Photo by Max Efrein.
Originally Published: August 11, 2016 8:41 p.m.
What: Solanos y Hermanos Coffee
Where: 520 W. Sheldon St.
Joel Clark was working in the mining industry in Guatemala when he had the idea to start a coffee company.
He had hired a local engineer named David Solanos to work with him at the mine and they got to talking about their backgrounds.
Solanos quickly unveiled that his family owned a large coffee plantation in Guatemala called Buena Vista Farm.
Clark had some extra money and was looking to invest it when he came upon a program that talked about how much better coffee companies do when they source directly from the farms growing the beans.
“And I said to myself, ‘I know somebody who owns a farm and it’s really good coffee’; the best coffee I’ve had,” Clark said.
The Salanoses weren’t necessarily looking to start a business outside of their farm, but Clark was persistent, so David and his brother Eddie dove in with him. They soon also brought on a friend and financial engineer as a partner as well named Chris Dratz.
Together, the four opened Solanos y Hermanos Coffee in February near Prescott College.
The independent coffee shop is part of a relatively new movement within the industry known as the third wave.
Driven by coffee enthusiasts competing to produce the highest-quality coffee imaginable, the movement portrays coffee as more of an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than simply a commodity.
For context, Clark has posted on his shop’s wall that the first wave refers to coffee brands like Folgers, the second wave refers to slightly more crafted coffee offered by companies like Starbucks—though they’re beginning to open third wave-esque coffee shops — and third wave includes shops like Solanos y Hermanos.
One defining difference between them is that lower wave competitors will often purposely over-roast their beans to produce a consistent product, Clark explained.
“It’s standardized,” Clark said. “Everything is always going to taste the same no matter what Starbucks you go to.”
The methods used by shop owners like Clark, on the other hand, focus more on creating products that stand on their own and provide a unique tasting experience.
“I’ve learned a lot about how to bring out the flavors of the coffee without having to add sugars and syrups,” Clark said.
“This is the first place I’ve been able to drink black coffee,” said Jamie Parker, a Solanos y Hermanos Coffee customer. “I normally only drink things like Frappuccinos and things that are really fruity and sugary.”
Additionally, all of the coffee beans Clark and his partners use are directly sourced from quality-conscious farms like Buena Vista; Clark personally roasts the beans with close attention to detail; and they offer a wide variety of brewing methods.
“Each method changes the consistency, the flavor and the caffeine content,” Clark said.
To allow the public to test the difference between each brewing method, Clark and his partners are offering occasional tasting sessions for free throughout the month of August. One is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 12, at 6 p.m.