The coffee obsession got its hooks firmly into Ryan O’Donovan while he was in college in Chico, California. He discovered a natural affinity for barista work and was quickly promoted in each of the coffee shops he joined. Inspired by the young entrepreneurs who ran these businesses, he began to imagine himself following a similar path.
When a coffee venture he and a friend hoped to start in Bend, Oregon had to be tabled, O’Donovan went to work for another coffee roaster in the Pacific Northwest. It was there that his education in roasting and cupping began in earnest. Coffee in cities like Portland and Seattle was a revelation, and O’Donovan began roasting on a sample roaster at home in an attempt to reproduce what he tasted from the best roasters in the Northwest. He was a natural with a great palate, and made quick progress. When his college friend Colby Barr randomly called about starting a roasting company, O’Donovan didn’t have to think twice.
Colby Barr grew up farming pears and wine grapes with his family tucked in the coastal range of Northern California where he learned early on the relationships between farmers, processors, buyers, and consumers. In college (when not playing in a slew of live bands) he studied environmental geography and GIS, and then spent several years applying those skills in the field on natural disasters for FEMA and others as an independent contractor.
Verve opened its doors in the surfing neighborhood of Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz in November of 2007. With Barr's love of coffee and travel, and his experience in farming and supply chain management, he naturally took on the position of Green Coffee Buyer, travelling the globe over four months a year to discover and develop the coffees. O’Donovan oversees the retail operations and is a driving force behind the aesthetics, culture, and overall direction of the brand. He still gets dirty on the roasting floor at times, and is always active in the cupping lab, where he doesn’t hesitate to make roast level or blend changes when he feels they are necessary.
Colby Barr and Ryan O'Donovan of Verve Coffee Roasters - Santa Cruz, CA