Meet the Barista: Eight Questions with MEGAN HERRERA

This is an ongoing series in which you will get to know a little bit more about the fine young men and women who prepare your coffee at Kean Coffee through a series of random interview questions. Megan Herrera has been a valuable part of our Kean Tustin team for over two years. Megan’s love for basketball helps her shine as a barista as she applies her multi-tasking, fast-paced, high energy maneuvers on the court to our fast-paced coffeehouse environment. At Kean Coffee just as on the court, Megan is small but mighty. That’s why we love Megan! 

Megan Herrera of Kean Tustin

KC:  What do you like best about being a barista?

MH: Making the perfect drink for the customers and making them happy, knowing I’m doing my best.  

KC:  What is your favorite coffee drink?

MH: Caffe Napoli

KC:  What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday (when you have the day off)?

MH: Play video games, play basketball.

KC: What was your favorite toy as a child?

MH: My Woody doll from Toy Story.

KC:  What is a fun fact that most people do not know about you?

MH: I want to become a vampire.

KC: What were your favorite and least favorite Halloween costumes ever?

MH: Favorite: Max from “Where the Wild Things Are”. Least favorite: I was a baby.

KC: Name one of your personal skills or traits that you are most proud of.

MH: My humor. I’m the funniest person around. Really.

KC:  Who was your idol when you were a kid, and why?

MH: Kobe Bryant because I wanted to be as good as him at basketball.

KC: Thanks Megan!


Recognize this guy? Meet Dwayne Carroll!

At Kean Coffee we love our regulars – our guests who come in so frequently and regularly, sometimes spanning many years, that we learn their names and they learn ours, often becoming good friends with our staff members. We value their input and enjoy learning more about them and hearing their stories. Meet Dwayne Carroll, a beloved regular at Kean Newport and Tustin! 

Dwayne chillaxin’ at Newport with the pooch

My first cup of Martin’s coffee was when the Diedrich Coffee opened at Marguerite Pkwy and Crown Valley in Mission Viejo. I was there on opening day. I remember the first manager – a very nice lady, however I can’t remember her name. This shop was always a meeting place for the neighborhood, and always full of young people from Saddleback college being so nearby, always a happening place.

When I heard that Martin would be opening Kean Coffee, I felt it was a blessing even if it meant driving all the way to Newport Beach. Then when the people of Tustin where able to talk Martin into taking over the original Diedrich location on Newport Ave. and he opened a second Kean Coffee there, it was even closer for me, as I live in Mission Viejo. I was thrilled.

I go to Kean Coffee about five times a week, either location. Both are excellent for coffee, and a great staff that promote the quality product. As for me black coffee is my favorite. The best thing about Kean is the coffee, and having met so great people. Our dog is always treated well, with water bowls and tie down rings so you can go in and place an order. The other great experience was meeting my very best friend at Diedrich Coffee when he was going to Saddleback College as a student. Then when he graduated from there he went to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo for two years. Then on to UCI in Irvine to get his Masters. Now he works for Oracle, a success story. When he is in town we now take a drive to Kean Coffee, like old times.

Dwayne Carroll – Mission Viejo, California

Are you a Kean Coffee regular? If you would like to tell us your story and be featured in a future blog post, please let us know by emailing! 

Meet the Barista: Eight Questions with MANUEL RODRIGUEZ

Manny Rodriguez- out standing in his field

This is an ongoing series in which you will get to know a little bit more about the fine young men and women who prepare your coffee at Kean Coffee through a set of random interview questions. Manuel “Manny” Rodriguez has been with Kean Coffee for two years, as a barista in our Newport coffeehouse. In addition to being an awesome barista, Manny is a high achieving college student who aspires to become a teacher. Whatever he is doing, Manny works hard and always strives for excellence, while at the same time keeping a great attitude. That’s why we love Manny!

KC:  What do you like best about being a barista?

MR: The best thing about being a Kean barista is crafting every single drink from scratch using world class ingredients to make drinks of great quality and taste our customers can experience.

KC:  What is your favorite coffee drink?

MR: Turkish latte is my favorite drink with no doubt. I love the taste of espresso, cane syrup and cardamom in the same drink.

KC:  What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday (when you have the day off)?

MR: It has been a while since I had a Saturday off. However, on a typical Saturday afternoon I go to the gym, read my Bible, and watch sports among other things.

KC:  If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go?

MR: If I could travel to any place in the world I would go Egypt.  Egypt’s history of pharaohs and archeology have always fascinated me.

KC:  What is a fun fact that most people do not know about you?

MR: Most people do not know I have a great sense of humor.

KC:  Name one of your personal traits or skills that you are most proud of.

MR: I am a good listener.

KC:  Who was your idol when you were a kid, and why?

MR: My idol has always been my grandmother. She raised me and taught me values such as respect, kindness and selflessness just to mention a few.

KC:  If you had to enter a cooking contest and prepare your best entrée or dessert to impress the judges, what would you make?

MR: To impress the judges I would make chocolate-covered marshmallows topped with shredded coconut.

KC: Thanks Manny!

Latte art by Manny of Kean Coffee

Meet the Barista: Eight Questions with RAMONE VALERIO

This is an ongoing series in which you will get to know a little bit more about the fine young men and women who prepare your coffee at Kean Coffee through a series of random interview questions. Ramone Valerio has been a barista at Kean Coffee Tustin for close to two years. Aside from being an awesome barista, Ramone is also a talented musician, and an extremely creative and all around great guy. When he isn’t making amazing coffee drinks for our guests, Ramone can also be found playing music with his fellow musicians in the coffeehouse. A true Renaissance man. That’s why we love Ramone!

Ramone Valerio

KC:  What is your favorite coffee drink?

RV: Caffe Napoli or a “Napiato” (macchiato with a little white chocolate and hazelnut).

KC: What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday, (assuming you have the day off)?

RV: Playing shows/concerts, jamming with the band (I, of Helix).

KC:  If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go?

RV: England/U.K., and Canada

KC:  What is a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

RV: I like to draw and also enjoy video editing.

KC:  Who was your favorite band/musician in high school?

RV: Between the Buried and Me

KC:  What were your most favorite and least favorite Halloween costumes ever?

RV: Favorite was when I dressed as Luigi from Mario Brothers. Least favorite, John Travolta from Pulp Fiction.

KC: Which of your personal traits or skills are you most proud of?

RV: Playing bass for almost 10 years, writing music, making CD’s/albums.

KC:   Who was your idol when you were a kid, and why?

RV: Jackie Chan, because I wanted to Kung fu around the world.

KC: Thanks Ramone!

Ramone’s famous macchiato art tree

Meet the Barista: Eight Questions with BYRON PIERCE

This is the first in an ongoing series of blog entries in which you will get to know the fine young men and women who prepare your coffee at Kean Coffee through a set of random interview questions. We first shine the spotlight on Byron Pierce, a barista and shift manager who works at both our Newport Beach and Tustin coffeehouses. Byron has also recently begun acting as a barista trainer for Kean Coffee wholesale accounts, to rave reviews.  Byron is extremely dedicated and passionate about what he does. Don’t let this tough guy in the photo fool you, Byron is a sweetheart. That’s why we love him.  

Byron Pierce – barista, trainer and shift manager extraordinaire

KC:  What do you like best about being a barista?

BP: What I like best about being a barista is simply working with fine espresso, steaming perfect milk to perform fine latte art, and just making our customers smile everyday while getting quality coffee on every visit to our coffeehouse.

KC: What is your favorite coffee drink?

BP: A double Italian cappuccino. 

KC: What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday, (when you have the day off)?

 BP: Well… first I cant stay away from our coffeehouse, I go into Kean Coffee every morning to have my coffee to start my day off well. then what I usually do is spend time with family, or simply go for a motorcycle ride up in the canyon areas, to ride and enjoy the beautiful view.

KC: If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go?

BP: I would love to travel to two places – one being my ancestors country which would be Poland, and I  would also love to travel to Brazil.

KC: What was your favorite toy as a child?

BP: Remote control airplanes!! they were the best.

KC: What is a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

BP: That I’m really energized to get up one day and randomly do anything that I normally wouldn’t do as a hobby. Like rock climbing in Utah. 

KC: Who was your favorite band/musician in high school?

BP: Mike Ness from Social Distortion. 

KC: Which of your personal traits or skills are you most proud of?

BP: Making fine coffee beverages, performing Latte Art, riding sport motorcycles, and speaking out to people with confidence.

KC: Thanks Byron!

One of Byron’s latte art creations

2012 Trips to Origin: Mike’s adventures in Costa Rica – a first person account

Mike Richardson has been with Kean Coffee since our doors first opened in late 2005, first as a barista, then becoming a manager and  barista trainer. Mike is passionate about coffee and about what he does, and has participated in several barista competitions- three times competing in the Western Regional Barista Competition and the Ultimate Barista Competition, and once judging the WRBC. Below is his fascinating account of the trip to Costa Rica he went on this past April along with our roaster Ted Vautrinot, who was invited to judge for Costa Rica Cup of Excellence. Enjoy!

Everyone has been asking me what I did in Costa Rica. Where do I begin?

Well the first full day was amazing. I was introduced to the Cup Of Excellence (COE) program where they take the top 38 coffees from all over Costa Rica and judge them on a scale of 1-100. However, only coffees rating above 84 get into this program. At the end, most of the coffees scored over 87 points and the best coffee was scored just over 93. Amazing. Image

So there was a judges’ calibration on Monday where they break down all the tastes into shot glasses and you get a basic feel for Mallic acid, citric acid, salt, sweet and everything in between. It was really cool to see how this is done.

Our roaster Ted Vautrinot at Kean was one of the 24 judges for the COE and they stayed in the hotel and judged all 38 coffees for 3 days in a row. I on the other hand was able to travel around Costa Rica: sweet.

So Tuesday I got together with Francisco Mena from Coffees Exclusive and checked out their lab where they test, package, and export the best Costa Rican coffees to the rest of the world!!! We cupped (tasted) the top 24 coffees from all over the country’s regions. There were some great coffees from central Valley and some wonderful fruity coffees from Tarrazu. Later Tuesday I joined the judges from the COE program at a new microfarm where they break down all the coffees into microlots to insure complete traceability. Much like wine, when we track exactly which coffee from a specific location on a particular farm tastes a certain way, then we can create much more scientific data for producing better quality. This was really eye opening for me and many other of the coffee buyers, and the coffee farmers.ImageImage

On this evening, all the big coffee farmers also joined us at the “Jardin de Aromas” and we had a nice little get together. Good food, some music, and some amazing coffee. It was hard to communicate with many of the farmers since not many of them spoke English, but I was able to talk to many of them about where I work and what coffees our customers love the most. Here I was also able to ask about how the different processing methods of the coffee change the flavor profile. Many of the farmers have had their farms for decades if not generations, but in the last few years are now starting to experiment with honey process, micro farming and micro milling.

More on that later.

Wednesday was a day I was not expecting. I traveled up to the mountains of Tarrazu with Francisco Mena, Yoshi a gentleman from Japan, and Sasha a guy from Germany. Up here in the mountains is where the real lifestyle of coffee is shown. We went and checked out a farm by the family of Juan Chutes where they are starting to micro mill their own coffee. Before micro mills there were only a few dozen big mills where the coffees would be pooled from all over and processed, then sold together. Now with micro mills the farmers can seperate their best crops and sell them separately from their lesser high quality coffees. Most of the coffees from these farms are very good, but there are some, like peaberries or other specific types of plants (varietals), that can taste considerably better. Since the farmers know their better quality plants and coffees, more care can be taken to ensure these higher quality coffees get put aside and sold for a higher price.

On this beautiful Wednesday afternoon, we also stopped by the La Lia brothers farm. Each one of these coffee plantations are very similar, but each one has a different specialty. This family is working on cross-breeding a varietal plant from Kenya! In this effort we hope to see some amazing new characteristics and balanced flavors that before could only be created with a blend of coffees. Now instead of a blend at the coffeehouse, the flavors can be created in the plant itself. Wow, that blew my mind. I never would have thought this much care and experimentation had been put into every coffee that I had been drinking.

Wednesday night Yoshi and I were dropped off in the middle of a small town at a nice little hotel and told we were going to be taken out to dinner by Oscar from the La Lia farm. Francisco and Sasha headed back 65 miles to San Jose where all the other COE judges were staying. I was out in the middle of nowhere with a guy from Japan who spoke less English than he did Spanish; so we conversed in broken Spanish the whole time. Oscar picked us up in his beat up Mazda SUV and we had a nice night of talking about coffee, family and hobbies. Sadly, the restaurant owner heard we were into coffee and tried to push some terrible coffee on us. Keep in mind, Costa Rica exports most of their best coffee; not to mention people throughout the world haven’t been introduced to specialty coffee. We had a nice little laugh about this, but in all seriousness we know that it is our duty to forward coffee awareness across the planet. That discussion really made me proud of what I am doing in the coffee industry.

Thursday was another amazing day out in Tarrazu. Yoshi and I got picked up by a young man named Pablo, he and his father work for the Don Mayo farm. We spent the first half day at their farm where I got to see some of the mills actually running! The thousands of pounds of coffee being processed is a breathtaking sight. The way the machine separates the great from the good from the bad (defects) just by weight and density was cool to see. Here we also did another cupping in their tiny little office/lab. Most of the morning two mini roasters were running, so Yoshi and I could sample their best six crops! Later Pablo’s wife made us a delicious home cooked fish with a spicy ceviche and some delicious sweet bean concoction.  And that was just lunch. After that Pablo took us up to a few more farms. It was cool to see that the farmers get along so well, where I thought it would be more of a competition. We went up to the top of the mountain where there is a road built so you can see for miles on both sides. Santa Clara farms on the right and Santa Carlos on the left. Just coffee as far as the eye can see. We headed over to Los Angelos farm. This is the family who won first place in the 2011 Cup of Excellence of Costa Rica. As humble as they were, they didn’t hesitate to show the awards they received. Here we also talked more of the risks of honey processed coffee. These processes include a Black Honey where the coffee beans are fermented in the whole coffee cherry; Red Honey where the outer skin of the cherry is peeled in a machine; and Yellow Honey is fermented in the husk of the cherry. Each one of these processes are carefully selected for different coffees that are grown  at a different altitude, in a different soil content, or even from how much sunlight it has seen throughout the year. Choosing the right coffee for the right process can make or break the flavor profile of the coffee. Hence the risk is high, but the output is groundbreaking! Farmers here in Costa Rica have only started this process in the last few years, most coffees of this region are only wet processed. The whole Los Angelos family was here to hang out and celebrate our arrival with a delicious alcoholic coffee beverage. Almost like a white Russian but with a very sweet rum-like alcohol, coffee and milk. Mmmmm, I’m gonna have to recreate that beverage at home! Image

We ended the day by stopping by the Candelilla farm whose coffee we (at Kean) have carried before.  Here the farmer told us how many crazy experimental demands from buyers on how to grow his coffee. Sometimes the farmers choose what they are going to do and sometimes the farmers are told what to do, interesting. It all boils down to the market I guess.

After the long day we joined Pablo’s father and Pablo’s farmer friend for drinks at a nice restaurant.

Friday I was supposed to be back to San Jose at 8am to participate in the top ten COE cupping. Unfortunately with some confusion we didn’t get in town ’till 10, however I got to hear the cupping notes of the top ten. Here I found out that Ted is truly one of the best cuppers in the program. Since Ted has a refined palate he can find specific distinctions between exotic flavors. Most judges would say orange, lemon, or lime, but others with a more refined palate would say tangerine, Meyer lemon, or key lime, and each judge will have his own indigenous flavors to refer to.

Friday night the awards ceremony was held at a place called Cicafe where they specialize in different scientific experimentations of coffee. All the producers were dressed up and many of the judges dressed up too. I wore my blazer, bow tie and put my mustache up; got to please the press! The awards started with the bottom (27th place) and worked its way up. So as we worked our way up to the top ten, the farmers were getting more and more excited. I didn’t recognize the number one winner, but I was happy to see the La Lia brothers won second, the Los Angelos family got fourth and the Don Mayo family won fifth. After spending so much time with these families I got emotional along with them. After the awards we ate and drank and had a wonderful time. I would have liked to take more pictures but everyone else was taking pictures too! Image

Later that night I went and partied with all the judges. Kate and her coworker John from Parisi in Missouri, a German roaster named Eyston, Jeff Babcock from Zoka and his friend Jared from another coffee shop in Seattle as well, Yoska from Switzerland, several judges from Hong kong and some from Japan. A true melting pot hanging out in Costa Rica for some drinks, dancing, and coffee love!

Saturday we shuttled downtown to the Don Mayo family opening up their own coffee house! These are the first farmers to open their own store. These coffee growers complete the cycle by becoming roasters, baristas and coffeehouse owners! ImageAn awesome end to a beautiful trip. Here everyone enjoyed the best crops of last year and some amazing new peaberries from this year. It seemed everyone who helped me make this trip amazing were there to thank and wish a warm goodbye to.

Kean Coffee Roasts and Judges Hawaii’s Top Coffee Competition for 2012

Martin picking coffee at Rusty’s Ka’u Farm, Big Island, Hawaii

Due to our reputation as exacting, skilled artisan coffee roasters, Kean Coffee was chosen by the Hawaiian Coffee Association to roast this year’s finalists for the statewide competition of Hawaii’s Best Coffees. Hawaii grows the only coffee produced in the USA. Coffee grows on all the five major islands in the state. Each year they hold a statewide competition to judge the best coffees of the year. This year over 150 coffees were submitted for the competition. They were all judged by an internal Hawaiian judging panel to determine the top 45 finalists. The last round of judging that determines the best of the best is held here in California at the headquarters of the Specialty Coffee Association of American in Long Beach (SCAA).

Kean Coffee was honored to be asked to roast the coffee for this very important competition. This is a huge honor, and a huge responsibility. Imagine the scope of the responsibility that was placed in our hands with this: these coffees are the fruit of years of toil by the farmers who produced them. It is their livelihoods and reputation that are at stake here. We humbly respect that and are confident that have done them justice.

The ultimate responsibility of roasting these coffees was taken on by our head roaster, Ted Vautrinot. Ted apprenticed under our Master Roaster, Martin Diedrich, who originally learned the craft in his teens back in the 1970’s under the tutelage of his father, Carl Diedrich, and has become known as a respected top coffee roasting expert worldwide. Martin’s brother Steve builds the world renowned Diedrich Coffee roasting machines with which Kean Coffee roasts. So a long heritage of coffee roasting expertise went into the roasting of these precious coffees.

Jerry and Ted earlier this year cupping for Rainforest Alliance competition at SCAA headquarters

And as if roasting the coffees wasn’t enough of an honor, two of Kean Coffee’s roasters, Ted Vautrinot and Jerry Folwell, are also serving on the committee of judges for this competition. Many of you have recently read about our head roaster Ted and his trips to Panama and Costa Rica to judge those countries best coffee of the year competitions. Jerry Folwell may be less known to you, but Jerry has worked with Martin as a roaster for nearly 19 years now, since the early years of Diedrich Coffee. He brings many years of passion and experience to the table as both a veteran roaster and coffee cupper.

The Hawaiian Coffee Competition was held May 22 and 23, 2012. The judging protocol is the same rigorous standard as in the “Cup of Excellence” and other international coffee competitions. It is always double blind and with very demanding precision.

The last two years, Lorie Obra’s farm, Rusty’s in Ka’u on the Big Island of Hawaii has won first place in this competition. This is the popular Hawaiian coffee we have been carrying at Kean Coffee for the last several years, and the farm Martin recently visited on his trip to Hawaii. We will see who comes out on top this year.

Kean Coffee is proud of our capable team and honored to participate in these prestigious coffee events.