We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Contessa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
I saw a TikTok recently claiming that if you drink coffee, chances are you are drinking ground up cockroaches! According to the video (and comment section) this was an unavoidable FACT! I was a little confused, as I have been roasting coffee for years and have never seen A COCKROACH. I also highly doubt they would be attracted to coffee “green beans,” the unroasted, raw version of the coffee bean, think of a “seed.” – nothing there that would be pleasing to these kitchen pests. However, upon Googling I found this: “PRE-GROUND COFFEE MAY CONTAIN GROUND UP COCKROACHES. Yes, it’s sad but true. The FDA’s own studies show that up to 10% of green coffee beans (and sometimes more) become infested with roaches and other insects. They are unable to process them out completely so they just get roasted and ground up with the beans.” While the data may be true, there should be a study into HOW MANY of these “roach coffees” are produced by commercially operated companies – think Folgers, Starbucks, Cafe Bustello. Companies, where the roasting, and grinding processes have been left to automated LARGE BATCH labor of some kind. Where roaches would go unnoticed and be ground up within their coffees – another symptom of corporate operations; neglect. Our company, Zodiac Roasters, along with many other small batch specialty coffee roasters in our industry, practice small batch hand roast coffee. So ALL our coffees come with the “No Roach” guarantee, as every single BEAN is personally scooped, roasted, and ground. Just another benefit to buying and supporting small!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Roasting coffee is considered an art! I went through an intensive “coffee school” program in Vermont, where I learned how to roast and taste coffee via SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) guidelines. While it wasn’t necessarily “easy,” I didn’t find it too difficult. I was creating something I enjoyed, coffee, and learning new and exciting processes and information about the craft of coffee itself, so the challenges were minor. When you’re passionate and genuinely interested in something the challenges you face just bring you closer to fully understanding/realizing your passion!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I have a few go-to “tours” when friends visit LA, spontaneous food stops along the way: 1. The “Downtown Tour” – Santee Alley, The Last Bookstore, Clifton’s, Grand Central Market, Little Tokyo, Chinatown. 2. The “Malibu Creek Hike / Grove Tour” – PCH drive to Self Realization Temple, Malibu Creek Hike, exit opposite side to 101 Freeway, to The Grove, LACMA, Tar Pitts. 3.The “Beach Tour” – Santa Monica Promenade/Pier/ Venice Boardwalk/Manhattan/Redondo Piers 4. Road trip North or South Route: “North” = Ventura/Santa Barbara/Solvang/SLO/Madonna Inn/Pismo Beach/Big Sur. “South” – Palm Springs/Joshua Tree/Salton Sea/Salvation Mt.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mentor Liz Cavalier! She taught me to embrace life’s hardships with a little bit of humor. Experience life as a mystery to solve instead of a problem to get through.