Getting the barista stink eye for putting cream and Splenda in his $27-a-pound hand-picked, fair-trade, organic, artisanally-crafted, locally-roasted pour-over can send a girl screaming back to Starbucks. While understandably horrifying to specialty coffee purists, sometimes the rest of us just want a good cup of coffee. With cream and Splenda.
The owners of Santa Rosa’s Bella Rosa Coffee Company agree. Feel free to drink their coffee however you want.
“We’re not coffee fascists,” said co-owner David Greenfield. Inside their compact warehouse/roastery near the county airport, Greenfield and partners Jon Bixler and Cynthia Buck brew sample cups of their Morning Star, French Roast, Roaster’s Reserve and decaffeinated blends. Served with a small carton of half-and-half. Despite the fact that its roasting both inside the warehouse and out on the warm fall afternoon, the coffee’s bright, clean flavor is refreshing and bold, even without cream. It lacks the bitter quality that some may call “character”, but the Bella Rosa crew simply call “burnt”.
Hawking their air-roasted beans around Sonoma County at farm markets and in local grocers, the trio are winning over coffee drinkers with their approachable, low-acid coffees. In the nine months since starting their roastery, they’ve picked up restaurant accounts including the Viola Pastry Boutique and Cafe, Stark Reality Group (Monti’s, Stark’s, both Willi’s), the Santa Rosa Junior College Culinary Cafe, Omelette Express, Jackson’s Bar & Oven and most recently, Three Squares Cafe.
“At restaurants, your first and last impressions are the coffee,” said Bixler. “I want people to put their two hands around a mug and say, ‘Ahhhhhhh, coffee’,” he adds. “Not, ‘That tastes like lemon grass and burdock root’.”
While Bixler and Buck handle customers, Greenfield is the company’s secret weapon. Part roaster and mostly mad-scientist (“I’m not that mad anymore,” he quips), the former machinist reigns over a hand-tooled a blinking, whirring set of contraptions hooked to switches, tubes, wires and a touch-screen pad. This is his coffee-making domain.
“Most roasting equipment used is based on 150-year-old machines. Coffee roasting is so full of luddites,” he adds with characteristic frankness. He frequently dives into complicated descriptions of his equipment which — in laymen’s terms — push heated air through the green coffee beans at a temperature lower than traditional roasters. It allows precise control over the darkness of the roast and the flavor, he explains.
“It’s like non-vintage Champagne. The blends can be different but the taste remains pretty much the same,” said Greenfield. He’s currently working on a new roasting technology called “Greenfield Model No. 63” that looks like a large blender hooked to an air-conditioning unit. It will roasts beans even faster and at an even lower temperature, helping to preserve flavor and achieve a dark roast with low-acidity.
Though admirers of many of the Bay Area and West Coast’s artisanal roasters including Flying Goat, Taylor Maid, SF’s Four Barrel, Ritual Roasters, Sightglass and Blue Bottle, the trio have set their own course.
“We just have no preconceived notions about anything,” said Bixler, who uses organic beans from Ethiopia, Mexico, Guatamala — whatever the partners think will make a good cup of coffee.
“It always comes down to what’s in the cup. We roast beans the way people like, them,” said Bixler, who’s 18-month-old son toddles by carrying a cardboard box for the finished coffee. “I guess what we can say is that we don’t have to convince people to like our coffee,” said Bixler.
Want to try some Bella Rosa coffee? You can taste a cup at the Saturday Redwood Empire Farmers Market at Santa Rosa’s Veteran’s Building or purchase their coffees at local grocers including Oliver’s, Community Market, Molsberry’s Market and online at bellarosacoffeecompany.com.
24 thoughts on “Bella Rosa Coffee Company”
I wish that I could remember when and where I first tried Bella Rosa. Alas, another thought lost.
I have not tasted another coffee to compare with BR. Regretfully it is not available in my area. Making a trip to Santa Rosa to buy some was not always possible. Now I will send for it when I am almost out.
Three packages = free shipping, great.
Keep up the good roasting.
Very nice coffees. I agree that Ecco was great, but it is no longer available. I tried Bella Rosa on a whim and was very impressed. Aromatic and flavorful with less “bite” than some others. Not always what you want but sometimes it is perfect. Delicious.
We love Bella Rosa Roasters and have a four-pack of their fine brew sent to our house in San Francisco every month. The delivery consists of two pounds of French Roast, my wife’s favorite (she likes a more robust cup), one Morning Star (my preference), a more nuanced iteration, and one Blue Label, which splits the difference. We’re not de-caf people, though we’ve sampled theirs and can attest to its delicious flavor. I met Mr. Greenfield, their resident roast master and came away amazed at the scope and depth of his practical insights and inventive designs in furtherance of his personal holy grail: the perfect cup of coffee.
Haters gotta hate. Bella Rosa is the only coffee I can drink black. Smooth and low acid. Delicious!
if you like dark roasted coffee that NEEDS cream AND sugar, bella rosa might be right for you.
These guys rock! One of the owners, who I sorta know but haven’t seen in many years, happened to hear that I was down on my luck and out of joe and the next thing I know I’m opening a care package of some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. Cowboy or Chemex, strong and black it is great stuff. In fact I was wondering why it’s so mellow and PH neutral, didn’t know about the unique roasting proces. Definitely be ordering some Morning Star pretty quick. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Bella Rosa is a small local biz, organic fair trade co-op grown by anarcho-syndicalist Mayans and all that happy jazz! PEACE everybody, choice is a good thing! ♠A♠
I think Bella Rosa is just about PERFECT and, consistently so! I’m a convert and I’m spreading the word to everyone I know. It’s balanced, good body, low acidity and good flavor! I can actually taste the beans and nuances of roasting methods without it being overpowered by a burnt aftertaste…..imagine that? We do all have a choice and yes, there are many wonderful coffee roasters out there but thankfully, we enjoy free enterprise and new roasters can actually make a name for themselves. Competition creates a healthy economy and it inspires me to see young entrepreneurs still entering the marketplace. Kudos to all those trying to bring a unique twist to our all too often homogenized society!
Hats off to Bella Rosa!
Bella Rosa is local and the best, a hard combo to beat if you live in Sonoma County.
To enter a very competitive field as, the new kid on the block, you have to have a better product, Bella Rosa Coffee clearly does this. Their coffee is carefully roasted and blended for the maximum taste from each bean.
It is easy to prove – just taste it.
Don’t get weird about coffee, save your effort and go get some Bella Rosa. End of story.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Bella Rosa! I’ve converted from Ecco and the hubster from Taylor Maid. While I was pregnant it was really hard to find a decaf that had flavor and wasn’t just water dressed in brown, but once I tried Bella Rosa I knew my searching was over – so delish!
I’d highly recommend purchasing a cup at Farmers Market – even if you don’t love the coffee quite as much as I do – the partners are super friendly and fun and you will definitely walk away wearing a smile.
Seems like alot of folks are taking this subject quite personally. Relax. It’s just coffee, and it’s just your opinion. There are lots of locally roasted coffees from which to choose. Me? I loves me some Bella Rosa. Smooth.
I love the coffee! I give it to all my clients.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company is the most respected, finest coffee roaster on the west coast if not the world.
Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup!
Thanks for the comments… there are a few different ways to produce coffees that are high in acids. The obvious way is to light roast. Another way is to scald the beans which create compound acids. We don’t care for either method.
We pour every Saturday at the Farmer’s Market by the Vet’s Building. I’ll be at Oliver’s Market on Stony Point this Wednesday, October 24th, from 10-2. Twould be my pleasure to personally pour a cup for you and wax all philosophic on coffee roasting.
We don’t profess to roast coffees for everyone. Most love them. Some don’t. That’s okay with us.
I’ve had their coffee a couple of times at the Farmers Market, not impressed at all.
As mentioned before, Ecco (now coming out of Potrero Hill) is very, very good.
I think its a coffee that really ISN’T for everyone, especially if you’re a big fan of of places like Ritual, etc. who have a very different profile. I’ve had trouble with coffee for years — the bitterness and acidity were just off-putting to me. This coffee really hit a chord when i first tried it. I’m glad you tried their stuff, though. And I’m gonna have to get some Intelligentsia/Ecco now.
Like fine wine, its been a lot of fun learning more about coffee and tasting the different profiles. I’m still really in awe of the amazing culture of coffee we have in the Bay Area.
So true, Heather… our coffee isn’t for everyone. Flying Goat isn’t for everyone. Intelligencia isn’t for everyone. Taylor Maid isn’t for everyone… thank goodness we have choices. How fortunate we all are to live where we do.
Good luck to the new enterprise.
However, the bay area’s best coffee roasting is still done by Andrew Barnett and Ecco Caffe.
“Though admirers of many of the Bay Area and West Coast’s artisanal roasters including Flying Goat, Taylor Maid, SF’s Four Barrel, Ritual Roasters, Sightglass and Blue Bottle, the trio have set their own course.”
Another BiteClub fail! There would be no Flying Goat without Andy but leave it up to ole Bitey herself to leave out the cream of the crop.
WHich would makes sense if Ecco Caffe even existed anymore. It’s part of Intelligentsia, which is based in Chicago. Yes, hats are of course off to Ecco, but its morphed a lot. http://www.eccocaffe.com/store/index.php
Intelligentsia still sells Ecco Caffe as Ecco Caffe. Intelligentsia saw that Ecco brand and Andy needed to be absorbed but also left to flourish. There is an Ecco opening up in SF Potrero Hill.
But thank you for the hats off. Used to be a few cafes around that sold Ecco, the Holy Roast place, Cafe Martin at Roxy, but they are both gone. What I want to know is some credentials on these roasters your writing about. I want to know backgrounds before I’d spend my hard earnds on their beans.
Any more input?
David’s been in the biz about 30 years. He’s worked for Sightglass and others. The dude BUILDS roasters. I mean, what more cred do you need?
Holy roast is still around but they don’t serve Ecco. Which is a bummer. I told the Bella Rosa folks to go talk to them. Mostly since HR is my go-to.
Love their coffee. I’ve been enjoying it for the past few months. I’ve even converted some family and friends into fans.
Great ! Finally someone who understands the fundamentals of coffee roasting!
Bean burning is not roasting !!!!!!!
That has to be a misquote because if he really meant acidity= burnt, then this guy just need to close shop and yield to Costco Now!