Interview with L.A. Rising Star Artisan Zayde Naquib of Bar Nine

by Caroline Hatchett
June 2017

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get into roasting?
Zayde Naquib:
I was obsessed with coffee, from the moment I started working in it. Roasting came a few years in. I knew I wanted to have my own project one day. I started roasting five years ago at home. I saved my tips for six months to buy a sample roaster. I roasted on that during all my off hours; I’m mostly self-taught. I put together a business plan, working with some amazing people, and we opened in April 2014.

CH: What’s your production like? 
We roast 1,000 pounds per week in a 12-kilo roaster. We have a healthy e-commerce business, and also sell wholesale to partners. We always wanted to work with partners that share the same values we have: hospitality, great guest experience, great product. We’d rather have coffee in fewer places, then regret someone else’s representation of what we do. 

CH: What’s your philosophy?
We believe that a sea of choices is no choice at all. We want to focus on less so we can focus on the things we do. We have wonderful relationships with green producers and 90 Plus. We work with them on green selection. There’s a tremendous variety within our three coffees. Behind the bar, we have one coffee a day, three ways. Most of the time, guests don’t have the knowledge to know what they’re ordering. There’s a sense of trust in our team, and it’s always evolving. We have a coffee of the week, and hopefully for us, by the end of the week, we’ve made a lot of incremental improvements. We start with a great base on Monday, but it’s better on Sunday. I’m influenced by a Japanese concept called kaizen, which means continuous improvement. One of the ways we want operate as a company is through incremental improvements. Roast profiling can be difficult. There are a lot of changes in the coffee as you have it, from moisture to natural aging. We’re always having to make minor adjustments every week. If we had 7 or 10 coffees, that’s a lot to have mastered. I’d rather spend that time on a few coffees, knowing our limitations. Other roasters’ job is to maintain the taste, we can thread the needle a bit more. 

CH: What’s the roasting scene like in L.A.? 
I’m in this bubble most of the time. What I’m struck by is there’s a tremendous amount of variety of approach to extraction. Each player is doing something that is their own. It’s exciting for the consumer.

CH: What’s your extraction style? 
Our style of extraction… We don’t actually serve espresso; we’re brewing with really low pressure. Call it a coffee shot, amplifying the taste of brewed coffee. I like coffees that taste like fruit and flower.

CH: Do you have any direct relationships with farmers? 
One thing we want to do is work towards making decisions at the farm level for what we experience here. Connect the process with drinking a cup of coffee, and selecting the varieties that 90 Plus sends to us. So, we’re able to narrow down specific rates we want to present in the cup. One reason we have the sourcing relationship is that we’re not experts in the field. We don’t want to kid ourselves—we want to deliver these tastes to more and more people. We’re passionate about sharing our sharing.