Connect
To Top

Meet Kelly Contessa of Zodiac Coffee Roasters in Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Contessa.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kelly. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
A friend of mine was transitioning from being (what is known in the coffee industry as) a green bean importer to a Specialty Coffee Roaster. He wanted myself and my business partner to invest at the “ground” level but we both had no experience with the coffee industry outside of consuming it of course, so we initially declined. Once the Roastery was up and running we went to congratulate them and check out their new space. We got a tour of the warehouse, equipment, and that’s where I first laid eyes on the Probat Coffee Roaster aka “The Mercedes Benz of Coffee Roasters!” Being a naturally interested person in the mechanics of all things, I wanted to see how this machine worked and how exactly coffee was roasted. Little did I know this experience would open the door to a whole new career path for me! What many people don’t realize is coffee can be somewhat of a culinary experience, I relate it to being a Sommelier, each coffee origin not only has it’s unique inherent flavor properties, (terrior) but those flavors can be enhanced or brought to subtleties with the craft of the roasting process. After our trip to Roastery, I immediately enrolled myself in an intensive five days workshop in Vermont to become a Q-Grader (a sommelier of coffee) and started as a roasting apprentice when I got back to Los Angeles. Since we missed our initial investment opportunity, we worked out an arrangement to be able to lease the space and equipment for a few hours every week so I could roast my own line of coffee and Zodiac Coffee Roasters was born!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Well, the coffee industry is a VERY SATURATED industry so we’ve been trying to find some footing. Initially, we thought we’d sell wholesale to local cafes and they’d be SO STOKED to be working with a local roaster. That turned out not to be the case, most cafes are already working with a local roaster or have loyalties to larger coffee entities that can afford to purchase expensive equipment for them, and therefore are beholden to selling that particular brand of coffee. We then pivoted to doing events, targeting restaurants and bakeries, but aside from a few one offs it’s been hard to gain steady customers. I quickly learned that my strong suit isn’t sales, rejection is hard, and harder to shake off – but my passion for creating the product still remains. We currently are trying our hand selling online on various platforms and are investigating potential catering avenues as well.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Zodiac Coffee Roasters – what should we know?
The Specialty Coffee Industry experienced a HUGE boom in the US during the mid-2000s. I’m sure we’ve all seen those small local artisan cafes popping up around our areas more and more. The craft experience has become a large part of our culinary culture in recent years. People want to learn MORE about the food or beverages they’re consuming, they want uniqueness and variety, they want to move out of mass production and commercialization, be more conscious of what they’re consuming and why. Specialty Coffee focuses in on the craft of coffee in many different aspects, from where the bean is sourced and if it is sourced ethically to how it is roasted. I won’t name names, but certain popular commercial coffee brands that you can easily find at every street corner in any given city, have let those values fall to the wayside.

Coffee is seen as a cheap quick fix and Zodiac aims to change that perception and aid that cultural shift from Commercial to Specialty. Specialty coffee takes time to brew, specialty coffee doesn’t come in pods, you have to freshly grind specialty coffee, and yes specialty coffee is more expensive! Zodiac invites our customers to slow down and enjoy the process, set your intention for your day while enjoying your cup. We incorporate Astrology into our brand because it helps us to identify, to think about our behaviors, and it’s fun! Coffee can be more than an energy boost. It can be a boost of the energy you desire.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Curiosity

Pricing:

  • All Blends $16
  • All Single Origins $18
  • Seasonal Specialties $18

Contact Info:

  • Website: zodiacroasters.com
  • Phone: 8002321191
  • Email: kelly@zodiacroasters.com
  • Instagram: @zodiacroasters
  • Facebook: @zodiacroasters

Image Credit:
Herman Askew

Suggest a story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in