Your first relaxing cafe con leche in Madrid or Barcelona is unforgettable. However, in Spain, coffee is something that, upon closer inspection, sucks. Just yucky flavors, burnt coffee with boxed milk, albeit a satisfying proportion of milk and espresso.
Fortunately for coffee, as with many things, Spain is globalizing. The meticulous and careful barista has popped up over the last couple of years in San Sebastián, in various forms: Caffe Terzi in Antiguo, an appearance by Javier Garcia in The Loaf, followed by a spattering of pop-ups in the local markets and the Tabakalera.
There's a new coffee shop in town. Sakona is not just a shop; they are roasters, based about 10 miles outside of San Sebastián. Javier Garcia left his spot behind the espresso machine of The Loaf to break out and make his own coffee, and Sakona is the result: a coffee shop for the new century, as on trend as on trend can be, and also the best spot to grab a coffee in town.
Yes, a chemex! Welcome to the 21st century, San Sebastián!
So I have sat down with Javier Garcia, founder and jefe of Sakona Coffee Roasters. Javier has been the Barista Champion of Spain FIVE times, dominating from 2008-2011 and then again in 2014. He was also fourth in the World Barista Championship 2011, celebrated in the cafe mecca of Bogotá. It doesn't stop him from patiently explaining coffee to even the most clueless, sourpuss citizens, totally turning the stereotypical hipster barista prototype on its head.
This is a small introduction so that when you have the chance to pop into their beautiful, light-filled space on the river in San Sebastián, you'll already feel part of the Cool Coffee Kids Klub.
Javi! I knew you were expert at pouring espresso and gently explaining why people shouldn't put sugar in their lattes. But where did you learn how to roast coffee?
In my case, roasting is a challenge. I have had the opportunity to be with a good number of roasters in my life that have shared roasting techniques and tastings, but I had never had the chance to roast and roast batches and batches, capturing the best of every bean.
The exciting thing about roasting is that it goes hand in hand with tasting and the appreciation of flavors. Tasting and recognizing qualities of each roast turns roasting into a constant learning process. We have access to a lot of theory nowadays, and there are great books to recommend, but the experience of roasting many different cafes and tasting the results is what is truly teaches you and helps you form your own identity.
And what distinguishes your coffee?
Our coffees were conceived always thinking of the quality of their flavor. Coffee is a seasonal fruit and we should respect freshness. Generally, they are coffees that are obtained from specific farms, where we have a ton of information on how the coffee has been treated at all times. The price of this coffee is higher, and it's not part of the commodity markets. The quality of the coffee allows us to roast it in a way that allows us to capture the lovely flavors while avoiding the bitterness and burnt flavors. Our bags have the date of the roast on them and we always sell them as a perishable product.
How did you come up with Sakona as a name?
We didn't look for a name based on meaning. The goal was for our work to give meaning tot he name. Our objective is that, with time, when people hear 'sakona', they identify the name with the quality of what we do. It's easy to pronounce for nearly all the inhabitants of our planet.
You roast in Irun but the cafe is in Donosti. Explain!
I am originally from Irún, and the idea of having a roaster in my hometown has always been a dream of mine. For a shop, Donostia is without a doubt the best spot, a city open to the world. It's a new time for specialty coffee, and being the one to help bring it to a city as known for food and drink as San Sebastián is a seductive proposition.
Will you sell your coffee in other places?
The goal is to sell coffee wholesale, and to support and participate in the new specialty coffee market that is awakening in this country.
We've known each other for a few years now. What does it mean that I still love French Press more than any other preparation of coffee?
You got me! That's a question I have had for years. You probably like it because the way it filters coffee is with a metal web, which in most cases allows the smallest particles of ground coffee to pass through. Because of that, in the cup you can feel a slightly sandy texture and the flavor in general is a lot stronger. Let's say you like French press because you like to chew on coffee.
What is the perfect cup of coffee for you?
It doesn't exist. Coffee, like fruit, has a diversity of characteristics and flavors that allows us to experience and enjoy very different, wonderful coffees.
Sakona Coffee Roasters
Bajo, Ramón María Lili Pasealekua, 2
20002 Donostia, Gipuzkoa