Parts of my farm border Amistad National Park, the largest park in Central America,” Evans told DCN. “My wife was born in this magical area of Costa Rica. My brother-in-law is the farm administrator. I go to the farm about five times a year and stay for as long as two months at a time. COVID has prevented me from going to the farm for more than a year.”
The company cultivates numerous coffee varieties, including Gesha, Kenya SL-28, Marsellesa, and the rare and naturally low-caffeine Laurina. Cultivation methods include what the company calls microganic farming, which involves incorporating natural organic matter collected from the rainforest floor into the coffee farm soil, and inoculating coffee plants with their own natural spray. Picked cherries are milled and processed on the farm.
“We dry our coffee on the raised-bed, African-style, solar dryers. We dry a lot of coffee in-cherry, natural style,” said Evans. “We plan to experiment with anaerobic fermentation when things normalize after COVID.”
In addition to roasting those coffees, the company sells a limited amount of its green coffees to other roasters, although that strategy will remain fluid as the coffee house business picks up.
“I purchased the coffee farm first and worked backward through the coffee chain,” said Evans. “I make the highest profit as a retailer. I made almost no money as a farmer.”
Moon Mountain Laurina won a gold medal at the 2019 Golden Bean roasting competition in the category for low and decaf coffees — an accolade Evans takes as confirmation of a mission accomplished.
“My goal was to produce a ‘world-class coffee.’ The Golden Bean was close enough,” said Evans. “I am nearly 65 years old. [The new cafe] will likely be my last ‘big’ project. I hope to live a productive and happy life involving coffee, and leave the Moon Mountain legacy to my wife, son, and granddaughter.”
Moon Mountain Coffee is slated to open next month at 5277 E. Second St. in Long Beach.