South Lake Tahoe-based Refuge Coffee launches monthly subscription service
The journey that brought Refuge Coffee founder Jared Marquez to where he is today has not always been easy, but it’s been filled with moments of validation that remind him why he works two jobs and still finds time to roast coffee and run his own company.
This December, Marquez took the next step in building his business with the launch of a monthly coffee subscription service — a move he hopes will bring him one step closer to his dream of opening up a coffee shop here in his hometown of South Lake Tahoe.
Refuge Coffee lovers can already order beans online or purchase them from Free Bird Cafe, but now they also have the option to sign up for a monthly or bi-monthly customizable delivery. Choices include two 12 ounce bags for $36 a month, two 8 ounce bags for $26 a month, or a “choose your own adventure” subscription for $18 a month.
“Every month you have an automatic payment, and coffee shows up at your door,” explained Marquez, who officially began Refuge Coffee back in July 2015.
But the seed of the idea was planted long before that on a sunny day in San Diego.
“One morning after a run I sat down with coffee and toast, as I usually would, and I was just so happy with where my life had brought me, and the coffee and toast was just awesome. I thought, ‘man, I wish there was a place where people could go to get this.’ Not just the coffee, but everything in that moment,” recalled Marquez.
The more he thought about it, the more he realized his idea of a “refuge” was something he wanted to bring to the place where he was born and raised.
“‘Refuge’ I feel carries the mission of what we’re about and what I want to do. Our coffee is just the vehicle. We want to serve refuge whether it’s in the way we treat people or the product they get on their doorstep. It’s representative of my heart for my hometown,” expressed Marquez.
So Marquez began tasting all different types of coffee, and roasting beans on his stove until he discovered “the sweet spot.”
“Our goal is to highlight the natural sweetness of the coffee. If you roast too dark, you continue caramelizing and burning sugars, and that’s where you get that bitter intensity in a dark roast,” explained Marquez.
“And if you don’t roast dark enough, you don’t develop that sweetness and the coffee is acidic. We go for that middle of the road where the sweetness reaches its peak and you have all these layers of flavor.”
You won’t find your average medium or dark roasts at Refuge Coffee — “unique and adventurous” flavors are what Marquez strives for.
“All these flavors that you wouldn’t expect to find in coffee like blueberries or cheesecake. What? This is coffee? That sort of flavor carried the kind of spunk and life I wanted to bring back home,” said Marquez.
After eight years in San Diego, Marquez returned to South Lake Tahoe with a mission and a recipe for Refuge Coffee’s first roast: a sweet and nutty Nicaraguan coffee.
The next year and a half after launching Refuge Coffee was filled with trying times — balancing multiple jobs with a startup company — but also serendipitous encounters that kept him going.
For instance, when Marquez first set out to set up his website for e-commerce, he found that the domain http://www.refugecoffee.com was already taken, but not being used. Marquez reached out to the owner, explaining his story and shoestring budget. To his surprise, he found that the man was a missionary for a Jamaican coffee farm that supported a local orphanage.
He offered Marquez a deal: one bag of coffee a month for a year, and the domain was his.
“He tasted everything that we ever roasted that year,” said Marquez, who also has roots in missionary work.
Another chance encounter with Tahoe Mountain Lab co-founder David Orr landed Refuge Coffee a regular pop-up gig at the coworking space and its first wholesale account.
“David tried a splash, and said, ‘this is amazing. How can we help you?’” said Marquez.
Through all this, Marquez has had the support of his sister Destiny, who also balances two jobs with her work at Refuge Coffee.
“She’s my best friend. She’s one of the most positive people I know. She has two jobs, like me, so she doesn’t have much time, but her heart is there,” said Marquez.
“When you ask me why I’m living in Tahoe and what my dreams are for the next five years, it’s all about Refuge Coffee. She would say the same thing.”