At Black Oak, we talk a lot about community. It’s more than a warm, fuzzy bit of lip service. It’s our town. It’s our county. And we’re serious about this place and its people. I was born and raised here. I love it here. I count amongst my neighbors a world of lifelong friends and lots of family.
“Did you evacuate?”
“Is your family safe?”
“What’s going on up there?”
I woke up to texts from friends around the Bay Area, not yet aware of the historic wildfires ravaging our neighbors just a few miles north in Redwood and Potter Valleys, taking homes, memories, and lives. Seeing the mayhem of flames and suffocating smoke, I jumped into high gear, doing what I could to help my community. What should’ve started with a routine Monday, the week unfolded to see my family ranch hosting more than a dozen folks evacuated in the fires. My family and I are looking around at what we have and seeing what we can share to ease the burden, offer some shelter, and bring some relief. But there’s only so many we can help.
Turning my attention to Black Oak, Jon and I agreed that we had to do as much as possible. But, what can a small coffee company do for its hometown? How can we help our neighbors when they need it most? At our core, we do two things at Black Oak: roast quality coffees and prepare good drinks for customers at the café. While we believe those things are important, and bring joy to lots of people, it was clear that the exceptional fire devastation required an exceptional response from us all.
...what can a small coffee company do for its hometown? How can we help our neighbors when they need it most?
That first day, standing in the café, I saw confusion, anguish, and exhaustion. I saw folks wandering in the parking lot, checking their phones for messages from friends and family. I saw hurt, and I felt it too. While most of us at Black Oak escaped any real loss, a member of our work family had her home, and all in it, taken. She showed up for her shift as scheduled, barefoot, but ready to serve beautiful coffees to people that could use a little break. She’s passionate about what we do, but more than loving her job, she needed a distraction from her new reality. Of course, we ran out and got her some shoes, but that’s only the beginning of her getting back to normal, and it’s only the beginning of our support.
Jon and I talked, and we knew we had to do more than just keep serving coffee, even if we were a welcome oasis for many of our regulars. So, we started collecting all brewed coffee sales for that first week and donated 100% of the proceeds to the Mendocino Foundation Relief Fund.
While all this was happening, we were slated to head to Portland, OR, for a trip we'd been planning for months. A coffee mecca, Portland was playing host to Coffee Fest, a big industry conference, and the America’s Best Espresso Competition. I’ve always believed strongly that you can tell a lot about a town by it’s coffee. In the last few years, we’ve brought our coffees far beyond Ukiah, and come back with accolades for the work we do at Black Oak. These competitions are a perfect place for us to really represent our passion for coffee and our hometown. The spotlight is a nice reward for our efforts, but in our little way, we’re bringing a taste of Ukiah to folks who couldn’t find our town on a map — and that’s pretty great.
We’d been planning this trip, to participate in this prestigious competition, but of course, the fire didn’t care about that. As wildfires raged throughout Mendocino and Sonoma counties, we had to make the call, and we decided we’d honor the hard work and dedication of our roasters and baristas by making the trip to Portland.
And we won.
Black Oak is Ukiah, Black Oak is Mendocino County. To take home top honors, having our Ethiopia Chelelektu named America’s Best Espresso, is to bring some much deserved attention to all the good stuff that comes from this place. At every coffee event, we meet tons of new people, and in turn, they meet Ukiah too. Going head to head against the best coffee roasters in the U.S., our team showed what Ukiah is all about: great people, great talent, and great craft.
Going head to head against the best coffee roasters in the U.S., our team showed what Ukiah is all about: great people, great talent, and great craft.
Steve Cuevas (our head roaster and key ingredient in our win), and I had the idea to donate the prize money and help out our neighbors back home. Combined with our drip coffee sales, we’ve raised $4,179 for the Disaster Fund for Mendocino County. I’ve never been more proud. I’m proud of my colleagues for their victory, I’m proud of Black Oak for its commitment to quality, and I’m proud to be a part of this remarkable community. All of them.
Our work isn’t done and Mendocino County is still reeling from the fires, but all of us at Black Oak will be here helping out until we’re all whole again. If you have something to give, contact Disaster Fund for Mendocino County at (707) 468-9882 or online at communityfound.org.
Black Oak named Overall Champion Roaster at Golden Bean North America
We obsess over the details, both in the cafe preparing your drinks, but also in the roastery — making sure that each coffee is roasted with precision, attention, and purpose. And whether you enjoy the fruits of our labor at our place, at home, or from one of our wholesale partners, we hope you taste great coffees that make you smile.
Two weeks ago, we took some of our coffees up to Portland, OR, to participate in the Golden Bean North America coffee roasting competition. Barista competitions have existed in our little specialty coffee world for quite some time, shining a spotlight on the craft and skill behind preparing espresso and espresso drinks. While the competitions are great for rewarding dedicated baristas and giving them a platform in the coffee business, they also go a long way toward elevating the craft across the board. Ideas are exchanged, new techniques are cross-pollinated, and the tide rises for everyone — all the way back to you standing in line at your favorite cafe. It was only a matter of time before the specialty coffee world found a way to give the experts behind the roaster a chance to shine, and boy did the Black Oak roasting team shine.
As part of saying thanks to all of our fans, we’re offering a discount on our top two coffees from the competition. Ethiopia Chelelektu and Kenya Othaya are now 15% off for the next two weeks, using code GBNA2017 at checkout. Check it out, and thanks for supporting Black Oak.
With 10 categories and 830 coffees submitted, the 120 tasters evaluating coffees scored each coffee on factors like acidity, sweetness, body, and balance. At last year’s competition, we entered our Ethiopia Gedeb and Banko coffees, taking home 2 gold medals in the pourover and single-origin espresso categories, respectively. In order to be considered for the overall prize, we had to participate in at least the three main categories of the competition: espresso, pourover, and espresso plus milk. The top combined score would take the top prize, so with 4 silver medals and 5 bronze medals across the event, we took home the big one! We’ve now got a really cool trophy for the effort and a future trip to origin to meet with coffee producers.
Outside of the competition, it was great to connect with other roasters from around the country. We took advantage of the breaks in activity to meet new people and have some really inspiring conversations. For more than a decade, the team behind the Golden Bean roasting competitions has been successfully hosting events in Australia, where each competition sees thousands of entries. Black Oak co-founder Keith Feigin enjoyed the positive, engaging vibe of the Portland event, and was even invited to be a lead judge at the Australian event in November in the filter category.
We’ve been on a roll lately, getting recognition for our coffees and team all over the place. From Coffee Review’s writeup on our Duomo Espresso to Steve’s reigning run as the U.S. Cup Tasting Champ, it’s pretty special to have those seals of approval from industry insiders. But, what really matters most is that you’re loving it. Whether you’re a Duomo die-hard, a Heartwood regular, or enjoy trying out our seasonal single origins, thanks for having us.
Our taste makers toiled away with Chelelektu Natural to create this recipe... give it a go, enjoy and let us know what you think!
Immersion Dripper Clever or Bonavita
26 grams Coffee (ground like kosher salt)
380 grams 200°F water
Pour 100 grams water
Stir to saturate grounds
Add 380 grams water
Wait 1–2 minutes from initial pour and drain
We created a handy print-ready version of this recipe to hang on your fridge. Feel free to download and share!
We created this chart to make it super easy to brew the perfect cup of coffee whether it's one or ten cups. While a lot of fancy-pants coffee folks (including us) use digital scales and measure by weight, this recipe works as a jumping off point for when you measure by volume.
These PDF files are easily printable and shareable. We even made a version with 2 per sheet so you give one away.
The Recipe - Letter Sized (click to view/download)
The Recipe - Two Per Page (click to view/download)