This interview was conducted via email so it varies a bit from the regular format of this series.
We all want to bring something new to the world of coffee while having fun with each other.
Head roaster Sharky [Senesac] has been “obsessed with coffee” since the company’s founding in 2006.
What did the founders do previous to starting the company? Why did they leave those lines of work?
De La Paz founder Jason Benford was bitten with the coffee bug while doing his graduate study in agro-ecology at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
[In 2012,] when he sold his share to Four Barrel Coffee friends Jeremy [Tooker], Jodi [Geren], and Tal [Mor], Jason returned to agro-ecology. Sharky remains the head roaster.
How long has De La Paz been in business?
DLP was founded in 2006 [by Jason Benford and his wife Maria Paz].
From where/how do you source your beans?
We team up with our sister roastery, Four Barrel Coffee, to directly source our coffee from Latin America, East Africa and the Pacific Islands.
De La Paz Coffee is a group of friends in San Francisco, California, who believe that great coffee shouldn’t be a mystery. After all, there’s no big secret to what we do: We pay farmers and millers around the world honest prices for the best coffees we can find. Back home in San Francisco, we hand-roast these coffees using our vintage German roaster.
Simple, right? De La Paz isn’t the first coffee roaster in the world to focus on transparent and seasonal blends. But we aim to be the best. We’ll tell you exactly what’s in every blend, right on the back of the bag.
Why another coffee roaster in San Francisco?
Hey, we’ve been here since 2006! We think we’re the best at roasting truly transparent, seasonal blends over a diverse range of roast profiles. Don’t you agree?
Come visit our cooperative venture with Wise Sons Deli in the Contemporary Jewish Museum. We’re also featured at a few great local restaurants and cafes. New York’s famous Murray’s Cheese shop just started offering our bags there as well.
Do you have plans to move beyond wholesale at some point (for example to open a coffee shop or retail outlet)?
We’ll see what happens.
What would surprise most people about the coffee roasting process?
The only thing you can do with coffee is mess it up. The coffees we buy are precious and beautiful. We just try to maintain that incredible beauty.
What drew you to food?
It’s like poetry that you can eat.
It’s like photography that you can drink.
Where does your inspiration come from?
All the work that it takes to get this beautiful coffee to us is mind-blowing, from farmers and millers on down the line. We feel like we have a pretty big responsibility.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten along the way in building your business? What advice would you have for others?
You can be smart without being a smart-ass. Ditch the attitude, and you’ll get the respect you deserve.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far?
We just want to do a good job. Every roast, every day, is a challenge—seriously.
What is the best thing about what you’re doing for a living?
Most of us at De La Paz are pretty thoughtful types, people inclined to get stuck in our own heads. Working with this uniquely sensory thing, coffee, keeps us connected to the real world… and sane.
The Sunday Morning Set. It’s pretty much ideal—coffee and everything you need to make it perfect, except water.
What other local food artisans do you admire? Why?
If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?
Whatever Beyonce is having.
Favorite Bay Area food/resto/chef?
Mom, of course.
De La Paz
De La Paz Coffee
Photos courtesy of De La Paz Coffee.