Situated in the sunny bowl of the Central Valley and anchoring the looming whitecap of Mount Shasta, Redding, California, isn’t known for its specialty food and beverage culture. Look down Hilltop Drive and you’ll see Famous Dave’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s. Turn your gaze down Cypress for more of the same, with a side dish of Starbucks. Not exactly the kind of place you’d expect to find a high-end coffee bar.
Jim Koenigsaecker, owner of Coffee Bar in Redding’s Old Town district, says his high-end coffee business “just kind of got out of control. I really just wanted to serve coffee out of my basement.” It’s a humble admission, appealing when heard across a really tasty breve cappuccino and a slice of artisan toast complete with sunny almond butter, local honey, and cinnamon dusting. The facts that all profits for the espresso bar and micro-roaster are funneled straight back into Koenigsaecker’s global charity, Innovations Housing, and that the business is severely under-marketed, add another layer of respect for (to quote Koenigsaecker) “the Best Shop in the Middle of Nowhere.”
“Back in 2008, I founded Innovations Housing,” says Koenigsaecker. “We do a lot of work in East Africa, including building two community centers in Nairobi that provide healthcare and education, and a school in Uganda as well as full-ride scholarships for around two hundred kids a year to attend.” The building block that houses Coffee Bar is an Innovations Housing project, and the name “Coffee Bar” evolved when Koenigsaecker grew out of his basement café, complete with a Linea two-group espresso machine, and decided to start serving his friends coffee next door to his office.
As usually happens, one thing led to another and over the course of two years the Linea became a Strada, the Hot Top became a one-kilo Giesen. Making coffee after hours evolved into a full staff complete with manager and head roaster. House-made syrups, from-scratch waffles, homemade foodstuffs, and thoughtful espresso became the norm for Coffee Bar. Redding rallied around Coffee Bar, filling the airy space with excited hellos, heart-to-heart meetings, and private Bible studies along with vanilla lattes in mason jars and shots of espresso from roasting partner Northbound Coffee Roasters in nearby Shasta, California.
“Keith of Northbound is just a great friend,” says Koenigsaecker. “When things snowballed so quickly I needed help with the coffee and Keith has been amazing. He worked with us developing roast profiles, letting us order specific coffees, and he even helped with our roasting setup here.” Northbound’s primary market is to Bay Area Whole Foods, so the partnership with Coffee Bar was unique.
As for sourcing, Koenigsaecker has his own approach informed by years on the ground in Africa. “I’d been going to Kenya since 2008 for our projects, and when I opened the shop I sent an e-mail to everyone I knew in East Africa that I’d like to buy coffee. Turns out I had been working with the owner of Dormans.” That relationship, and others, have grown organically as Koenigsaecker and his head roaster, Jason Miller, developed the roasting program.
Miller roasts for Coffee Bar as well as for his own micro roasting business, J. Edward Miller Coffee Roasters. Roast profiles veer toward light. Miller is an unabashed fan of Portland-based Heart Roasters and Wille and Rebekah Yli-Luoma’s pioneering efforts in precision and taste.
The retail coffee branding springs from Koenigsaecker’s motorcycle and coffee blog, Kick Start Café, which chronicles his adventures over years and continents. The aesthetic of the place reflects Kick Start Café’s dual focus, with Koenigsaecker’s bike reigning over the space from the front window and unique chandeliers that bring to mind tail pipes lighting the high ceilings and white walls. “I definitely like modern architecture, and usually build Innovations Housings projects in a modern or mid-century modern style. I worked with Terry Topolski, a local architect who also partners with us at Innovations, to design the building.”
Intentional or, as Jim relates it, accidental, Coffee Bar is doing good coffee things in Redding.
—Emily McIntyre, a regular contributor to Fresh Cup, is a writer based in Portland.