We love our coffee. It sustains us through the day and gives us reason to wake up in the morning. Some obsess over it, learning new ways to pull the most flavor out of their beans, seeking out the best roasters in town. But how many everyday sippers know how coffee gets to their cup?
The journey from farm to roaster is long, with many middlemen in between. Anna Perreira cuts through the mess with her company, Yellow Brick Coffee. "Yellow Brick takes you down the path to origin," Perreira says. Temporarily based out of Green Valley and selling her wares at local farmers markets, she plans to bring the operation to Tucson.
She says YBC will create an experience that is intensely personal by combining the quest for perfect coffee with a farm-to-table approach. Perreira will offer only single-origin coffee, and bring the company full circle through education and philanthropy. Yellow Brick Coffee plans to host monthly and weekly cupping events, like the ones held periodically downtown, where people can learn about the flavor profile of specific bean varieties. "It's like being a sommelier, except for coffee," she says.
Perreira attended high school and college here before moving to New York, where she spent seven years in corporate finance. Then a friend who roasted at home introduced her to specialty coffee. Perreira attended cuppings at Counter Culture Coffee's training center, and everything clicked when co-owner Peter Giuliano—a leader in the industry—hosted a class. His search for perfect coffee and his direct communication with farmers inspired Perreira.
She quit her job and moved to San Francisco to study roasting and coffee culture, meeting other people who shaped the industry. Perreira trained with Willem Boot, a proponent of direct-trade relationships, who taught her the best way to roast coffee. She traveled to Ethiopia with Boot and some of the best coffee roasters in the world to meet directly with farmers. Perreira fell in love with the industry. "Everyone was excited to share their stories and ideas. It was a lot different from the cutthroat corporate America I was used to."
During the trip, Perreira was introduced to Common River—a project based out of the village of Aleta Wondo that encourages self-sustaining growth in villages struggling economically. It was here that Perreira realized how to give back to the community. Even though the farm owners were providing the product, they didn't know how to navigate exporting coffee. So the group stepped in, and Perreira pointed out ways to further the farmers' education about the supply chain and funding options. That experience helped shape Yellow Brick's mission.
"I'm excited to bring Yellow Brick to Tucson," Perreira says. Tucson has access to good coffee, yet the industry is still new. She says there are like-minded restaurants to work with, and YBC is collaborating with Borderlands Brewing Co. to brew an oat wine that will highlight the nuances of the coffee. "You have to be willing to experiment with coffee, because it hasn't been fully explored yet," Perreira says.
YBC offers six varieties, all of them traceable and ethically sourced, including a decaf from Colombia that Perreira is proud of because decaf is rarely traced back to the source. "It's a really kick-ass coffee," Perreira says.
Perreira gave YBC's Yirgacheffe the highest rating in a blind taste test while visiting Ethiopia. Perreira found her Sumatra and El Salvador varieties by asking for samples of traceable coffee from those regions. The El Salvador coffee is processed naturally by leaving the bean in the cherry to ferment, then milling it from there. Perreira says it gives the coffee a winelike flavor.
YBC's Honduras is from a farm called Mi Tazita, where Perreira was the first person from the United States to buy its coffee. She prefers the farm's honey-process beans—some of the pulp stays on after the drying process—because it makes for a cup that sweetens as it cools. "It's great for making iced coffee," she says.
You can meet Perreira and sample her coffees at the Dove Mountain, Broadway Village and St. Philip's Plaza farmers markets. Go to yellowbrickcoffee.com to learn more.