About 20 years ago, Jay Ruskey planted a coffee tree at his Good Land Organics avocado ranch on the western edge of Goleta, where the foothills glide into the Gaviota Coast. The beans grew, and they were good, so he kept planting and spreading the word, becoming the first commercial coffee grower in the continental United States. Today, under the banner of Frinj Coffee — which he incorporated in 2017, taking the name in part from a 2014 Independent article about his farm and others — Ruskey works with 80 coffee farms from San Diego to San Luis Obispo and is turning this landscaping lark into a legitimate industry.
Many Santa Barbara residents learned about the project while taking tours of the property years ago, but those were put on hold as Ruskey focused on getting more farmers into the Frinj network. But those tours are back this summer, with three planned for July, August, and September.
The tours include walking through the hillside coffee plantation, trying the red, cherry-like fruit that surrounds the beans — some of that fruit is even yellow — and learning about the coffee-roasting process. Visitors may also sample the wild array of other fruits that Ruskey grows in cooperation with University of California botanists, such as Surinam cherries, caviar limes, cherimoya, dragon fruit, ice-cream beans, and tree tomatoes, depending on what’s ripe. And, of course, there’s the chance to sip on the finished product, some of which sells for as much as $450 a pound
The July 24, August 13, and September 17 tours run from 9:30 a.m.-noon, cost $150, and are limited to 25 people. The $150 ticket includes the moderately strenuous walking tour (bring hiking shoes, water, and sun protection), guided tastings of Frinj’s pour-over brews, locally made pastries, and discounts on fruit and merchandise.