After alternating between jobs at Starbucks and Vertigo Coffee Roasters, Evan Morris decided to realize his dream of establishing his own business. In June 2018, the young entrepreneur opened Calavera Coffee inside Hollister’s GardenShoppe n’ Bar. Calavera has since relocated to Farmhouse Café at 615 San Benito St., where it has seen its customer base quadruple.
Morris describes Calavera as a “curator” for different coffees. It serves coffee from a variety of other roasters, based inside and outside of California. Calavera carefully selects which roasters to feature.
“We look for coffee that serves our values,” Morris said, referring to Calavera’s core values of honesty, respect, ownership, and hard work.
To accomplish this, Calavera buys from coffee companies that work directly with farmers. These companies practice principles of fair trade and sustainability.
In the coffee industry, the C price (or the global coffee price), which is determined by worldwide supply and demand, acts as the baseline for price negotiations with coffee farmers. The C price does not account for individual farmers’ production costs and has shown significant volatility, dropping below $1 per pound in August 2018. To ensure that coffee farmers make enough money to continue investing in farm infrastructure and earn livable wages, coffee companies must carefully negotiate prices with farmers.
Santa Cruz’s Cat & Cloud is one of the primary roasters that Calavera features.
“Evan is a great friend of ours here at Cat & Cloud,” said team member Everardo Jaime. “We’re delighted to partner with him and share values in our practices.”
Morris said Cat & Cloud visits farms, views their operations, and assesses their values systems before purchasing coffee beans from them. Morris specifically referenced coffee beans grown in Honduras that Cat & Cloud recently started selling. Cat & Cloud developed a profit-sharing system at a farm in Honduras to help develop small, family farms.
“It’s about as fair trade as fair trade can get,” Morris said.
The local coffee entrepreneur attributes much of Calavera’s success to its welcoming environment. Asked what sets Calavera apart from corporate coffee chains, Morris said it was his shop’s service orientation and emphasis on employee development.
“In larger chains, employees are mostly being pushed along,” Morris said. “We try to optimize people’s talents and help them grow as individuals.”
For Morris and his employees, one of their favorite ways to practice barista skills and expand their professional networks is by participating in monthly latte art throwdowns. These head-to-head competitions have pairs of baristas pouring their finest lattes at top speed. Every round, one barista from each pair is eliminated, culminating in an intense final match. Latte Art Throwdowns are public events, and Morris encourages customers to join in as spectators or as coffee-makers.
Calavera Coffee and Vertigo Coffee Roasters will co-host a latte art throwdown with a live DJ on July 20 at Vertigo, located at 81 Fourth St. in San Juan Bautista. Sign-ups to compete begin at 6 p.m., and the competition will start at 7 p.m.
Coffee shops have long been a regular part of people’s lives, and as San Benito County’s population grows, Morris has noticed people’s increased interest in specialty industries such as coffee and beer, helping to bring about a rejuvenation of small businesses.
“I’m excited for what is happening with this town right now,” Morris said.