About Sweet Maria's Coffee: Our Little Shop

Yes, Sweet Maria's Coffee does actually exist outside the virtual Internet playground. We started in Ohio, and have now returned to California. Emeryville ... sounds like a small town but it is about 40 square blocks wedged between Oakland and Berkeley. It used to be called "the armpit of Northern California" back in the day when Emeryville had the largest scrap heap of crushed cars in the state. Now, in the same spot, is a giant Ikea. Times change. You can't rent a house in Emeryville for under $2000 a month. Welcome to the Bay Area!

So our overhead has gone up a bit, but the fact is, 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 all the coffee brokers in the area, picking up coffee from the massive warehouses in the area (with no trucking fees) has made up for the rent, the traffic, and the high percentage of annoying Volvo and Range Rover drivers in the region.

And this is what the plain entrance to our new place in Emeryville looks like! We thought about dressing it up, but there's a good chance we will be moving (to another building in the very near vicinity) ... and then we'll be a little less anonymous with the entrance!

Here's what it looks like inside at our new place on 64th Street in Emeryville (basically a 40 block town squeezed between North Oakland and Berkeley). It's a 5000 square foot warehouse with a barrel roof -that's small by coffee business standards but to us it is huge!


The best thing about the new place is we don't have to break our backs unloading coffee one bag at a time. We have a little forklift now, and although I will admit to bumping into a few things (no, not people ... but I did dent our roll-up door!) it is great fun to use. But alas, I sold the Diedrich roaster for a song to our former Ohio employees so they can start a roasting business. I miss it so... but I have a Probat now.

This is Tom, me, 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. I am both cupper and janitor. I fix everything that breaks. Maria handles a lot of the email, along with Allison helping her.

mmm... smells like coffee

Here's how I prefer to spend my work day ... with the coffee. I cup nearly every day, whether it is to check roasts or (most often) to evaluate incoming samples. Above are some 2 photos from the coffee competitions I attend in the role of a juror. These are from El Salvador Cup of Excellence 2004 (taken by Glen from Hunter Bay Coffee -thanks!) Above left is myself in the green with other jurors and head judge Carlos Rittscher from Brazil (seated). We are checking roasted/ground coffee samples for consistency. Above is myself, judging the wet aromatics by smelling the "crust" of the cups.

And here's my wife Maria, a camera-shy Chicagoan trapped among the shameless Californians, flanked by her 2 best friends, Francy & Judy, 100% purebred, genuine Oakland pound mutts ...

...and yours truly, resident coffee dork, 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