“What up, world?!”
When we first met Matthew Torres, he was about 800 miles away in Long Beach, California while we were California dreamin’ in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
By the time we perused through his entire Instagram feed, we had a list of new coffee shops we wanted to check out in Long Beach and what seemed like a bond between us and a coffee lover we found through Instagram who enjoyed coffee shops as much as we did.
Fast forward to November of 2016 when we saw that he was hosting a flavor wheel event with a small-batch roaster, Coppa Coffee Co.. We were new in town and decided to sign up, not knowing what to expect and waited in anticipation as the day grew near. But, all of our anxiety about meeting him were quickly squashed once Matthew and the other Coffee Club members welcomed us with open arms (and big hugs). Finally, we felt right at home talking coffee with fellow coffee people.
And that’s the story of how we met Matthew and Long Beach Coffee Club.
That’s also a part of the idea behind the creation of Long Beach Coffee Club, which it proudly states on its website as “a place where you can nerd out about coffee.” That’s also where you can find more information on group outings, connect with Matthew, and read about new shops on the blog.
Now, that’s only a fraction of what Matthew likes to simply call, Coffee Club; a community he created out of his love for coffee and its humble beginnings in a garage.
“So, originally I met Anthony, who’s a really good friend of mine; he was a home roaster. He hacked this home roasting gadget together and from there, I fell in love with coffee even more. I was doing French press at home and figuring out different techniques in coffee, but I didn’t really dive in until I met Anthony.”
From there, Matthew and Anthony were hanging out in Anthony’s garage roasting coffee, which allowed Matthew to taste different beans, piquing his interest into the wide world of coffee. After awhile, Anthony’s wife, Britt, became pregnant with their first child and Anthony, like any good husband/father would, turned his focus towards his family. This new and exciting season of life meant that the two guys couldn’t hang out as often talking coffee in Anthony’s garage.
So, Matthew, craving that same connection that he had with Anthony, started going to local coffee shops. As any coffee geek will tell you, once you have a taste of the specialty coffee world, you want to learn more and more. However, Matthew realized that it was a lot harder to get that same relationship at coffee shops that he had with Anthony, saying “I found out that baristas were way too busy being baristas and people at coffee shops were working on projects and reading and they might not have the same passion (about coffee) as I do, so I didn’t have anybody to talk to. So in my head, I was just like, ‘Well, maybe I could start something where I can meet with people and talk coffee.'”
“The first meet-up was just ‘Hey, let’s just drink coffee together and talk.’ And literally it was my girlfriend, a guy I met a Coffee Con, like a month before, and then a couple co-workers, so it was all people I knew. And it was cool. We got to talk coffee and we did it at Lord Windsor, so it was the official first place that Coffee Club had its first meet-up.”
Soon enough, Matthew met Kimberly, a manager at Recreational Coffee in Long Beach. They started talking about coffee and building a community, so she suggested that they figure out a reason for meeting. That encouraged Matthew to “get this crazy idea of just meeting people to almost 300 members and we’re doing partnerships with Blue Bottle and with different coffee shops in Santa Monica.”
And boy, have they been able to do some awesome events, such as, a coffee and chocolate tasting, exploring the flavor wheel , and a field trip to Augie’s Coffee Roasters where they spoke to owner, Austin Amento about Augie’s history and tasted three Costa Rican coffees, each processed differently.
“I do not work in coffee, so it’s like the hangout for people who are not in coffee, but really love coffee.”
You can hear the passion behind Matthew’s voice as he talks about the friendships and sense of community that surrounds Coffee Club and his initial vision of a place for people to learn about coffee together. In the same breath, you can hear the pride he has for the city he calls home.
That same passion and thoughtfulness is apparent in Coffee Club’s logo. Matthew explained that the meaning behind their logo stemmed from a trip to Portland when he was at a local coffee shop, Cuppin’ Bar. He was thinking about a mascot and remembered that his co-worker, Michelle, suggested he use an animal from a coffee region.
At first, he started brainstorming and thought of dolphins or elephants since both of them roam in pods. But, then he started researching Latin America and came upon the capybara. Once he researched further, he found out that they are animals who roam in pods of 20-100, live in coffee regions, such as Brazil and Columbia, and love being in large social communities.
“I was like, ‘THAT’S WHAT COFFEE CLUB IS!’ So, I had this euphoric moment and was like, ‘Yes!’ and everybody looked at me…so that’s why the middle of our logo is a capybara.”
To fully understand Matthew’s love for his community (and infectious sense of humor), you have to know that it goes deeper than Long Beach, its amazing coffee scene and his newfound love for capybaras.
“A big piece of Long Beach Coffee Club that was the original pillar of the coffee club was an outreach program. There’s a huge homeless population in Long Beach, so I really wanted to get this going. I did this in Portland as a test run, but I went to a Starbucks and bought a bunch of coffee and went to a McDonald’s and got a bunch of egg McMuffins; then, we went to a place where we saw day laborers and homeless people.
There’s something about food and drink in the morning that jumpstarts your day. And I know that it’s not going to solve homelessness, but it might help someone look for getting help or getting assistance, so that’s where I see one of the pillars of Coffee Club; being a servant and helping the community in that way since that’s a huge need in Long Beach.”
Editor’s Note: before we became real life friends with Matthew, we remember a single photo posted on the Coffee Club’s Instagram that really spoke to us. It read, “Serving our community by giving food and coffee is a fundamental part of the Coffee Club.” We remember looking at each other and saying, “Yep, we want to meet this guy and work with him somehow, some way.” And wouldn’t you know, seven months later, we’re collaborating on an epic DTLA Coffee Crawl and real life friends. Oh, baby baby it’s a wild world.
The amazing thing about Matthew and Coffee Club is that the guy smiling back at you exclaiming, “What up, world?” in all of his Instagram stories is the same guy in person. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Matthew, you know how warm, friendly and kind he is to everyone he meets. He genuinely cares about people and wants to learn more about coffee and has built this wonderful platform where he’s also able to pay it forward.
He’s the type of guy who would give the shirt off his back for you or give you a gift, just because.
In fact, when we met up with him for this interview at The Boy & The Bear, he handed us our very own barista apron, handmade and brought all the way from El Salvador. They were given to him by his friend Jorge, who received them during a recent visit to a shop called Cafe La Casona, the company behind the aprons. Now, whenever we wear our apron while home brewing, we think of our friend, Matthew!
This is just one example of Matthew and his generosity and love for people.
That love for people and the coffee community led to him going on an adventure of a lifetime for any coffee enthusiast; an origin trip. Now for those of us who aren’t familiar with the term, Matthew put it in Layman’s terms as “a fancy way of saying that you’re going to where coffee is grown and you’re going to check it out.”
He was able to get connected with a Costa Rican coffee farmer by the name of Don Eli, a man that is highly-regarded in the coffee industry. With that connection, he flew down to Costa Rica this past December for about a week and experienced coffee from the source. Since it was a month before harvest, which is usually in January/February, he saw all the different trees and visited two of the farms.
“They have a farm near a river that’s behind their house; so, we got to check that out and then, I got to see their property where they process all their coffee cherries on site; which a lot of people bring it to a larger mill to process. Then, we got to go the cream of their crop, which was 800 meters above where they are, and it was straight up! We were in an old truck going up and it was really gnarly. It was cool because we got to see the migrant workers come in and a lot of their pickers are from the indigenous part of Panama.
Hearing him reminisce about his origin trip almost makes you feel like you were along for the ride, too. You can’t help, but ask a million questions and be amazed at seeing an origin trip through his eyes. He shared with us that during his trip, he was able to explore different parts of the country and take a peek into its coffee culture. Surprisingly, he said that the coffee shops in Costa Rica are very similar to the ones we have in America, in that they are very beautiful.
Although, there’s a major difference that we’re sure you won’t be surprised to hear yourselves. He says, “The biggest difference is that there’s coffee there, so they source all their coffee from difference regions in their country….they’re very proud of that. They put more emphasis on the education piece, which is awesome, so they’ll talk to you about the specific lot where the coffee is coming from.”
He continues on to explain that the barista can visit the farm because it’s so accessible for them, which allows them to have a vast knowledge of the coffee they’re serving in the cafe. They can share with you the different varieties and the cup of excellence each coffee has won, even going as far as telling you the specific years.
This trip is a rite of passage for coffee folks, an eye-opening experience to be able to see each step that leads up to the coffee we get to enjoy each morning. It’s no surprise that he can’t wait to go on his next one.
“It was an amazing trip and it was a gateway drug. I wanted more of it, so there will definitely be more of that coming along the lines and I’ve been talking to people. They want to go on origin trips, but it’s hard to have connections and it’s expensive. Obviously, we can try to find deals for the expensive part, but the connections is really tough too.”
For the tough part of finding connections, Matthew envisions another aspect of Coffee Club that will help aid that desire for its members. For example, he explains his hopes that if someone is visiting Guatemala, they’ll also be able to get hooked up with an importer and have a guide of the five things one can do while there.
Speaking with him, it seems as though that once you go on an origin trip, you can’t help but want to dive deeper into coffee and share that knowledge with your friends and family.
As to where Matthew sees the coffee industry moving towards in the future, he has a very thoughtful answer.
“My perspective is like the cause and effect, [for example] the Toms shoes model of when you’re drinking this coffee and it helps build an elementary school in Guatemala or it has some kind of effect. It’s our generation of millennials – that’s what we really connect with. It’s a social demand. Something else is happening behind the scenes that your cup of coffee is helping.”
It’s the kind of answer that one would expect from Matthew, whose day job is in marketing where he works with such powerhouse companies as Facebook and Google. He sees that the future of coffee is going to be based on our generation’s longing for having a sense of purpose and giving back. We are more conscious about the impact that we have and want to support businesses who are on the same mission.
Speaking of mission, we would be remiss not to mention the incredible mission trip Matthew went on recently. During that time, he briefly turned his focus away from Coffee Club and went down to Chihauhau, Mexico with his church family. For those who’ve experienced a mission trip, you know how life-changing it is. You think you’re going there to bless someone, when in reality they bless you in the most simplest of ways. It’s a beautiful example of God’s unconditional love and relentless pursuit for our hearts.
The trip allowed Matthew to come back feeling refreshed and ready to focus on the community that he made within Long Beach Coffee Club.
“I think the biggest piece of it is community; just bringing people together for a common good and a common good is coffee, and whatever that element is. Then, talking through that about different aspects of life.”
The commonality that we initially shared with Matthew and Long Beach Coffee Club was just coffee, however, with getting to know each other over our shared interest, we’re proud to call him our friend! He is someone we truly admire, not only because of his passion for Coffee Club, but his heart for community, fellowship and being able to make a positive change within the coffee world.
Fun Facts about Matthew:
- His favorite NYC coffee shops: High Collar, a coffee shop that he says is like a slice of Tokyo in New York City; it’s a coffee shop by day and a sake bar by night. Then, Every Man Espresso, which he says is “a little hole-in-the-wall place, but very warm and the baristas are sweet.”
- His go-to drink is a shot of espresso, which he says tells you a lot about the coffee shop.
- His favorite coffee city is Seattle and believes they’re pioneers in the coffee shop industry.
If you haven’t done so already, please go follow Long Beach Coffee Club and check out their website and Instagram to sign up for the next coffee event and meet other coffee nerds! Matthew is the expert when it comes to finding the best spots in Long Beach (he recently published a new blog post about Long Beach’s coffee shops) and can talk coffee with you all day long. So, if you have any questions (like we do), you can contact him and he’ll gladly help you.