Coffee is being commercially grown in California and coffee drinkers can’t get enough of the locally produced beverage, which currently retails for about $18 per cup. Anyone who is interested in growing, processing or marketing specialty coffee in California is invited to a Coffee Summit on January 18 at Cal Poly Pomona. Tickets are available here.

Until recently, American coffee was grown commercially only in Hawaii. To make the most of their precious water, Southern California farmers have begun experimenting with coffee plantings and producing beans that fetch a premium.

“There are about 30,000 coffee trees now planted on about 30 farms and that acreage will continue to grow during 2018 with new plantings,” said Mark Gaskell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor who works with coffee growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. “Only a relatively small amount of the planted acreage is now producing, but the market interest and demand continue to outpace anticipated new production for the foreseeable future.”

Learning About Coffee in California

Coffee Summit participants will learn about new opportunities for this high-value crop from industry professionals. Summit topics will include development of estate coffee, coffee production, pests and diseases, processing methods and marketing.

Coffee interplanted with avocados, Santa Barbara County.,

Coffee is planted from Morro Bay to San Diego, with production concentrated in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Diego counties, according to Gaskell.

Valerie Mellano, who serves as Chair of the Plant Sciences Department at Cal Poly, noted that:

“We are working collaboratively with UC Cooperative Extension to determine the best coffee varieties for our area. Much of the California coffee is grown along the more coastal areas but we are really interested in determining what will do well in the more inland areas where it is a little hotter in the summer and a little colder in the winter.”

“We are starting the second year of our trial and will be able to see how certain varieties hold up in the colder weather this winter, but we will not have any coffee yield data for a couple more years”.

At the Summit, California coffee industry leaders from Santa Barbara and San Diego counties and agriculture professionals with University of California Cooperative Extension, University of Hawaii and U.S. Department of Agriculture will give presentations and answer questions. Participants will have an opportunity to learn more about the research, too.


Sharing Experiences and Expertise

Good Land Organics grower Jay Ruskey, who has been growing coffee in Santa Barbara County since 2002, and Gaskell will discuss growing coffee in California.

Based on their coffee variety research trials, UC Cooperative Extension advisors Ramiro Lobo and Gary Bender, both based in San Diego County, and Duncan McKee of Cal Poly Pomona will discuss which varieties are suitable for production in California.

Andy Mullins of Frinj Coffee, a cooperative of 24 farms including Good Land Organics, will discuss business and marketing opportunities for new California coffee growers.

Jay Ruskey and Mark Gaskell.

Event Details

The Inaugural Coffee Summit, hosted by the Huntley College of Agriculture, is slated for January 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the AgriScapes Conference Center at Cal Poly Pomona. Registration is $75 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and coffee tasting. Click here for more information and registration.


Editor’s Note: UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers and educators draw on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. Learn more here. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook

Related reading: Just learning about coffee opportunities in California? This New York Times piece has more information. Here’s another piece from CBS News. You can also learn more about the path coffee takes from farm to cup in this article about student research at UC Santa Cruz. Did you know that UC Davis has a Coffee Center? Read about it here. Coffee has health benefits…and Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Rob Shmerling shares the scoop