Steve Chase, co-owner of Tourist Hat Coffee. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Steve Chase, co-owner of Tourist Hat Coffee. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Steve Chase came home one night in 2017 and told his wife, “Mary, we are going to roast coffee.” Luckily for him, he said, “She is so used to my off-the-wall ideas, she said ‘OK.’” And with that, Tourist Hat Coffee was born.

“I didn’t know what it was going to take,” he said, “or how long it was going to take, but I knew it was a business I wanted to be in. We started on a one pound roaster, and outgrew that. Then we got a two pound roaster and outgrew that, too, in a few months.  At that point, we were just selling to family and friends.”

Though the company name suggests exotic adventures in distant lands, it actually comes from a family vacation trip to Mt. Rushmore.

“It was super hot and super sunny,” he said. We bought everyone a hat and from then on, when we posted about our trip on Facebook, we called ourselves the Tourist Hat Gang. It was such a fun family event we decided to use it for the company name.”

The name is a sentimental reminder of wonderful Chase family trips. Photo by Robert Eliason

In 2019, the Chases publicly launched Tourist Hat Coffee at the Hollister Farmer’s Market.

“We also started doing other small functions, like school Christmas programs,” he said. “We picked up any other markets we could. We got more experience with roasting, as well as receiving useful feedback from our customers.”

This year, the Chases have taken the next big step, purchasing their own coffee shop, Gold Country Roasters in Murphys, Ca., on August 1.

“It is an amazing cafe roaster,” he said. “The previous owner built an amazing business and it was an easy decision to buy it. We are commuting a couple days up there and a couple days down here but it was an opportunity we could not pass up.”

With followings for the two brands of coffees already established, they plan to grow each separately rather than combine them. Tourist Hat currently offers eight coffees and Gold Country has six now, but the idea behind the coffee selections will be the same.

“I choose specialty grade coffee,” he said. “I like a lot of naturals and I like fruity—any coffee that has a fruitiness to it. And I know there are a lot of people who like darker coffees so we find the ones that can take the heat of getting roasted that dark. Our most popular is our ‘Adventurer,’ which is a dark Java roast with some medium Ethiopian to mellow it out.” 

The acquisition of Gold Country Roasters brings production for the Chases from 400 pounds a month to almost 2,500 pounds, and a much larger distribution, but Steve still appreciates the local community for their support and feedback from the very start.

“Nobody had ever heard about us,” he said, “and we show-up at a local market. All of the sudden, everyone would just come by and purchase coffee and talk to us. We had been living here since 1990 but we got to know more about the community after we started to meet the people at the market than we ever had before. They really embraced us and we owe them our success.”

Taste test by two coffee loving BenitoLink reporters 

Chase brought two coffees to try, one originating in Bali from Tourist Hat and one from Gold Country Roasters, coming from South America.

I am not a connoisseur of coffee, so I asked two other BenitoLink reporters, Carmel de Bertaut and Jenny Mendolla Arbizu, to try the two selections with me. Both have their firm preferences already.

“I look for a bold flavor,” said Arbizu, “almost like a thicker, chocolatey kind of flavor.” De Bertaut also enjoys boldness in her coffee, adding that she likes a fruity taste. “My personal preference is for South American coffees, so I am looking forward to these.”

BenitoLink reporters Carmel de Bertaut, Jenny Mendolla Arbizu, and Steve Chase. Photo by Robert Eliason.
BenitoLink reporters Carmel de Bertaut, Jenny Mendolla Arbizu, and Steve Chase. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Murphy’s Blend, Gold Country Roasters – Different roasts of the same bean, coming from the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea, are blended to create what Chase describes as ‘a smooth bodied coffee with fruity undertones, a hint of vanilla spice, and bright acidity,” saying that the acid content is what brings the fruit out. 

“It is nice and smooth with a kind of tannin at the back of the tongue that I like,” Arbizu said. “It has a touch of boldness, which would be perfect for people looking for a middle ground. You can definitely smell the fruitiness in the aroma, like a raspberry, and I think that’s what I am tasting.” 

De Bertaut called it “earthy,” saying “it is like I can feel myself walking on the dirt. And I will one-up you on that and say it is like a black raspberry. It is quite subtle, though, but it is there. It is very smooth and all the flavors are very subtle, with a hint of burgundy.” This is the best seller at Gold Country Roasters..

Bali – Tourist Hat Coffee – From the Kintamani Highlands of Central Bali, Chase says this is more of a fruit-forward coffee with hints of strawberry and cherry. 

“To me, it has a nuttiness in the aroma, with some caramel or nutmeg,” Arbizu said. “I like it—it is a lot fruitier than the other one. To me, it is swirling with chocolate and fruit. There is a citrus tone, an orange, almost like citrus peel and it is more flavorful than the Murphy’s Blend. It reminds me of Christmas and I don’t know why.” 

De Bertaut agreed, saying, “It does taste like the winter holidays. To me, this one is chocolatey, and not just chocolate but like you are eating cocoa powder. This one is much bolder and has more to it than the other one. There is something fungal about it, like mushrooms. It is a little more biting than the Murphy’s Blend and packs more of a punch.”

Coffee from Tourist Hat Coffee and Gold Country Roasters can be ordered online on their respective websites. Tourist Hat is available locally at the Hollister Farmers Market and Burtuccio’s Market. 


BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market, for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.