Janna Patee is not only the bookkeeper for the ; on occasion she also can be found in the company's booth at the and at the Albany Farmers Market. She describes what makes their coffees and teas special.
Where does the coffee and tea get packaged?
The teas all come from the Metropolitan Tea Company, and you can see the different presentations: we have boxed, we have loose leaf, we have bags, we have these fabulous little sachets that look like little silk pouches. The coffee comes from all over the world and is roasted for us at McLaughlin Coffee Company in Emeryville. So it’s pretty local.
What is the biggest seller?
In terms of the coffee, the Holy Cow, which is our signature blend. And for the teas it varies depending on what we’re pouring. Today we’re pouring the Monk’s Tea, the monk’s blend, and we’re selling a lot of that. And we also sell a lot of the individual sachets. I just sold six of the sachets to a woman. She bought them in a cup, and she’s gone home to try them because you’re not going to buy the whole canister of tea without trying it out. So we sell them individually as well.
How would you describe the taste of the Holy Cow blend coffee?
The Holy Cow blend is a French roast and I don’t know if I can properly say, well let’s put it this way, it converted me from Peet’s. I drank that for years and now I drink Holy Cow or the Frog Fuel blend, which is a French roast base with chicory added to it. And we also have that at every market. We offer samples, like how they make it in New Orleans with the chickory-based coffee and sweetened condensed milk, which is yummy.
Today we brewed the monk’s blend. It’s so hard to describe how something tastes. It’s sort of like saying what do oranges taste like, you know? How do you describe that? But I would say it has a little natural sweetness. And this is one of the caffeinated teas, the monk’s blend. Some of these are not caffeinated.
What are the prices?
The organic and fair trade coffees are packaged, vacuum-packed in 12 ounce bags and they are two for $25 or $14 a bag. The — we call it regular coffee as opposed to organic or fair trade — is two for $20 or $12 each. The teas vary in price. The bag of loose leaf tea is three for $25, the boxed tea is two for $20, the larger boxes are $20 a piece, and the sachets we sell by the cup or people can pay 75 cents for a sachet. And the little cans, which are also loose leaf, are $5. So you can sort of start sampling for 75 cents if you want to go that way. We offer lots of choices.
Do you ever get people that think the prices are too high?
Sure. A lot of people say, "I can get coffee at Costco a lot cheaper. Why are your prices so high?" Well I’m not Costco, and I don’t buy in the thousands of pounds at a time. We buy small lots; this is the inventory essentially. And it’s ground fresh. It’s bought in bean and ground fresh, packaged fresh and we can’t compete with Costco — we’re not trying to. This is specialty coffee for a specialty market. The same with the teas. I had a woman last week who said this tea is way too expensive. But if they want really good quality, we have it.
More often than not what happens a lot is, I say to them, I understand it’s more expensive, but I’d like you to try this and see what you think. And oftentimes once they taste it they can taste the difference. The tea that we brew here is a far cry from a Safeway brand. This is specialty tea.
How did you get connected with the El Cerrito farmer's market?
I live locally. Actually I’m helping out a friend. Paul Cruce, who owns the business, is a good friend. I do his bookkeeping for the business, and he’s off on an errand and I’m minding the booth. It’s great fun, I get to talk to people, I get to see people. I come to the market every Tuesday anyway.
How’s it going at El Cerrito farmer’s market?
It’s coming along, it’s coming along. The important thing is that we’re here and getting to know people.