When asked how he started in the coffee roasting business, Justin Page, owner of Santa Lucia Cafe located in downtown Centralia, Washington, looked at us for a moment, then quietly said, “Coffee is a journey.” His journey began when he was about 12 or 13 years old. His father was “in the coffee culture” in Seattle, and Justin has been passionate about coffee ever since.
He began roasting his own coffee in 2002 in the basement of his Centralia home. He expanded to roasting from family, friends, and neighbors. Then he placed a kiosk on the front porch of his house and people would put their money into his mail slot. After a few years (and one visit from the Centralia Fire Department because of all the smoke coming out of his basement), Justin ran out of room and decided to open Santa Lucia Café in his current location in 2006.
Santa Lucia is the namesake for Justin’s wife, Lucy. The setting is rustic, with three rooms with tables comfortable chairs, and even books to sit and read with children. It’s cozy enough for small conversations as well as small work meetings. Local pastries from San Francisco Bakery in Olympia, Market Street Bakery in Chehalis, and Main Street Cookies in Rainier, are temptingly displayed.
Justin tells us that he gets beans from all over the world, but most specifically from a small farmer, Edwin Martinez, in Guatemala. Huge 150 pound bags can be seen sitting near the walls. One coffee roaster is placed in the third room. There Justin roasts about 200-300 pounds of coffee each week. We were surprised to hear it only takes about 15 minutes to roast a batch of coffee. He doesn’t have a set schedule, just roasts as needed as they run low on coffee, so it’s very fresh.
We asked about the “flavors” and how he achieves them because we truly had no idea. It turns out coffee is a bit like wine, that flavors are not added, but come naturally from the areas where the beans are grown. Then he decides which flavors he likes, what his “interpretation” of them is and then roasts them to bring out the flavors he likes best. This is done by varying the length of time of roasting as well as temperature.
David asked if he would like to see his product on big store shelves. Justin thought for a moment and said no, he actually preferred that people find him on their own based on the quality of his coffees.
As Josh is in high school and learning a lot about future careers, he had his own question: What would Justin tell a high school student thinking about opening a coffee roasting business. Justin replied that he would ask a lot of questions, why do they want to do this, how passionate are they – he would challenge them and ask deeper questions rather than just say, “Yes, do it” or “No, don’t do it.”
When asked where he thought his business would be in five years, Justin said that this is an individual journey for him and he expects to stay small and still be in the same place. The best part of this business for him is the personal touch, being part of the community and the friends that he has made. He feels that it is now at a point that it is a self-propelling entity and that is a very exciting point to be for an entrepreneur. He would only like to grow larger though, if it didn’t take away from the personal aspect that he enjoys so much now.
Santa Lucia coffees can also be found served at local establishments such as Centralia College and Jeremy’s Farm to Table restaurant.
Santa Lucia Café is open Monday through Friday, 7am-5pm, Saturdays 8am-3pm and Sundays, 9am-3pm and is located at 202 S. Tower Ave., Centralia WA 98531. They can also be found online at http://www.luciacoffee.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/santaluciacoffee.