Victor Kessler

Today, I’m pleased to bring you this interview with Victor Kessler, the owner and operator at Lost Dutchman Coffee Roasters. Victor manages both a coffee roasting company, and a coffee shop in Mesa. I’ve known Victor Kessler since 2007 when we met at a barista jam down in Tucson. Enjoy!

Your Background

Q. What sparked your interest in coffee?
Back in the late 90’s a work colleague brought in some beans he had home roasted and brewed some up for me to try out.  I had no idea such contraptions as home coffee roasters existed.  The beans were covered in oil, but they still tasted light-years better than the office-coffee swill I was drinking at the time.  I ordered my own Hearthware Coffee Bean Roaster the same day; a very primitive home air roaster by today’s standards.The rest is history.

Q. Have you always been in the coffee industry?
No, I have not.  I’ve worn numerous hats over the years ranging from car mechanic, pilot, engineer in the semiconductor industry, and entrepreneur of sorts.  They’ve all been interesting, but working in coffee has been the most enjoyable.  What makes it so is the combination of the people working the entire supply chain and the incredibly complexity of coffee.  Coffee is one of those things, to be cliche, “the more I learn about it, the more I learn that I don’t know much at all about it”.

Q. Have you ever gone in search of the lost gold from the Dutchman in the Superstition Mountains?
Back in the early 80’s I went on a week long mission with some buddies armed with maps showing possible mine locations (and a LOT of water).  We started up the Peralta Trail Head located on the South end of the range behind Superstition Mountain and coming out later the other end near Canyon Lake.  We experienced some very strange nights in there.  We observed weird moving lights, like torches gliding around where there shouldn’t have been any, that would suddenly disappear just as quick as they appeared.  Black smoke puffs originating from very high up, seemingly inaccessible ridge tops.  This was before GPS and all we had was a magnetic compass to navigate with.  If we did not have this simple instrument, I’m certain we would not have made it out.  Once your deep in the mountains all the ridges, valleys, and surroundings tend look the same.  So many hoodoos! It’s hard to accurately describe without actually experiencing it, but there was a strong tendency to unknowingly hike around in circles given the absence of prominent features with which to judge progress of the hike. Frequent referencing to the compass was the only way to stop us from doing this and to keep our bearings. After we departed from the common trails as we were attempting to follow the map we’d made, we never felt we were alone, but we never saw anyone else.  It was disturbing enough that I never ventured that far in again.  As for the gold, we obviously didn’t find any, but I have come to the conclusion that there is no “mine” based on what I know now about the geology of the region.  If there is gold in there, it’s was most likely mined in Wickenburg and buried in the Superstitions by Jacob Waltz, who made the mine-story up, or perhaps the gold was hidden by the Peralta brothers when they were attacked by Apaches.

Lastly, as a word of caution to anyone pondering looking for the gold (or even just hiking in there for pleasure), one must be very careful in venturing in too far.  Apache Indians most certainly maintain a menacing presence in there to this day, for reasons of their religion.

Q. Who is Lost Dutchman Coffee Roasters?
Lost Dutchman Coffee Roasters is what is referred to in the industry as a micro-roaster (below 50k lbs a year or so depending on who’s definition it is).  We try hard not to to be like everyone else. By this I mean we try and source beans “off the beaten path” and sell them a reasonable prices.  We have a motto, “Lost Dutchman Coffee Roasters: where a pound of coffee is always a pound”.  I believe it was the Green Monster that was responsible for changing a pound of coffee to mean “12 ounces”, and virtually everyone else has conveniently followed suit.  Other than for the sake of hefty profit, I do not understand the necessity for this.  If someone were to check out our prices, they would find them to be the same (or often less) than what other roasters charge for 25% less beans (12 oz vs 16 oz).  I suppose there’s the psychological factor that people think they’re getting something extra good because they’re paying more for it.  I would challenge those folks to do a side-to-side blind comparison of any of these coffees against ours and decide for themselves.  Our profit margins are adequate and I see no need to downsize from 1 lb bags, nor increase our prices because of our standard size bags.  This does tend keep us out of supermarkets, as they insist we have the same miniature bags as everyone else.  Our answer is, “Fine, you cannot sell our coffee in your stores then!”.

All of our coffee is roasted to order with ultimate freshness in mind.  Each bag is sealed using one-way atmospheric valves allowing the coffee to degas without puffing up, and also keeps staling-oxygen out.  Our belief is that roasted coffee has an active (fresh) shelf life of 18 days.  Supermarket-bought coffee is sometimes as old as a year!  This is reason number two you won’t find Lost Dutchman Coffee in grocery stores.  We put quality and quantity above profit.  This uncompromising business model has given us returns that we’re satisfied with.

Q. Besides coffee, what else interests you?
Hmmm……  Wood working would be one of my more prominent interests.  Anyone walking into our Downtown Mesa coffee house will immediately notice the wood structures that went into the build-out of the lobby.  Even the booths are hand made and were created with the Lost Dutchman theme in mind – kind of antique looking reminiscent of the late 1800’s western-style time period. That’s when the Lost Dutchman Legend originated.

I’m also an avid student of history.  In particular, I study wars over the last 100 years or so in great detail in order to develop an understanding of how they occurred, were fought, technical advances made during the conflict, and how they actually ended.  The best way to understand them is to read biographies of the soldiers, leaders, and civilians on all sides of the conflicts.  Comparing personal experiences in this way helps one develop a true understanding of what happened.  One thing I find frustrating and incredible is that we humans as a whole, tend to forget the important lessons learned through generational cycles.  We are doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.

Q. Cats or dogs?
Our family Dachshund would not permit a cat on the premises. Given a choice: Dog.  I do like cats too though, except when I see them munching on baby ducklings by a small lake I frequently walk around.

Your Roastery

Lost Dutchman CoffeeQ. Where can people buy your coffee beans?
We carry a supply of both roasted coffee and green (unroasted) coffee at our coffee house in Downtown Mesa. (12 N. Center Street):
Roasted Coffee Online, to anywhere in the U.S:
Green Coffee (for home roasters):

Q. Are you self-taught? 
In part.  I’ve also traveled to places like Florida, Wisconsin, and California and learned from some of whom I consider the best of the best.  There are some things about roasting that I never would have been able to figure out on my own without some expert help.

Q. Do you have a favorite blend or single-origin?
No.  If someone told me all of the coffee types in the world are about to disappear except one, and I got to pick it, I would be at a loss for words.  Because my favorite changes monthly.

Q. You sell green coffee beans to people who roast themselves, how did you get into this business? 
That is actually how I started in the coffee business.  As previously noted, a friend form work plopped down a bag of oily beans that he’s roasted at home and I decided right then I wanted to do the same.

Q. Have you traveled / visited farms?
In the Philippines. The coffee industry is very strange there.  Most of it is not all that good and goes to Singapore.  It is a shame because the volcanic soil and latitude is ideal for growing high grade coffee.  Where I went to had very primitive processing equipment, but it was neat to watch the farmers work it.

Your Coffee Shop

Q. What’s something about your coffee shop that makes it unique?
As mentioned before, the interior has a lot of wood structures, from wall paneling to the tables to shelving to the line itself.  It is very unique and theme-based.  We have a neat looking lever espresso machine that as far as I know, you will not find anywhere else in the state.  No expense was spared on quality coffee equipment.  Lastly, we have an incredible team of baristas that take their jobs seriously and tend to actually care a lot about the success of the business. They put a lot of passion into every drink they make.  I cannot say enough good about them and how lucky I am as a business owner to have such good people on staff.

Getting there

Thanks to Victor or answering so many great questions! You can find the coffee shop on Center Street (just by Main Street) in Mesa, AZ.

Victor runs three web sites, one for the coffee shop, another to sell green coffee beans, and a third for roasted coffee beans.

Lost Dutchman Coffee House
12 N Center Street
Mesa, AZ 85201

Arizona Coffee

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.