“With this second location,” Alonso remarked. “We hope to create a space for forward-thinking conversations. I believe we have a great brand but none of that matters if we don’t have that human interaction.”
Coffee is a fundamental necessity in the average college student’s life. It keeps us awake in classes and helps us pull off all-nighters. However, for some, coffee is much more than a drink — it is tied to the conversations and interactions it creates. That is the experience which Riverside’s own Lift Coffee Roasters hopes to achieve.
Lift Coffee Roasters on Chicago Avenue in Riverside has been functioning as a roastery for three years, but in just one week, it will be opened to the public on Dec. 3 of this year as a cafe and a place for customers to learn how to roast their own coffee. A team of Highlander staff got a chance to visit before its grand opening.
From the moment we entered, the rustic and cozy character of the place was crystal clear despite it not being fully furnished. A few leather chairs were laid out, cappuccino machines were in place and a large roasting machine was nestled in the back area.
“One of the approaches we’ve decided to take in our business model is that we actually travel out and meet the farmers who produce the coffee beans,” revealed owner Gio Alonso. “We are able to develop a partnership and relationship with them. Being hands on is important to us. We make sure everyone we work with is eco-friendly and have similar values.”
This particular Lift location will actually teach customers how to perfectly roast their coffee, giving them an opportunity to learn what goes into the process of making coffee and which products are in the drink. “I once heard when you put people over profit, you always profit,” Alonso stated when asked why honest customer service is important. “Most companies don’t teach people how to make coffee. People appreciate honesty.”
Since the location is still in the process of setting up for December’s grand opening, not all of the lighting has been installed; nonetheless, the feeling of being at home was prominent. I got a chance to speak with Lift’s head roaster, Beau Trembly, as he made me a cup of coffee. “Coffee is not so simple as just roasting it. That’s not what makes our coffee special,” Trembly noted. “Our quality comes from picking the right farms. What makes Lift stand out is we’ve chosen to source good coffee. We take the initiative to make sure the roast presents the farmer’s vision and our commitment to training. And after that, we try to convince that quality coffee is worth it.” As he was brewing my coffee, the interview turned into a casual conversation, and I began to understand why Alonso and Trembly are so passionate about Lift and its coffee. To Alonso and Trembly, they aren’t just roasting coffee — they are enacting a form of art.
Trembly showed the Highlander staff how the roasting machine functions. It was large, black in color and somewhat resembled the shape of the front car of a steam train. With a wide silver funnel settled at the top of the machine, Trembly poured the coffee beans into it. The beans then made their way into a rotating drum where they acquired heat. “Time, heat and airflow are the three main things you look out for when roasting coffee,” Trembler announced.
The rumble of the machine continued as we patiently waited for the batch of coffee beans to roast. “Right now the coffee is expanding; its kind of like popcorn,” Trembly explained. After about 10 to 15 minutes, Trembly opened up a small hatch on the body of the roaster and let the beans fall into the cooling pan. There wasn’t that distinct, warm coffee scent when the beans spilled out. Apparently, the beans have to settle for a day, and the aroma is released when they are grinded.
Coffee is also much more than a drink to Andrea Hernandez, a barista at Lift. “I love working with people. When I hand them their cup of coffee and I get to see that smile, nothing compares to that,” Hernandez remarked when asked what her favorite aspect about working at Lift is.
Hernandez’s response about loving to work with people is exactly what Lift is aiming to achieve. “With this second location,” Alonso remarked. “We hope to create a space for forward-thinking conversations. I believe we have a great brand but none of that matters if we don’t have that human interaction.” The staff approaches customers as family. Therefore, they converse about life, art, community and family.
Not only do Alonso, Trembly and the entire team behind Lift want to create a space for students, families and all kinds of people from different walks of life to hang out, but they also want to showcase that quality conversations can be achieved over a cup of coffee. Lift Coffee Roasters wants to share that coffee is not only a good drink but a way of bringing people together as well.