Interview: Alan Gomez (Commodity Coffee)
Seasoned coffee pro Alan Gomez clocked time with industry leaders like Portola Coffee, Cognoscenti Coffee, and Lord Windsor Coffee before moving north. He gained valuable experience with two of Portland’s best beverage brands – BARISTA and Cascade Brewing – before returning to Southern California. He launched Commodity Coffee with a 2016 pop-up at North Menswear in Laguna Beach before settling down with wife Katie in Long Beach. This spring, he debuted a Commodity café in a burgeoning design district, next to Working Class Kitchen. The space will continue to evolve, but he’s already brewing some of Long Beach’s best coffee. Learn more about Gomez’s connection with the world’s most beloved bean.
JL: At what point did you know you’d work with coffee for a living? Did you consider any other careers?
AG: I really loved the coffee culture and community and just the environment of working at a coffee bar. It was an easy thing to fall in love with, I guess similar to a line cook getting passionate about his work and becoming a chef. When I got my first coffee job, I was actually going through the hiring process at LAPD. That was something I felt called to do for a few years and then working in coffee made me realize that coffee, and the beverage world in general, was the right path for me.
JL: What inspired you to start Commodity Coffee?
AG: After working for several amazing coffee companies, I realized it was time for me to take a leap of faith and try to build up my own shop. And practically speaking, I want to raise a family one day and I don’t want to have to be at the mercy of someone for time off with my family and things of that nature.
JL: Why is Long Beach the right city for your concept?
AG: Long Beach has always been a really interesting place. There are so many pockets of great food, beer, coffee, etc, but still so underrated when compared to L.A. proper and Orange County. I think it deserves more options for quality goods.
JL: What distinguishes Commodity’s approach from other coffee bars around the city?
AG: I don’t know if it’s so much of a distinguished approach, but I’m at a point in my life where I just want to make someone good coffee, however they take it. My menu is very simple, but I do always try and get people the drink they’re looking for or at least something very close. And I know that simplicity isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine, we all have our own tastes and that’s what is so great about having so many good coffee bars in Long Beach.
JL: Where do you see the Los Angeles coffee scene in five years, and how does Commodity Coffee fit into that vision?
AG: I think the L.A. coffee scene is pretty amazing, probably the best in the country in my opinion. You can go to nearly every coffee bar in L.A. County and get an amazing & unique experience. Whether it’s their array of roasters, impressive build out, signature drinks, competition skill level, or overall vibe, there is definitely something amazing about coffee in L.A. I think Commodity fits in there pretty well. We have a pretty great spread of roasters currently, our vibe and music is always on point, and I like to think we provide a good coffee experience in drink quality and connectivity with our clientele, even though our space is in a sort of pop-up phase. I might be biased by saying all this though.
JL: How did you decide which coffee roasters to carry at Commodity, and can you see roasting yourself at some point?
AG: There are so many great roasters out there, so that definitely made it tough. In the end I picked a few roasters to keep the roaster spread unique. I currently carry Penrose from Denver, Lord Windsor from Long Beach and Belleville Brulerie from Paris. I won’t ever roast for Commodity. There are already so many great roasters and I’d rather just work with them and keep my focus on the bar.
JL: What’s your favorite aspect of working in the coffee world?
AG: The community. Whether it’s connecting to another coffee professional or someone stoked on coffee, I’ll always love the community surrounding coffee.
JL: How did you decide on the name Commodity Coffee? What does commodity coffee mean to you?
AG: Coffee is the second highest traded commodity in the world, second only to crude oil. So, coffee as a whole is just a commodity. To most people it’s a supply & demand type of product and nothing more. So, in my mind I really liked the idea of calling a coffee bar with higher standards a “commodity.”