Brent Goewey has a lifetime of coffee experience and then a bit more. Brent has been a barista, coffee shop owner (in the SF/Bay area), master roaster and recently took on a new dual role as a caretaker (he likes to call himself Uncle Brent) to animals at an amazing sanctuary. And this all started with Peet’s Coffee in Menlo Park.
How did you get into coffee initially?
I started with Peet’s Coffee in high school, which is what made me fall in love with coffee itself. I was 16 at the time and they treated us as adults when it came to the craft of coffee. After that, I went to college at UC Santa Cruz and got a job at Pacific Coffee Roastery, where I learned how to really roast coffee. They also owned a Dietrich roaster, which is what was I trained on.
What came next?
My own shop came about in an interesting turn of events. After college, my mom was actually hospitalized long-term and I had to be at the hospital a lot of the time. I needed to find a job that offered me the flexibility to go to the hospital at any time. At the time, I had started roasting coffee for this shop called Canyon Coffee, and the owner allowed me that flexibility to come and go.
After about 3 years working there, the shop owner wanted to move and sell the café. She offered it to me first to see if I was interested in buying it. At the time, I could only come up with half the amount of what she wanted to sell it for. However, we were able to come to an agreement where I would pay 50% upfront and she would remain an investor and I would make quarterly payments for the next 5 years until I paid off the full amount.
What did you call the shop when you took it over?
I renamed the shop - Emerald Hills Roasting Company. I owned and operated that shop for 10 years and at one point had 7 employees working for me. We had a Dietriech roaster, which was a 25lb capacity roaster.
What was day-to-day like at shop?
We had a lot of direct customers, but it was also a booming roasting business. We sold beans to other coffee shops in the area and even a Lexus car dealership. At one point I was roasting about 1000lbs a week just for one coffee shop, which equated to 15-20 hours just for that one shop. I did all of the roasting myself.
Roasting at Ritual Coffee – how did that come about?
After so many years at my own shop, doing the same thing everyday, I just needed a break, to step back and recalibrate. At the time Ritual Coffee was looking for a roaster and so I started there. I loved working there and Ritual needed me more and more. They were the next level in coffee roasting.
I would go to my own shop from 6-10am in the morning, take an hour break and then take a train to SF. I rode a bike to the Ritual production warehouse and would then roast the coffee from Noon to 10pm. Sometimes we would roast up to 2000lbs a day. And I continued that for 2 years.
How did you leave all that to come to Los Angeles?
I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. My family had wanted to move to Los Angeles for a while. I was very resistant to move to LA in the beginning, because of my business. But then there was a good opportunity for my daughter Mia to attend a private school (because my ex-wife got a job opportunity there), and also my stepfather said he wanted to buy the business from me. I guess everything kind of lined up perfectly for this to happen. We came to LA and I got a job at Bru Coffee House in Los Feliz and I have been here ever since.
So how did the animal sanctuary come into the picture?
That was very unexpected. The girls had wanted to start an animal sanctuary in LA for a while, but hadn’t found the right opportunity. Then in the middle of the 2020 pandemic, they found the perfect property to start a sanctuary. They also asked me to move onto the property with them in 2020.
What is life like now and what’s next?
I love working at Bru. I love working at a café in general because I get to see people everyday, which is so wonderful especially in the world we’re living in now. There is a sense of community that gets lost in big cities, that you can only find in cafes, where you get close to people in a way that doesn’t easily happen. But also it’s amazing to get to do the work that I do, and be off at noon every day and go back to the animal sanctuary to see the family and the animals. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would ever live on an animal sanctuary, I would have said probably not. But I love Shadow Hills (where the sanctuary is located). It’s like stepping into a different world because the animals don’t know what’s happening in the world right now. All they care about is food and attention, and it’s a unique, but different bond. I always say I’m like the uncle or grandparent here that just gets to enjoy the fun part of bonding with the animals.
Hmm and what’s next – I’m not 100% sure given the current circumstance in the world, but I’d certainly would love to start roasting again one day.
And who are are your favorite animals at the sanctuary?
The pigs, Wilbur and Georgie, for sure are my favorites.