A favorite coffee supplier for Nick Chaput, proprietor of Dana Street Roastng Company, is La Minita, a small grower in Costa Rica. “Coffee beans get touched about 50 times before you get handed the cup, so it’s incredibly labor intensive,” he says, warming up to the subject.
“This grower not only pays his 80 or so workers an above-average wage and offers housing on the finca, but also provides medical and dental coverage for the workers. And the workers’ parents!”
What struck me when I heard Nick talking about this supplier is that who you do business with does make a difference.
Although Nick doesn’t provide housing for his employees, he has their loyalty, no doubt through doing things like sending some of his staff to the finca in Costa Rica to help them appreciate the coffee business.
Nick himself got his start in the coffee biz learning roasting at the Palo Alto Roasting Company. “Roasting is both an art and science,” notes Nick. “I was fortunate that I was able to learn from one of the best roasters in the Bay Area.” (Nick has since mentored an employee, Aaron, who is now in charge of roasting.)
In 1997 Nick set out on his own, acquiring Jumping Java. “When I told people I was going to bring a roaster in to change coffee quality, I actually got the question, ‘What do you want to roast chickens for?’”
Not just good, but great coffee has been Nick’s goal at Dana Street. “We do more light roasts here because you can distinguish the flavor of the coffee better. Dark roasts are a way to cover up the flavor of inferior beans.”
In a past life Nick worked in film, working up to Assistant Director and Production Manager. I asked Nick what films he worked on. “You don’t want to know! Let’s just say that a B rating is generous and that “Ghoulies 3” isn’t exactly a classic!” Does he miss the glamour of show biz? “This is like theater every day,” says Nick. “Sometimes you’re in control. Other days you’re in the wings watching it unfold.”
Nick’s love for music (he’s a fan of Jazz and Progressive Rock) is also on display, with Dana Street hosting free local live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Dana Street also feature local music students in recital as well as the occasional top-flight show on a pay-per-view basis.
Nick says he drinks only 1-2 cups a day, and claims he can go days without any coffee. “Although I don’t,” he added “because I need to be checking the quality of the product.” (What a coincidence. That’s my excuse too.)
Beyond the coffee, Dana Street Roasting has the neighborhood vibe: Layed back and friendly. Like Nick.