Story & photos by Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
Some people never let a week go by without a visit to their favorite café. Some real die-hard caffeine fans can be found at their java joint of choice every day. But there are not many coffee shops that inspire the kind of devotion shown by Chenoa Torklep, the new face behind Big Mountain Coffee Roasters.
Torklep had been a regular customer at Big Mountain ever since Brent Duering opened the distinctive, industrial-style coffeehouse back in 2003.
“He says I was one of his first customers,” Torklep said. “Then eventually when I moved down here, we became good friends. I hung out enough that we both decided that I should work with him.”
Originally from Washington, Torklep had begun to feel at home during frequent visits to the Oregon Coast, all of which would involve a stop to sample Duering’s gourmet roasts.
“As soon as we hit the coast, I would take a deep breath and my cares would wash away,” she said, “and I felt like this was where I belonged.”
After persuading her husband to move to the coast with her in 2013, Torklep soon became a fixture at Big Mountain and went on to apprentice under Duering for three years to learn the coffee trade.
“I learned about the beans, where they are sourced from and where they are grown, to how it is roasted,” she said. “I guess at some point in time it became like the white rabbit hole that I just go down into and keep on learning.”
Running a coffee shop was a natural fit for Torklep, who had worked as a barista off and on for eight years in-between stints in stage management, and who has a people-powered personality.
“My superpower is that I remember people’s drinks,” she said. “I might not remember their name, but I’m really, really good at remembering their drinks.”
“I try to spend as much time as I can with every person,” she added. “I want them to have a good experience as well as a good cup of coffee.”
Torklep and Duering became businesses partners at the start of this year, with the Big Mountain founder staying involved behind the scenes to offer guidance on everything from sourcing to roasting.
Big Mountain remains dedicated to roasting coffee in small batches — no more than two pounds at a time — in order to ensure quality control. Everything in the store has been roasted within 72 hours of sale. Internet sales, which make up half the business, are roasted to order.
The coffeehouse sources Fair Trade, organic beans from small farms all over the world, all of which are roasted to a medium roast to allow their natural flavor to shine through.
Bestsellers include The Grizz espresso roast, which blends beans from several different countries to create tones of lush milk chocolate and caramel.
For a dark-but-smooth flavor, Torklep recommends the Starborg blend, finely balanced using five beans from throughout Africa.
Meanwhile, single-source options include a dark, robust bean from Sumatra, as well as lighter beans from Costa Rica and Brazil that are closer to a breakfast blend.
For customers with a sweet tooth, Torklep recommends the Chocoholic’s Choice, made with Belgian and milk chocolate for a balanced sweetness. Seasonal fall drinks are crafted with care, using house-made pumpkin syrup. And, when warmer weather returns, all mochas and lattes are available as blended ice drinks, served up alongside a range of smoothies.
A small, revolving range of baked goods offers customers the perfect companion to their beverage, whether they are picking something up at the drive-through or staying to enjoy the chic, industrial-style décor, complete with stainless steel and exposed rafters.
Torklep said she has no plans to change the atmosphere of the laid-back coffeehouse that became her home away from home some 15 years ago.
“I felt like I love what Brent created and didn’t want to change anything,” she said. “It’s not about it being under new management. It’s not about new anything. It’s keeping the soul of it.”
Big Mountain Coffee Roasters can be found next to Chester’s Thriftway Market in Lincoln Beach, two miles north of Depoe Bay and eight miles south of Lincoln City. Hours are from about 7 am to about 2:30 pm Wednesday through Saturday, and about 7 am to about 12:30 pm on Sunday and Monday. To learn more or order your own custom-roasted batch of coffee, call 541-764-2195 or go to bigmountaincoffees.com.