Pioneering a New Coffee Industry in California

Juan Medrano and Marta Matvienko

Juan Medrano, co-founder, and Marta Matvienko, lab operations and bioinformatics, breed coffee plants suitable for growth in California at the UC Davis-HM.CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center in Davis, California.

In 2017, geneticists from UC Davis sequenced the genome of Coffea arabica —a species responsible for 70% of global coffee production—with the goal of developing new high-yielding and high-quality varieties adapted to the stresses caused by climate change.

Progress from the research enabled the formation of a new company, Frinj Coffee, founded by Jay Ruskey, a farmer, and Juan Medrano, a professor and geneticist from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, along with Andy Mullins and Lindsey Mesta. The company is pioneering the coffee growing industry in California, well outside the traditional tropical geographic belt closer to the equator.

In 2018, Frinj Coffee joined the UC Davis-HM.CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center—part of Venture Catalyst’s DRIVE network of incubators—to further develop novel coffee varietals that are adapted to grow within the specific soil and climate conditions of the state.

Frinj Coffee is providing coffee plants, consulting and post-harvest resources to over 40 new farms across Southern California—and has marketed coffee through Oakland-based roaster Blue Bottle Coffee, San Diego–based Bird Rock and premium international buyers.