Something new is brewing at Nostalgia Coffee Roasters in Pacific Beach
Taylor Fields has big ambitions for the company she founded — Nostalgia Coffee Roasters. And she’s well on her way to making those dreams a reality.
It might seem unlikely that a 29-year-old woman with a relatively new company would be able to make a drop of difference in an industry dominated by famous coffee makers with long histories in the business. But Fields can envision a big world from some small coffee beans.
While spending hours studying for her Certified Analytics Professional exam in a Chicago coffee shop, huddled over her computer with a mug of hot brew as a constant companion, Fields fell in love with coffee.
Even when she moved more than 2,000 miles away — from the cold Chicago weather to a job at accounting firm BDO in sunny San Diego — her mind was still grinding over coffee facts.
“I was obsessed with coffee,” said the Pacific Beach resident. “Kettle, grinder, brewer; I used to give impromptu lessons at PDO on everything coffee.”
Fields found the founders and CEOs that BDO worked with very inspiring.
“These people would have fantastic ideas, and they would start new companies by following their passion,” she said.
In 2018, Fields started her own company, and Nostalgia Coffee Roasters was born. And it wasn’t going to be just any cup of joe — from the beginning, Fields’ plan was to disrupt the coffee industry.
“I fell in love with coffee back in Chicago,” she said. “I love studying the science of coffee, the amounts to use, the different kinds, the story of it. I love the feeling of drinking a perfect cup of coffee during the bitter Chicago winters.”
Nostalgia’s starting point for coffee industry disruption began with a mobile coffee cafe.
“We bought a 7-foot by 10-foot trailer and built it from the ground up,” she said. “We did all the plumbing, electrical — everything.”
Known affectionately as “Old Faithful,” the mobile cafe debuted October 2018 at Lane Field Park in San Diego, and quickly became a favorite at local farmer’s markets, including PB’s.
Once set up, the mobile cafe becomes a true coffee shop experience, Fields said, with eclectic, uplifting music, a mix of modern and classic art and knowledgeable staff.
Meanwhile, beyond the mobile cafe, COVID-19 was brewing. Nostalgia was appearing at four to five venues a week when the pandemic caused much of San Diego to grind to a halt.
Instead of throwing in the towel, Fields decided it was time for a company pivot. Creating her own coffee was always part of the overall plan, and so the downtime allowed for a full-time, crash course on building a coffee roasting company. But she wasn’t looking to create just another coffee — it had to be original, made of the best beans she could find, and above all, taste great.
She turned to her good friend and fellow coffee lover Brandt Rakowski, a former coffee roaster at Bird Rock Coffee, a local chain with several San Diego locations, including PB, and asked him to join the business.
“We decided that to start our roasting program, we needed an espresso blend, which tends to magnify the qualities of your coffee, whether they’re good or bad,” Rakowski said.
With Rakowski as head roaster, their first collaboration produced Memory Lane, a medium roast blending coffees from Brazil, Guatemala and Sumatra. Earning 92 points from Coffee Review, Memory Lane is the highest rated blend in California.
Coffee Review has also given them high ratings for several of their other creations, such as their Ethiopian decaf; Columbia Cardona Natural, their first direct trade coffee; and Nayani Washed, a coffee from Mexico created to celebrate the cultural ties between the Mexico and the U.S.
“Nayani is one of the best coffees from Mexico I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting,” Rakowski said.
About seven months ago, Fields set her sights on yet another disruption — a “pour over” coffee grind so that anyone, even without experience or fancy coffee equipment, would be able to indulge in a great cup of coffee.
The result is Nostalgia Coffee’s brew bag.
At least one well-known major coffee brand has had a brew bag-type coffee grind for many years, “but it’s so forgettable, most people don’t even know it exists,” Taylor said.
“We’re using a completely different brewing method. We’re also looking at the whole process holistically and really pushing the innovation,” she said.
Some of the traits they’ve incorporated into their process are the coffee’s origin, roasting profile, blend rations, off gassing times and micro particle size distribution. They also made the bags compostable.
Their first production run of the brew bags sold out on the first day. Nostalgia’s brew bags are available online in limited quantities. In the future, Fields plans direct-to-customer sales, and eventually to have the bags available to offices, hospitals, and grocery stores.
Fields isn’t satisfied with just being a small cafe.
“I’m mission driven and want to be one of the largest coffee companies in the world,” she said confidently.
Meanwhile, Fields is well-grounded on what keeps her company going; she wants to keep her current staff of seven around for the long term.
“We want to pay our employees sustainable living wages, so they don’t have to have a second job. We want to put women and minorities in positions of power. And we want to keep people in the coffee industry longer, by converting them into long-term career employees,” she said.
She’s also determined to pay the coffee farmers livable wages, and build long-term relationships, especially among the women growers, co-ops and coffee bean washing station personnel. She focuses on helping the people around her, and, as a result, has made friends across the globe in the coffee industry.
“Taylor is a very unique person; she dreams big and she goes for it,” Rakowski said. “She’s very positive and holds the rest of us to that mindset. Every day I get out of bed and it’s fun to go to work. ”
Nostalgia also believes in donating to causes that benefit the local community. For example, the company made weekly donations of coffee to the nurses and volunteers giving out COVID vaccinations at the Petco Park Vaccine Super Station. Also, last September, as fires broke out in the San Diego area, they brought the mobile cafe to the fire response team and shared their brews with everyone battling the blazes.
By this month, Fields says Nostalgia will partner with a non-profit so that a tree will be planted for every box of their coffee purchased.
She’s also happy to begin making positive changes right in her own backyard. For the past several years, Fields has lived in a PB apartment, which she shares with a cat, Emma, and a pet Gecko, Lou-C, named after a favorite pizza spot in Chicago.
“I love the fact that I know all of my neighbors, and I can work from home. I’m just a couple of blocks from a world-class beach where I learned to surf and I can walk to lunch. I love the local eateries,” she said.
When not working, she can often be found surfing, building Legos, and spending time with her girlfriend of eight months. But even when hiking and backpacking the local mountains and deserts, her favorite beverage isn’t far from her mind. She loves drinking coffee while hanging out in nature.
The Nostalgia Coffee Roasters mobile coffee shop is open 7 days a week, at UCSD Mesa Neuva on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays; at the PB Tuesday Farmers Market; the OB Farmers Market on Wednesdays; and at the Lane Field Park Market Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit: nostalgiacoffeeroasters.com