September 20, 2016 – Amelia Loftus has worn many hats: baker, farmer, personal shopper, brewer, jam-maker. Now, having run Seven Bridges Brewing Supply for 15 years, written a book, and started a farm, Loftus has turned to coffee roasting as her next adventure.
“I think it’s somehow in my blood and I don’t really know what else to do,” says Loftus. “After I left Seven Bridges, I spent a few months looking for a regular job and it was just a nightmare. I have a lot of bookkeeping skills so I was applying for a bookkeeping job and having to dress up, sit in a stodgy job and I just can’t see myself doing that.”
She bought a small two-pound roaster in 2012 and has since been selling her beans at local farmers’ markets and through her subscription club, but now she is ready to scale up.
Looking around the empty warehouse at 125 Hangar Way, the future home of Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasters, it can be hard to picture its future as a bustling cafe and commercial roastery, but Loftus doesn’t lack imagination. “You kind of get an instinct for things and some people kind of scoff at that idea, but I’ve learned to trust it,” says Loftus. “When I first saw this space, I was like, this is perfect! It’s gonna be a big bite to chew at first, but if we can get the doors open, it’s gonna work.”
Throughout Loftus’s many projects and careers, a common theme has been her dedication to DIY, sustainable food. The roastery will be no different.
“I don’t see a lot of the Verves of the world doing a lot of organic,” says Loftus. “The only way organic is gonna get to an even higher quality level than it already is is if there’s more people supporting and growing it.”
In addition to serving exclusively organic beans, Loftus hopes to use her new space to educate her customers. Loftus explains, “One of the things I really want to bring to this is a reconnection in the public between coffee and where it comes from because coffee takes an incredible amount of farm labor to produce—two and a half hours of farm labor per pound of coffee average because every cherry is picked by hand, processed by hand, and in today’s modern world of Starbucks and frappuccinos, the coffee flavor is just drowned out by sugar and artificial flavors. Here it’s more about trying to do the work that the farmers’ have done justice by roasting it right and brewing it right.”
To accomplish this, Loftus is planning on hosting tastings, classes, and possibly a co-op where customers can rent the facilities to roast their own beans once the roastery opens in October.
Though Watsonville might seem like an unlikely location for an artisan coffee roaster, it’s precisely for this reason that it’s the perfect place for Hidden Fortress.
“The fact is there’s nowhere for people who work around here to go to. We will definitely work on figuring out what they like and catering to that as long as it doesn’t compromise our values. I’m dead set against having things in plastic bottles, things like that. But there’s a lot of ways around that. If they want the coke in the glass bottle, we can do that,” Loftus laughs.
“I’m sure we’ll have some of those problems like, ‘What you don’t have that artificial vanilla flavor I like from Starbucks!’” She gets some of that at the markets, but usually responds, “We don’t have that, but try this it’s all natural, it’s organic, tastes just as good, and it doesn’t have chemicals in it.”
Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasters hosts its launch party on Saturday, October 1st from 5 to 9pm in its new space at 125 Hangar Way, Suite 270, in Watsonville. For tickets click here…