Named for the La Jolla neighborhood where it was founded, Bird Rock Coffee is a gathering place for the community and a hot spot for fair trade coffee from the Americas, Africa, and Asia/Pacific. And for owner Chuck Patton, who started roasting coffee in 2001 and opened Bird Rock in 2006, fair trade means personal trade. He buys the coffee beans directly from the farmers as a founding member of Roasters United, a coffee-sourcing consortium of three Southern California coffee roasters. The group works with farmers to build their businesses and improve their land.

Patton may be self-taught, but his passion for the bean and his hours perfecting the art of roasting—beginning with a home roaster and working his way up to the big leagues of roasters—took him from part-time college teacher who sold his beans at the farmers’ market to full-time coffee pro. When it came time to open his café, he showed his chutzpah, planting it right across the street from an existing Starbucks. It paid off. Bird Rock’s pour-over bar of seasonal varietals, weekly cuppings of new coffees, and plenty of informed coffee talk, along with cups and cups of joe, brought the business a devoted following. And in 2012, Bird Rock was named Roast Magazine‘s 2012 Micro Roaster of the Year.