Roasting in Petaluma

In addition to poultry, dairy and beer, Petaluma is adding coffee to its growing menu of locally produced specialty foods.

Eco-Delight Coffee is bringing its corporate headquarters and roasting facility to a southeast Petaluma business park, moving from its Suisun City offices.

The 3-year-old coffee import and distribution company will join Petaluma Coffee & Tea Company, a small roastery in the city's Foundry Wharf area, and Mountanos Family Coffee & Tea, which is moving its corporate headquarters from San Francisco to Petaluma.

Eco-Delight co-founders Guillermo Moran and Rodolfo Bendig, both natives of Central America, were attracted to Petaluma's burgeoning reputation as a niche food industry hub. Moran said he is hoping to "find synergy" with food purveyors in Petaluma and throughout the county.

"We chose California because we believe Californians are great lovers of high-quality food products, especially Northern Californians," Moran said. "If something does well in California it goes all over the country."

Eco-Delight has outgrown its 1,300-square-foot Solano County site, so Moran began looking for another logistically well-situated site with more room.

Moran's business consultant, Valerie Navarro of Living Elements, worked with Petaluma Economic Development Manager Ingrid Alverde, who courts potential businesses to move in hopes of increasing local economic activity.

By June, the comforting smell of coffee may soon be wafting through the Lakeville Business Park on Corporate Circle, where Eco-Delight has leased 8,500 square feet of office space several doors down from Amy's Kitchen offices. The company will have seven employees to start, possibly more later, Moran said.

The company's philosophy is "from our trees to your cup, always freshly roasted," Moran said. In that spirit, the company controls the entire production chain of its beans, from family-owned coffee farms in Central America to the milling and roasting machinery owned by Bendig.

That gives it several advantages, he said. Eco-Delight knows where its beans come from and how they are grown; it provides stability to the farms, which in turn protect migratory bird habitats and other fauna on the land; it sustains farm workers' jobs in Central America, providing them with a stable lifestyle in their home countries; and it cuts out middlemen who erode profits.

Eco-Delight began three years ago roasting about 2,200 pounds of coffee a year, Moran said. Today, the company roasts 100 times that, more than 200,000 pounds a year.

Coffee is the second-most traded commodity in the world — behind crude oil — and its popularity continues to rise in the United States, where Americans import and consume more coffee than any other country.

In the past year, American coffee consumption jumped 5 percent, according to the annual National Coffee Association market study. A full 83 percent of the U.S. adult population now drinks coffee.

Consumption of gourmet coffee beverages grew by 3 percent, the study found, with 34 percent of the population partaking each day. Gourmet coffee beverages consist of espresso-based beverages and regular coffee made with gourmet coffee beans.

As Eco-Delight enters the mostly wholesale market in Sonoma County, other specialty coffee suppliers in the North Coast say the competition is welcome.

There are about 70 roasters from San Jose to Fort Bragg, from small ones that roast 50 pounds a month to ones that roast 100 times that, said Rob Daly, president of Taylor Maid Farms in Sebastopol. The company, which specializes in organic and sustainable growing practices, just celebrated 20 years in the business.

"There's a recent boom of roasters in the Bay Area," Daly said. "The roasting business has become as common today as all the coffee carts that popped up in the 1990s."

He said "there is huge value" in being able to pick up the phone and talk to a coffee colleague about milling techniques or industry logistics.

Joan Katzeff, who co-founded Thanksgiving Coffee Company in Fort Bragg in 1972 with her husband, Paul, said the popularity of specialty coffees has increased awareness of the "miserable conditions" of coffee farmers in poor countries often decimated by environmental degradation.

"We are becoming aware of the fact that there's more to coffee than just a good cup," she said. "With the specialty coffee industry gaining in popularity, I think there's a much greater awareness to that in general now."

Another company, like Eco-Delight, that prioritizes workers' lives is important, she said.

When Petaluma Coffee & Tea Company opened in 1989, there was one other roaster in town, which sold only wholesale, said founder Sheila Bride.

"When I think back 25 years ago, we ... were probably the first artisan-type business in town," she said. "It's an interesting trend to watch. The more kinds of businesses we have, the better for the economy and the more people who come to see Petaluma."