Keán Coffee Roastery
Orange County, California
tour of Keán Coffee Roastery is far from anything I could have imagined it would be. The best way I can think to describe the experience is that it is a blend of roasting, barista, cupping, history, philosophy, agriculture and anatomy lesson all in one. Just as Martin Diedrich blends some of the finest coffee beans for his espresso roast, so too does he blend together knowledge, experience and passion to create a truly beautiful outlook on life which is palpable throughout the entire experience.
The tour begins with a demonstration and espresso tasting by two of Keán’s enthusiastic baristas. The first dose of caffeine comes in a simple espresso shot accompanied by a lesson in grind size, dosing and tamping. As you dive into the science and precision of creating espresso drinks you are now handed either a cappuccino or latte with your choice of whole or dairy free milk (the oat milk latte I enjoyed was as good a dairy free latte as you’ll ever find).
At last, with a cappuccino in hand and a caffeine buzz to accompany it, you are handed over to the one and only, creator and architect of Keán Coffee, Martin Diedrich. Sipping my drink slowly to prolong the deliciousness as long as I can Martin begins to detail his history in the coffee industry. Now I have to say, as much as I loved our mini barista 101 course, once Martin took over I was completely enthralled with the picture he was painting about the path that led him and his family to where they are today in the coffee industry. The story begins on a coffee plantation in Guatemala and you journey through the life of a young Martin waking up at the crack of dawn to begin work on the farm. He recounts the story of how his family came into possession of the farm, how it was taken from them and how they began to rebuild after. The tale behind Diedrich Coffee and what is now Keán coffee is truly one of inspiration, passion, heartbreak, and relentlessness.
I wish I could recount to you every minute detail that was shared with us throughout the course of the evening, but it just wouldn’t do it justice to hear the tale from anyone else’s lips other than Martin Dietrich himself.
Let me tell you something, I am your stereotypical type A personality. When I ask a question I like a straightforward answer. I like a story to stay on one straight path that I can follow easily all the way to the end. Martin’s story telling method can best be described as one of the most complex mazes you’ve ever tried to wander through. But, what shocked me was how completely enchanted I was. He’d begin answering one question only to get sidetracked by another story or detail. And rather than be frustrated by all the rabbit trails within one story, I found myself wishing we had time to go down every single one and learn about all of them. Every element, every glimpse into their family history, every lesson about the complexity of coffee held me completely enraptured, unable to break free from the magic of the moment.
But, it’s time to roast some coffee beans so wide eyed and mesmerized we head over to watch the roasting process. As the beans toast, the smell alone is enough to seduce you and have you day dreaming about filling out an application to be a Keán Coffee roaster.
Then, with the fresh smell of some of the finest coffee beans wafting through the air you begin your cupping lesson with Martin. As you delve into the world of a professional cupper, you are educated on technique, etiquette and judging criterion. Now, while my unsophisticated palate was unable to distinguish even the slightest of flavors, I truly enjoyed slurping (as is the proper technique) up sips of each coffee and swishing them around in my mouth. When the time came to share thoughts on the different flavor notes I sat back quietly and in awe and slightly jealous of the others who were able to extract the different tastes from each cup. One thing that really struck me at this point was how incredibly down-to-earth and unpretentious Martin is.
I’ve read enough coffee blogs to know that in the world of coffee purists, professionals and enthusiasts alike can be incredibly protective of their traditions and methods. I’ve heard of people being shamed for even considering “whitening” (adding milk or cream) their coffee or sweetening it with sugars or syrups.
But, with all his knowledge and experience in the field, none of that pretentiousness was present for even a second throughout the entire evening. You want to slurp your coffee? Great, slurp it! Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Okay, drink it how you like. You want to add milk and sugar? Add it! We weren’t coffee professionals and he didn’t try and make us feel uneducated for it. His sincerity and kindness create an atmosphere of ease where you felt comfortable asking any question. He is so approachable you almost forget you are in the room with one of the most accomplished and well-known figures in the industry.
Whether you are a coffee connoisseur or an amateur coffee lover, Keán Coffee’s Roastery Tour will leave you feeling giddy with excitement over all you just learned and send you home with one of the most delicious smelling bags of freshly roasted coffee you will probably ever have the honor of holding in your hands (seriously, I went home and just stuck my nose in the bag for at least 10 minutes). Through it all, Martin’s commitment to quality and passion for purity leave you with a newfound respect for the cup of coffee you make yourself each morning.
The best way I could summarize my experience is to say that I left the evening feeling as though I had been invited to sit in on a prestigious club meeting. And as I left, I found myself wishing I had the qualifications to actually be a member and become a part of this enchanting world.
*If you’re in the area stop by and you might just be lucky enough to spot Martin in the coffee shop. If you’re a local, click here to go to their Facebook page and see dates for their next roastery tour as well as other fun events and classes.