Conley was Petaluma’s early coffee connoisseur

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Petaluma may have simple culinary roots, but it also has a history of being an unintentional leader in foodie fads. We were eating farm-to-table before it was a marketing buzzword. Lagunitas started brewing its craft beers back when Budweiser was still king. The same can be said for coffee.

In the 1930s, coffee was mostly treated as a basic commodity — beans did not carry the name of their origin country, or boast of being “single origin.” A bean was a bean. It wasn’t until the 1960s that more artisanal, expertly roasted and freshly ground coffee grew in popularity. Except in Petaluma, where at least one local merchant was, once again, well ahead of national food trends.

Promising the “best coffee fresh ground while you wait,” Conley’s Tea & Coffee opened on Western Avenue in 1932. R.M. Conley launched the business in the Continental Hotel, after operating Conley’s Tea Coffee and Crockery Store on Kentucky Street for more than a decade. Both shops specialized in coffee and freshly imported teas, along with unusual spices and “Conley’s pure cream of tartar — use it once, and you will use no other.” Coffee was Conley’s obsession, and he spent years perfecting his own “Conley Blend,” which was sold for 35-cents a pound.

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