NAME: Gabe Boscana
YEARS ROASTING: 12+ Years
MACHINES: 23kilo Gothot, Diedrich IR12, 45kilo Gothot, 90 kilo Gothot,Probatino, 22K Probat, Probat L5, Probat L12, Probat 5 kilo (CoRo!) Diedrich IR3, Probat 45 kilo, 3 barrel Pinhalense, BRZ, 2Barrel Proaster, Huky 500, Duane Sorenson’s original Stumptown 1919 5 kilo Probat (and still my favorite machine), 15kilo Probat, 5 barrel Barth sample roaster, Loring Kestrel, Loring Falcon, 36lb Sivetz, Jabez Burns 4 barrel, Electric Joper 2 barrel, 10 kilo Mill City Roaster
COMPANY: Maquina Coffee Roasters
We ask a lot of our Matchbook roasters. We pretty much expect them to put their ideas, visions, theories about coffee, hopes, aspirations, dreams, mistakes, triumphs, hobbies, loves into a small box to be shipped out to you—and you’re expected to have a transformative coffee experience that captures the essence of our featured roaster.
That pressure is not lost on Gabe Boscana, owner of Máquina Coffee Roasters our October featured roaster. What gets Gabe, though, is the ephemeral nature of this project. “This is a special thing. It’s not going to happen again,” he shares.
Which, in the almost two years we’ve been doing Matchbook, isn’t ever a thought that really occurred to us—not in any real sense. Yes, this is a special project because of the folks we work with, but it’s also special because once you receive a box from a particular roaster, you’ll never get to order it again. “It’s like a photograph of time. You have the photo and you can look back and remember the moment, but you’ll never be in the photo again. That moment is done.”
Gabe seems to get Matchbook in a way no one else has—not even us. Gabe spouts big and exciting and sometimes daunting ideas about coffee, but then ties them into the everyday; the things we can achieve. “We have to figure out a way to drive the point that it is a fucking privilege to drink coffee,” he shares. Seems like a big idea, right? But then he goes to small ideas, and points to not just projects like ours, but small cafes and small businesses doing the work to elevate coffee. “The needle is moving, but we still have to figure out a way to drive the point that it is a fucking privilege to drink coffee.”
Gabe has been making coffee for almost twenty years, and I’ve been lucky enough to interview him three times in his coffee career. This is the first time I’ve ever actually talked to him on the phone, and instantly ideas start bouncing all over the place. Paying more for green, authenticity at farms, focusing on shifting consumer expectations all come up in our conversation, and yet, Gabe describes himself as a pragmatist.
When we ask him about what he wants folks to feel when they drink his coffee, his first response is, as we now know to expect, pragmatic: “I want people to feel like this was worth their $30,” he shares. Kinda joking, but kinda not. “The coffee industry isn’t at the point where that is a small purchase.”
So what will you get from your purchase of this coffee? Years of experience, for one. Gabe has had an extensive career, starting at Gimme! Coffee in 2001 and working for places like Intelligentsia before opening his own business. Gabe is also the green buyer for Bellwether Coffee in Berkeley, where he’s tasked with developing relationships with farmers and sourcing coffee on a large scale. Gabe buys some of the best coffees in the world for both Máquina and Bellwether, but sees the two roles as a difference in scale. “We can buy bigger lots of coffee and make impact,” he shares. ““If we do things right, I can buy from multiple projects and a lot of coffee…allowing me to build the type of relationships I want to have with farmers.”
Second? You’ll get a person who “gives a shit” about the coffee they’re roasting for you. “I take this very seriously. Not to say I take myself seriously, but I take coffee very seriously,” Gabe says. “I care about where coffee comes from. I want people to have great coffee from people who cared.”
Gabe is sure you’ll taste his devotion to coffee. ““I’m definitely in the school of, ‘if you love something and you do it over and over again, it’ll come up sensory wise.’ You taste the love in food from someone who loves food.” Gabe picked an Ethiopian coffee from Sidama from the Bombe washing station that kind of landed in Gabe’s lap. “I wasn’t ready at all to be blown away by this coffee.” “I immediately thought, ‘this is the coffee I want to roast for Matchbook.’” He describes it as sweet and, after a moment, elegant instead of pretty. “Pretty is too gendered.”
Do you think you’ve learned anything about Gabe in this interview? Yeah, me either. Gabe is like a maze where you think you figured out which door is the exit, and then suddenly you open the door and there’s 1,000 other pathways. And that makes him absolutely fascinating—Gabe follows no ‘type’ or ‘norm,’ and not in the way that folks eschew labels purposefully, but in a way that’s just purely earnest. When, if you really, truly had to whittle Gabe down to one word, that’d be the one.
Gabe cares about the coffee you’re about to drink. And you know what else? He’s confident you’ll enjoy it. “If a person buys coffee from me, they’re going to like it,” he says. “When people open the box up, I hope they’re gonna be like, ‘woah.’”
You better get your hands on this coffee quick—those ‘woah’ moments are gonna be snatched up quickly.