Topeca Coffee: 150-Year-Old Roasting Operation now led by Legendary National Roasting Champion, Ian Picco
The global coffee market crash of 2001 posed a major challenge to the sixth generation family-owned coffee farm started by Santiago Diaz-Caceras in El Salvador on the slopes of the Santa Ana Volcano. Farmers all across the industry were being forced to close their doors and sit on their hard-earned assets in hope that the market might rebound, but the story of Topeca was different. Instead of giving up on their 150-year-old coffee growing operation, then-owner Margarita Lucia Diaz knew she needed to act quickly to save her family business.
Margarita knew it wasn’t going to happen alone. She called a family meeting to lay out the serious challenge they faced. With all the family in attendance, son in law John (Chip) Gaberino, quickly realized how important coffee was to his wife’s family. John held little knowledge about coffee but did not want to give up the family heritage or close doors, and the family wanted to continue to employ the community members that had been with them for decades.
At the current time (2001), the family was only farming and selling to coffee millers, but John knew they needed to make significant changes to make a difference and remain in business. So, they decided to revamp the company’s business model to become less dependent on the commodity market and cut out the middlemen. They invested in necessary milling equipment and then started roasting coffee as well at the family farms in El Salvador. This allowed them to control the quality at each step of the process – but something still wasn’t right. Gaberino told us, “It was still too expensive to import roasted coffee, so we needed to make a pivot in the business model once again”.
In 2005 John and his wife decided to move the roastery to Tulsa, Oklahoma; importing the coffee from the farms and then roasting to deliver fresh to customers. In 2005, Topeca Coffee was founded. The establishment of the vertically integrated, family-owned structure meant they would have full control over the quality of the coffee from seed to cup and it meant the family business would live on.
Topeca Welcomes the National Roaster of the Year
“Seeing the impact Topeca had on the coffee industry and their ability to fully control the product from start to finish was something you simply don’t come across, I saw an opportunity to grow my skills and knowledge of coffee with the company”, Director of Coffee Ian Picco told us. “When I started with Topeca we were just three employees, and now after eleven years with the company we have grown to many more, along with multiple cafes, a cupping laboratory, and ownership of a third farm.”
Over the course of his time with Topeca, Picco has worn just about every hat possible when it comes to coffee. His experience starts at the barista level and now includes buying, roasting, and overseeing the entire Topeca operation. Ian’s leadership has transformed Topeca into one of the most well-known and awarded roasters in the country. Topeca has amassed some of the top national awards in the highly competitive specialty coffee market. Personally, at the 2018 U.S. Coffee Championships, Ian was recognized as the top coffee roaster in the U.S. and was named the U.S. Roaster Champion.
Topeca has become a staple for coffee education, offering in-house cupping experiences through their cupping lab and being very involved with the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). The roastery is very focused on maintaining quality which means continually staying educated. Through their partnerships with the SCA, Topeca is a trusted voice in coffee that provides a vast array of resources and knowledge for coffee drinkers all over the world.
Ian Picco and his team at Topeca continue to innovate with their products and roasting operation and they’ve only just begun. From the three family farms in both El Salvador and Brazil to their roastery in Tulsa, and then finally to your cup – it’s quality that’s hard to beat. It’s a commitment to the “coffee craft” at both the farm and the roasting level. From bean to brew, this is one of very few companies in the world who offer what this incredible coffee experience.
Join the Lokoly Coffee Club
As we left Topeca, we were in absolute awe of the time we were honored to have with them. Witnessing a roaster who maintains small-batch quality through and through and experiencing all the unique things they do every single day was an unforgettable experience. We felt as if we were in the presence of coffee legends (we were, by the way), and we absolutely could not wait to share the same experience with Lokoly Coffee Club members. From John Gaberino to Ian Picco and all the amazing staff at Topeca, this is what coffee is all about.
Join the Lokoly Coffee Club to receive our private-labeled, never released, exclusively roasted, and only available to Lokoly club members: Tres Fincas. In this box, we will also include the roaster's choice “Ethiopia Sasaba” and two cans of Topeca’s Nitro Cold brew which scored 93/100 from The Coffee Review.
What’s in the Box:
Tres Fincas (right)
This exclusive blend brings together 3 unique coffees from each of Topeca’s family-owned farms, Fincas Ayutepeque and el Manzano in El Salvador and Fazenda Santana in Brazil. The base of the blend marries equal portions of classically processed coffee varieties from Ayutepeque and Santana, laying down rich chocolate, hazelnut, and caramel undertones. A fruit dried coffee from el Manzano is then mixed in to add a bit of fruity sweetness for a balanced, sophisticated, and approachable cup of coffee that will have you wanting more.
Roast Level: Medium Roast
Ethiopia Sasaba (left)
The Sasaba Washing station in the southern region of Guji is known for quality. The owner purchases on the best quality cherries from area farmers, incentivizing quality cherry with premium prices, and working one on one with farmers to help them improve their quality year after year. The hard work and dedication pays off in the cup. Topeca roasts this coffee gently to develop the natural sweetness and fruit flavors inherent in this fruit dried heirloom coffee. If you are looking for a unique coffee experience, look no further. If you’ve never experienced a top quality natural Ethiopian coffee before, then you’ll be delighted by the aromas and textures in this coffee. The first thing to hit you is the blueberry aroma, followed by sweet floral honeyed tones, and a milk chocolatey finish.
Roast Level: Light-Medium Roast
Bonus: Nitro Cold Brew
Our Nitro Cold Brew is like a refreshing kick in the teeth! Okay, well maybe that’s a little too violent of a description, but seriously this is some good stuff. You’ll find it equally rich and refreshing, with flavor notes of chocolate milk, raisin, caramel, and coffee cherry. It packs a punch, with the caffeine equivalent to an average 20oz cup of regular brew. Shake it up, crack it open, and pour it in a glass for the full nitro effect, or over ice if you like it super chilled. It also makes a great ingredient for coffee cocktails and mocktails alike.
- Scored 93 points by coffeereview.com