Widely regarded as one of America’s finest coffee roasters, Brooke McDonnell is Co-founder and Master Roaster of Equator Coffees & Teas® in San Rafael, California. Brooke prides herself on sourcing carefully crafted coffee beans and teas from growers who practice responsible land stewardship and bio-friendly farming techniques in diverse growing regions around the world.
Brooke was an early champion of fair trade practices that address economic, environmental, and social issues in coffee growing communities. In her dogged pursuit of quality, Brooke supports multiple certification agendas that include shade-grown, Rainforest Alliance, organic and Fair Trade coffees, as well as noncertified growers and cooperatives with good farming practices. Each selection is chosen for ultimate quality in the cup.
In her role as master roaster, Brooke oversees the daily roasting process and works closely with key staff members whom she has personally trained to hand-roast all of the coffee in small batches. Twice-daily cuppings help her ensure that quality standards are consistently met. She also personally approves the brew strength and flavor profile for each new account, so that every customer’s brewed coffee and espresso reflect the high quality of Equator’s products.
As the green coffee and tea buyer, Brooke maintains close relationships with growers and importers. She continually monitors product availability and market price fluctuations to guarantee that Equator is sourcing the best coffee and teas, at fair prices. Many of the coffees and teas Brooke has sourced for Equator have become regular offerings, allowing Equator to rely on a consistent supply of high quality coffees and teas year after year.
Brooke was born in New York City, and studied art and art history at Skidmore College. She traveled extensively in her early twenties, supporting her wanderlust habits with a variety of entrepreneurial ventures. These included real estate projects that brought her to Seattle and Portland at the height of the specialty coffee craze. This experience whetted Brooke’s appetite for great coffee, and she was further enchanted by San Francisco’s North Beach café culture.
Before she became an importer, wholesaler and roaster, Brooke was an owner-operator of two highly successful espresso bars. This experience gives her an intimate understanding of the perfect cup of coffee, and what her retail and restaurant customers need to be successful.
Read the Q&A with Brooke McDonnell talking about her collaboration with Thomas Keller.