Jim Franco, owner of the New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company in Albuquerque, knows espressos. He also knows lattes and mochas.
In fact, he’s been around coffee one way or another since he was four years old, when his New York City coffee roaster-relative began baby-sitting for him. In 1977, Jim joined a New York coffee and tea store, where he worked until a 1993 vacation to New Mexico persuaded him to move to Albuquerque.
Shortly after arriving, Jim met Allen Price, who owned a used bookstore and coffee house across from the University of New Mexico. Allen hired Jim and before long made him a partner. Jim and Allen (who died in 1996) roasted their Piñon nut, five-bean Arabica coffee blend in a small circa 1890 roaster.
True to its roots, the Piñon Coffee Company continues to roast its award-winning coffee in small batches. Jim says his 25-lb. roaster doesn’t break the coffee beans during the roasting process the way large batch roasters do. The result is a more flavorful cup of coffee.
Named one of the top 24 gourmet mail-order food companies of 1999 by The New York Times, the company sells its coffee worldwide, and its customers include singer James Taylor and actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
The company’s name comes from New Mexico’s Piñon Pine (Pinus Edulus), whose seeds are used in the firm’s blend. Although Jim makes no claims that his coffee has an aphrodisiac quality, it should be noted that when Piñon Jays eat Piñon Pine seeds, it triggers their breeding cycle.
— R.G. Robertson