Tucked quietly into the industrial park near the Minden Airport, you may not otherwise notice Alpen Sierra Coffee Roasting headquarters save for a small lime green mountain logo on the window of the building that matches the van in the lot. Step closer, however, and the rich aroma indulges the senses, beckoning the way only a good cup of coffee can.
Grounded in Quality
Christian Waskiewicz founded Alpen Sierra in 1991 at Lake Tahoe, later moving his operation to Carson Valley where they continue to process and roast around 140,000 pounds of coffee per year.
“The Carson Valley is the gateway to the Sierra and offers us a beautiful location for our roastery. It represents our brand perfectly.”
Over the years his business has expanded and changed; from log cabin beginnings to the high-tech and efficient facility they operate now, yet much has remained the same. A true blend of quality, sustainability, and philanthropy, Alpen Sierra coffee uses these values as their plumb bob – holding everything they do up against their mission to ensure they stay true to the values upon which they were brewed –er, built. And, for the past 31 years, it has been a winning recipe. Alpen Sierra coffee can be found all throughout the region in places like Carson Valley, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Markleeville and beyond, to locations in Oregon, Lone Pine, Sacramento, Winnemucca and Elko.
The Master Roaster Himself
One doesn’t come by the title “Master Roaster” easily; roasting coffee is art combined with science, not to mention cultivating a very keen and knowledgeable palate. Turns out, there is a pretty complicated flavor wheel to coffee and those who know, know. Sort of like how true wine drinkers can call out the flavor profile of a particular pour, Christian and other experts in the coffee field use a process called “cupping” to analyze and rate the individual characteristics of multiple varieties of samples. At Alpen Sierra, cupping takes place in their coffee lab. Christian has also been invited to various parts of the world to perform this technique as a tasting judge. By continuing this process, he remains dedicated to the Alpen Sierra tradition of creating a premium craft coffee to fuel the adventures of everyone who takes a sip. Perhaps part of this ambition stems from a love of outdoor exploration himself, so he knows just what it takes to get up and going in pursuit of the next great day. But cupping is not the beginning, in fact, it is far from it.
It All Starts with the Bean
The coffee lab at Alpen Sierra has a large screen mounted in the corner set on a loop of photos that showcases theorigins of the beans and the people who work so hard to produce them, taken by Christian himself. He has traveled all over the world, visiting the small farms and growers he partners with to source quality coffee beans. He seeks high caliber coffea arabica that can be sustainably and responsibly produced, as well as help support and empower the surrounding communities – many of which are in war torn or impoverished countries.
Chat with Christian over a cup of coffee (what else?) and you’ll instantly see the compassion that he has for others. In fact, instead of hearing about facts and figures, output and revenue, he will likely tell you about Café Femenino: an all women, non-profit organization in Peru that he purchases coffee from with the goal of empowering women and increasing the household incomes. Or, the small grower who picks every bean by hand on a steep hillside, acknowledging the incredible work that goes into the production of his product. He then knows it’s his responsibility to bring out the attributes in these beans during the roasting process.
“The coffee must be expertly roasted to portray all the favorable attributes of the origin and the cultivar, which the hard-working farmers and their families provide for us all.”
He visits these places, at times in remote areas, and seeks fair trade and to give back in any way he can. He also supports many local charities and programs and offers the option for others to do the same on the Alpen Sierra website.
Gimme Some Java
You can find all the locations that carry Alpen Sierra coffee by using their partner map. In Carson Valley, you can find fresh brewed Alpen Sierra (hot, iced and nitro) at Coffee on Main in Minden. You can also pick up a bag at Raley’s in Gardnerville or order directly from their website. Christian and the Alpen Sierra team would like to invite the community and visitors to drop by their headquarters during business hours (8 a.m. – 4p.m.) to purchase Roastery-fresh whole pounds of coffee! You can find them at 2222 Park Place 1A in Minden.
In the end, Christian says his goal is to please people in all aspects of the process by taking care of the farmers of the beans as well as giving coffee drinkers the best result possible – one excellent cup of coffee. And even though Alpen Sierra is a relatively small roastery, they have a heart that is anything but. So go take a sip of the sustainable, specialty coffee crafted right here in Carson Valley and taste the care that goes into every cup for yourself.