Heritage Roasting Company
● By Jim Powell
By Jim Powell
Photo: Betsy Erickson
“It’s a mysterious thing. The more I pursued it, the better it got.” Stuart Sutherland of Heritage Roasting Company in Shasta Lake made that statement when describing the beginnings of his passion for excellent coffee. Add Sara Sutherland’s Weaverville upbringing and you broaden the flavor with a small-town atmosphere of community that influences both the barista and customer sides of the coffee bar.
Dialogues at the store often go beyond power connecting. Visitors and regulars also find a monthly rotated gallery of creativity on their walls provided by local artists.
Stu believes coffee is a centerpiece for community. It creates a catalytic space where decisions large and small are made, relationships are formed and maintained and creatives find inspirational freedom for their work.
Stu and Sara pace their employees to create a "third space" environment that gets away from home and work. The baristas provide quick service, but take time to learn names and hear stories; nothing rushed.
Stu tells of a once-a-month gathering called a throw-down. Baristas from the coffee community attend rotated hosting cafes to have a friendly competition over latte art. Its undercurrent spurs on quality, because everyone there wants to pour great art; plus, getting them in the same room is another level of catalyzing.
Sara says the throw-down has taken on a life of its own in Redding after more than a year, with the baristas taking the reins and creating events.
Getting together with two other roasters in the Redding area in an unofficial guild keeps Stu’s eyes open to the different angles and perspectives of his roasting expertise and makes him a better roaster. It's yet another venue of relationship around town.
Stu’s adventure with coffee fired up when he was 13, working at a kiosk in downtown Sacramento. It percolated in the background in the early years while he explored a “real job.” He eventually left a 12-year love of architecture to pursue his passion for people, community and coffee.
Sara, amusingly, remembers her coffee beginnings with Folgers and Coffeemate. Her parents bought an espresso machine for her while she was in high school, taking coffee to a stronger level. Her current coffee values and inspirations flow from Stu.
In the progress of things, Stu learned the craft of roasting and wholesaling his wares. Already self accomplished, he attended the American Barista and Coffee School in Portland, which affirmed his abilities, enlarged on small details and allowed him to experience Thursday Night Throw-downs.
In their latest adventure, Stu and Sara were invited to be guest speakers at a first-ever coffee conference in Mongolia. They brought to the table their passion to integrate coffee and community in a predominantly tea-drinking culture that has been swinging quickly toward coffee in recent years. They also spent 10 days in a local shop training baristas and their roaster.
Given a perspective that the United States is about 20 years into a serious coffee culture, Stu says Mongolia has caught up quickly through its coffee phases and appears to be only three to five years behind current trends.
Sara points out that the Mongolians are very kind people, but their historical warrior toughness and strength was getting in the way of community in the coffee culture. "For us to say, 'Your competitors can be your friends and your community,' was paramount."
The best parts of coffee culture revolve around community. It allows for more and more people to have a better coffee experience as people gravitate from shop to shop.
But Sara and Stu’s desire to see Shasta Lake and its businesses thrive communally didn’t stop downstairs in the cafe. The upper level has several community center rooms for special occasions and neighborhood connections.
The volunteer-run Hub gathers the after-school crowd for mentoring, tutoring, creative workshops and a fun space to hang out. Heritage volunteers and baristas come from various walks of life and share their passion for connection.
Visibly, Shasta Lake isn't just a place of coffee business for the Sutherlands. It is their home and they have dreams of extending their borders. They have planted fruit trees at the cafe site as a self-portrait of their intention to remain. And they have a vision to build a separate two-story building to expand the bean roasting and house other businesses for like-minded entrepreneurs. For the second story, they see a reality of a collaborative work space: a rising flavor in commerce.
With positively intentional commitment, encouragement and influence like theirs, Heritage Roasting Company aims to be a channel that creates a new legacy for Shasta Lake.
Heritage Roasting Company
4302 Shasta Dam Blvd., Shasta Lake