They call themselves gypsy roasters, creatives and expressionists. They are a small group of PLNU graduates who found something they are passionate about and decided to turn into a business – the Coffee and Tea Collective.
Daniel Holcomb, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in International Development Studies, remembers sitting in his apartment in Colony brewing coffee, dreaming up what it could look like to own a business. Holcomb and friends, including Michael Spear, a 2011 graduate in Media Communications Film Studies, started sharing their craft with the San Diego community through pop-up events and house parties. In December 2010 at the Roots of Giving Fair on PLNU’s campus, they officially opened for business.
Then in May of 2012 the group found a home in North Park where they have been brewing, teaching and creating ever since.
Coffee and Tea Collective’s shop is clean and nearly bare, with white walls, concrete floors and long wooden tables. Natural light pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows. The atmosphere is calming and quiet, as if beckoning visitors to simply breathe and rest.
“Our philosophy is to strip things down to the essential,” says Spear, regarding everything from the shop’s aesthetics to the company’s branding and especially the coffee itself. Beans are roasted in-house and coffee is served pour-over style, ensuring that each cup is prepared individually and in the moment.
Coffee and Tea Collective differs from many other shops, especially chains like Starbucks, in that they seek to educate and inspire each customer.
“We view coffee as a craft, not a commodity,” says Holcomb who hopes that Coffee and Tea Collective will continue to escape from the mold of corporate coffee-house franchises. “Instead of you coming to us and telling us what you know that you like, we want to say ‘Hey, come along this journey with us and we’ll help you discover something new,’” he says.
Helping the San Diego community come to an appreciation of great coffee is a daunting task, yet Holcomb and Spear know they are making headway with each conversation they have with customers.
“Education and appreciation comes through face to face conversations,” says Spear. “Whether it’s just me being friendly or answering questions about our roaster, I know that I am helping set Coffee and Tea Collective apart from other places.”
Just as individuality and uniqueness mark the business, so too does collaboration and teamwork. Coffee and Tea Collective often host fundraisers for local charities, allow artists to display and sell their work within the shop and work to build relationships with other business owners in the area.
This year they are providing drinks for PLNU’s monthly Musoffee events, nights of music and coffee held in the Activities and Recreation Center. Senior Curtis Northum, who organizes Musoffee, has been frequenting Coffee and Tea Collective for the past year.
“I really enjoy their product and decided that for Musoffee this year, more focus would be put into the ‘Coffee’ aspect than years past,” says Northum. “I think Coffee and Tea Collective is the top coffee roaster in San Diego. Their product is incredibly consistent and their workers are super helpful and knowledgeable.”
Community involvement is deeply important to the company and is something they wish to expand upon and make better in years to come. They are currently looking to expand to a second location by early 2014 and hope that with a larger team and influence in multiple neighborhoods, their spirit of artistic brewing will only grow.
“Our business plan is to build the plan as we fly it,” says Spear. “We just want to create awesome experiences for coffee lovers, whatever that may look like.”