Keeping Up — and Caffeinated — with the Joneses

A visitor recently ventured into Jones Coffee Roasters looking for the proprietor and asked a teenage employee where he might find Mireya Jones.
“You mean my grandma?” came the reply.
For a family owned and operated business, it’s the perfect response. But when you find Grandma, you’ll learn that this is no tiny mom-and-pop operation. The growing empire being built in Pasadena is rooted on 1,400 acres in the Guatemalan mountains, where the Jones clan still grows more than 1 million pounds of beans annually, and they’ve been doing it for five generations.
So the backstory of Jones Coffee is the story. It begins in the 1800s, when a debt owed to Jones’ great-grandmother turned into a land deed. Maria de Maldonado ventured from her home in east Guatemala to the highlands on the west side of the country, discovering 1,400 acres belonged to her.
“When they arrived, there were Germans planting coffee on both sides of the farm,” said Jones, who was born on the farm. “So they dug their heels in and did the same.”
Almost 150 years after the first crop, the farm — known as Finca Dos Marias — is still producing high-quality arabica beans, which are planted in 13 micro-regions and picked up to six times year. For years, the beans were sold through Hamburg, Germany, long considered the fulcrum for the world’s best coffee. But when the value of the mark dropped in the early 1990s, Finca Dos Marias’ export needed a jolt of its own, and two of Mireya’s children, longtime San Marino residents Chuck and Larry Jones, looked to the United States.
They loaded up a Suburban with eight 150-pound sacks of beans and began trekking through Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Chuck laughed thinking back on the memory of driving into a new town, ripping the “coffee roasters” page out of a phone book and selling beans out of the back of a truck. Mireya said the coffee scene hadn’t quite taken hold yet: “Nobody knew where Guatemala even was — they kept it calling it Guadalajara.”
But the grassroots efforts to sell the farm-grown beans began to attract a following, and when a friend sold a demo roaster, the Jones family decided to set up shop in Pasadena on South Raymond Avenue, where they’ve been at three different locations since 1994. Not long after launching a home front, Jones Coffee won a blind taste test for Caltech’s contract, and has since added a host of other local institutions, such as the Tournament of Roses. And while Jet Propulsion Laboratory is also contracted with Starbucks, Mireya said the individual labs still order Jones Coffee.
“They’re such coffee geeks,” Mireya said. “They’re great that way.”
Jones Coffee Roasters moved to its current location at 693 S. Raymond Ave. in 2009, a former loading dock for a warehouse that is now home to an eclectic collection of art, trinkets and, of course, coffee from all over. Chuck’s favorite, naturally, is the Guatemalan, which he described as a “creamy body with chocolate and nuts, hints of spicy cinnamon and a long, sweet finish.”
The trend of the day is nitro-charged cold brew, and in typical Jones family fashion, their offering honors its heritage: Maldonado called her cold-brew “Esencia,” so that’s the name of the cold brew on the menu today.
Back at the farm in Guatemala, quality is stressed over quantity. But the amount of beans produced annually — 30 containers that are 37,000 pounds apiece, according to Jones — is staggering all the same. The key to the quality, said Jones’ son Chuck, is the farm’s workers. While many farms hire migrant workers who don’t focus on the sustainability of crops yet to come, Finca Dos Marias uses locals who have worked on the farms for seven generations, meaning one family business has created another.
The family atmosphere is reinforced through the deeding of parcelas, or worker-owned land, and Finca Dos Marias supports schools, churches and medical clinics for the unionized employees and their families.
But the Jones family members, who lived in San Marino from 1974 through 1990, don’t just bring the beans here — occasionally, they bring local residents to the beans. Mireya and her husband, Larry, often host visitors on a trip to the farm for culture, coffee and camaraderie.
Mireya said nothing has changed back on the farm from when she was a child; the wood-burning stove is still there, as are the great-grandchildren of Finca Dos Marias’ workers. But back in Los Angeles, things have shifted for the family in the past 21 years, as the product’s demand seems to grow and grow. For two years, Jones Coffee also operated in West Hollywood’s newly opened library after that city begged the company to relocate. But Mireya said it wasn’t the same as being on this side of town.
“It just wasn’t right, and we felt disconnected,” she said. “We’ve talked about doing pop-ups, but we’re where we are.
“We’re Pasadena’s coffee.”
For more information on Jones Coffee Roasters, visit TheBestCoffee.com or call (626) 564-9291.

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