An epiphany struck Brayden Estby as he sat in a coffeehouse near Pinecrest Lake four years ago: he realized that, despite the fact that he had never roasted coffee before, he wanted to open a coffeehouse of his own.
“It wasn’t actually the coffee that got me into it—the coffee at this place was pretty horrible, actually—but the design was beautiful and the aesthetic, the passion of the people that worked there and the overall environment inspired me.”
Estby bought 200 pounds of green coffee and a home roaster, and began teaching himself to roast in earnest when he returned to Aptos. After working for a short time at Verve, he and his brother Joel Estby established 11th Hour Coffee, Santa Cruz County’s newest coffee roasting company, earlier this year. The fledgling business managed to snag a spot at the new farmers market in Willow Glen last winter, and shortly after began selling at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market, where they were an instant hit.
My friend adores 11th Hour’s handcrafted, whole bean coffee so much that she brought me a bag of an Ethiopian called the Origin to try. The next morning, as I inhaled the robust aroma and took my first sips, I could see why she had fallen in love with the bright, fruity, well-rounded brew.
11th Hour eschews the three overarching coffee categories of light, medium and dark, and instead roasts every bean to whatever degree brings out its best natural attributes. “When people ask, we like to say ‘it’s roasted until it’s roasted,’” says Joel. Their dynamic, single-origin coffees from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia can be brewed a variety of different ways, including as espresso.
If the enticing aromas wafting through the farmers market don’t draw you in, their gorgeous, hand-made coffee cart decorated with swirling river stones and succulents might. Joel explains that even their design is meant to enhance their customers’ coffee experience: “We want every detail taken into consideration to provide a custom craft experience that puts you into a mindset of imagination, creativity, and passion that can be taken with you into the rest of your day.”
11th Hour is available at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market, Staff of Life and Deluxe Foods of Aptos. eleventhhourcoffee.com.