Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

About Sweet Maria's Coffee: Our Little Shop

Yes, Sweet Maria's Coffee does actually exist outside the virtual Internet playground.

Tom started the business from our basement in Fall 1997 in Columbus, Ohio. SM moved to a small shop still in Columbus, and in 2002 we made the big move to California. We landed first in glamorous Emeryville (It used to be called "the armpit of Northern California," back in the day when Emeryville had the largest scrap heap in the state. Now, in the same spot, there is a giant Ikea. Times change.)

In 2005 we moved into our own sparkly warehouse located in hip, exciting West Oakland (joking, it is more armpit-like than Emeryville and has remained so). We are located 5 minutes from the port of Oakland which is the Specialty Coffee port in the United States. The majority of top-grade coffees come through this port - and you know it, New Jersey! So the advantage of being here, cupping with coffee brokers in the area, picking up coffee from their massive warehouses has made up for the high cost of living, the traffic, and the high percentage of annoying Volvo and Range Rover drivers in the area.

Because we never throw anything away (and have the thrift-store t-shirt archives to prove it!) here are links to the previous SM pages:

Our Little Shop in Columbus

Sweet Maria's on 64th St in Emeryville

The Move to West Oakland

and a more about the one and only season of Cafe Fuerte FC!

Our logo made out of unroasted coffee beans (regular and decaf), glued in place by Tom himself years ago. It hangs on the wall in the office.

Tom's coffee plant in the shop
Columbus, O. circa 1999

And here is the gate of our place on 21st Street in Oakland. You might be able to recognize the hand writing (it's Tom's)!

Some photos from the past:
Our old shop in Columbus was beyond microscopic.

We had room for about Tom and I, and about 3 employees. Customers could sense that there was no room for them and quickly left. We heated it minimally in the winter, and had blaring rock music for a soundtrack, all of which made customers flee...

Here's what it looked like inside at our place on 64th Street in Emeryville. It was huge when we moved in - but we quickly out-grew it. We had moved in in a hurry, so we never quite got stuff into the right places, or dealt with the giant machine-shop crane that hung over our heads.

And here is our new warehouse on 21st Street in Oakland - except this is an old picture and we have more coffee! A lot more. Like 3x as much. So after five years it feels crammed for space again. I am not sure I have another move in me.....


One of the best things since leaving the shop in Ohio and moving into a warehouse has been forklifts! Though I still remember a truck pulling up out front and the guys unloading bags from the truck by hand (backs mostly). We actually have a propane forlklift to go out and in, and an electric one for inside (less fume-y). Tom missed the old Deidrich roaster he left in Ohio, so he bought us a Probat , not that we do much production roasting.

This is Tom, full name Thompson "I'm older and grumpier than you think" Owen, the guy who writes most of what you read on this site, who roast-cups-reviews all the green coffees, and tries to keep up with everything else. If you have a small business, you know that you get the best jobs and the worst. He is both cupper and janitor. We are bigger now, so Josh helps out with the warehouse, and Derek and Erica help out with email and processing orders. A far cry from when Tom and I mostly did everything ourselves.

mmm... smells like coffee

Here's how is how Tom prefers to spend my work day ... with the coffee. He cups nearly every day, whether it is to check roasts or (most often) to evaluate incoming samples. I try to make sure that he can do just that, but sometimes he has to plumb in a new hot water heater.... .

And here's me, Maria, a camera-shy Chicagoan trapped among the shameless Californians, flanked by her 2 best friends, Francy & Judy, 100% purebred, genuine Oakland pound mutts (sadly both RIP at this point) ...I'll find some photos of the new dogs Video and Sweet T to post.

...and here's Tom
, out on a joyride after work ... on the right at the Cerrado Coffee Competition, Brazil, with my friend and Brazil coffee expert Bruno Souza. We had just finished the final cupping round and everyone was a little too caffeinated (Bruno seemingly more than the others). -Tom

We started smaller, we're still small ... and what's wrong with trying to stay small?

Sweet Maria's Coffee • 1115 21 st Street Oakland CA 94607• Contact us