Today we talk with Lisle Head from Fusion Cold Brew in Costa Rica. Lisle is a California native who became a Costa Rican resident after a 2 week trip opened his eyes to the “pura vida” way of life. We chat with Lisle about starting up a cold brew coffee company in a region and market that isn’t necessarily known for enjoying “good coffee”.
Episode 31 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: Hey there, welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast. I’m Brendan Hanson and I will be your host today. For all of you first-time listeners, if you’ve never heard an episode of this show before, we are powered by ratings and reviews. So if you can take a moment to hop on iTunes and leave us a quick rating or review we’ll definitely appreciate it. And for all of you returning listeners, if you haven’t left us a review yet, shame on you. Go get it done. Today. Thanks.
In addition to our guest today, we’ve got a few other interviews lined up in the coming weeks. One in particular is with the company that creates equipment for canning and bottling nitro coffees and beers. That’s probably one of the questions that we get asked the most. Is how do I can or bottle my nitro coffee.
So that’s an episode that I’m really looking forward to and I know many of you will be as well. So stay tuned for that in the coming weeks. All right, quick intro there, let’s get into today’s episode with Lisle Head from Fusion Cold Brew in Costa Rica. [pauses] One quick afterthought. We do have pretty good audio quality on this recording. However, there was a delay in some of our conversations.
So we’d ask a question, there could be quite a bit of silence or vice versa after Lisle has finished speaking. So we tried to edit that out as best we can but if you notice some breaks in the conversation, that’s why. We were thousand miles away when we recorded this and just didn’t have the best connection. So bear with us. We hope you enjoy this episode.
Brendan: All right. Welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast. As always I’m Brendan Hanson, got Cary in studio with me today, and we are joined by Lisle Head, who is actually in Costa Rica of all places. How are you doing Lisle?
Lisle Head: I’m doing great man. It’s another sunny day here.
Brendan: Yes. You know what’s interesting is when we started this podcast I never imagined I’d be talking to people all over the world. But one of my first guest was from Jamaica, I’ve had some people on from New Zealand, and now we are down in Central America, Costa Rica. So you mind telling us a little bit about yourself? I know you are from California which is where we are at, and now you are in Costa Rica. So you can give us a little background?
Lisle: For sure. I grew up in Fort Bragg so way north California. Then I came out here 11 years ago on vacation and never left.
Lisle: I literally went home for three weeks. Not even three weeks. I went home for nine days and-
Brendan: Came back
Lisle: Yes. Got a colombian girl, got a four and a half year old daughter and this is home man. I’m not going nowhere.
Brendan: Wow. So you just fell in love with the area, the lifestyle, everything?
Lisle: Yes, everything. Lifestyle. I had a big giant mortgage company, and I was just in that whole hustle and bustle in Sacramento area I was living, and people thought I had everything. I had tons of money, the big house, the car, all the stuff, and I came down here, and hanging out with a guy who is surfing everyday, barefoot, playing golf, drinking Coronas at sunset, eating sushi at his restaurant, and I’m like that’s what I want to do every day.
Brendan: That’s a living.
Lisle: I live on a country club where I don’t get to play golf. I’m like what I’m I doing wrong? So I just said forget it. I said I got enough money, I’m cashing out, I’m coming down here, I’m going to figure it out. I moved out of a 5,000 square foot house to a 300 square foot apartment, and got a bicycle.
Brendan: Wow. And probably never been happier?
Lisle: Yes. I just got rid of all the stuff. Riding all those things, and now my dad is still sitting in my chairs, and big screen TVs, and all the stuff I left back there.
Brendan: So you are able to go visit the old life if you want to, but sound happy down in Costa Rica?
Lisle: I avoid it at all cost. Really. They come here twice a year like two months.
Brendan: Do they really?
Brendan: I was watching, I think it was the first presidential debate and just like, “Oh, my gosh. We are in trouble.” I started looking up a real estate outside of the US, and actually pulled up Costa Rica of all places. So you are not the only one who may be a transplant there.
Lisle: Yes. I avoid all that. All that nonsense on TV, politics, you cannot because it’s just– it happens in front of you-
Brendan: It’s everywhere.
Lisle: Yes, but I’m definitely not giving them an hour of my time to listen to that debate.
Brendan: Cool, so you’re happy down in Costa Rica and you are now starting a coffee company. How did you get into coffee? You mentioned you were in real estate and mortgage prior, what got you into coffee?
Lisle: Yes, my wife wanted to open up a coffee shop about six, seven months ago. She was starting to plan it with a business partner of hers, and six months ago I didn’t drink coffee at all. It was like put it in your mouth spit it out, I can’t believe people drink this stuff. So bitter– it was one of those– it was like the first time I drank whiskey, it’s the last thing I want to put in my mouth.
And then one weekend she went out of town, I’m like, “let me start looking for stuff because I get into businesses. I’ve started a lot of different businesses and sold them. Then done things over the years. Let me start looking at things that are cold, we got to differentiate ourselves.” And it just happened there was a news release that Starbucks was putting nitro coffee in all these 500 Starbucks and it’s cold brew. I got to figure out what this is.
So I grabbed some of their brew when they were gone that weekend and I made a small little batch of it, and I shared with them, and they were like, “Holy Toledo. This is good.” And I’d still was like, “this is terrible.”
Brendan: You weren’t a fan.
Lisle: I just kept doing it, kept doing it, and I started going to all the influencers in town, my friends that owned restaurants, and heavy coffee people, and started sharing it with all them. And they were all like, man you’re onto something, this stuff is good. It’s chocolaty, it’s got the smooth flavor. They’re telling me all this stuff about them, like “okay,” I just kept bringing it to them trying different samples, trying different steeping time, started adding a little vanilla, coco, extracts and stuff to it. And they’re like, “man this is really, really good.” I just kept tasting it and tasting it and now I’m drinking the stuff black on ice.
Brendan: All day long.
Lisle: Not all day, I’m still not that– I have one right now. My favorite is, I put it on ice and I use that concentrate, and then half water, and I do some organic vanilla extract that I have, and then also some coconut extract, and then I put a couple of drops of that liquid stevia in it.
Brendan: All right. Interesting.
Lisle: Nice little afternoon drink.
Cary Hanson: Sounds good.
Brendan: Yes, it does sound good. [pauses] We’ll have to get Lisle’s recipe to put it on the show notes– the Lisle.
Cary: The Lisle.
Lisle: I’ve had few things called the Lisle over the years?
Brendan: Some of which can’t be mentioned.
Lisle: Exactly. Especially coming down here, everybody wants the Lisle.
Cary: So is your guys coffee shop currently open or still working on that?
Lisle: We 86ed it. It’s not happening.
Cary: Oh, really?
Lisle: Yes, we got to the point like we’d order this high-end espresso machine, everything was about to happen, and I was like, guys do we really want to put the time and energy into a day to day coffee shop? We got all these people that are liking the brew, we got into four restaurants already, we got the tap equipment coming, they’re about to start putting it on tap. The amount of coffee that we have to sell everyday in the shop to break even, we can just let everybody else sell for us in town. They agreed so.
Cary: Become the distributor of the cold brew.
Lisle: And then now we are looking to purchase– potentially buying a little roaster, so that we can save on our own cost of roasting our own bean, and then also roast for other people in town, because there is really nobody doing that here. For as big as coffee is in Costa Rica, it’s not hip like that. There’s not all the little small roasters, and people being crafty about it. It’s all big commercial.
Cary: It’s interesting.
Brendan: So it’s mostly, Costa Rica is more of an origin. It’s grown there and then probably exported.
Lisle: And then everybody drinks this really dark bitter crappy coffee. That is what everybody drinks, they drink to like them, the mud, the leftover.
Lisle: They don’t have the premium which is– it’s shocking to me. And they pay–
Brendan: And it’s grown in the backyard.
Lisle: Yes. But they’re selling it all to the guy we get our coffee from, he sells it all in Germany. And it just happens to be a friend of my wife’s outer relationship, and he’s making us a little special blend. A light rose for us to make the cold brew with. But he doesn’t even sell it here. It’s all exported out of the country.
Brendan: That’s amazing.
Cary: You guys, have you played around with different roast levels? Do you prefer the light roast over the dark roast, or did you just do the light– [crosstalk]
Lisle: Yes, we’ve done the light. We’ve done some different organics. We’re still trying to find an organic, because we really want to be able to give an organic. But we haven’t been able to find one that tastes as good as this. I don’t want to put something out there that doesn’t taste as good as this light rose that we’re using right now. It goes through a honey process. Super chocolaty, and sweet just naturally which is nice.
Cary: Can you explain what the honey process is?
Lisle: I wish I knew more honestly. I’ve read about it online a few times. It has to do with the drying process and how they take the mucus off of it. But honestly I don’t fully understand it. I know that indigenous people are the ones that are doing this process, and I know we pay twice as much for our green bean than we would do if we didn’t buy it this way. But for me, the difference in that cost when you look at it on a per cup basis, it makes no sense not to buy the better stuff if it tastes better.
Brendan: Right, it’s worth it in the long run.
Lisle: Yes, my next step is I want to start crossing different regions, because we have like five or six different regions of coffee here that have different flavors to them. There’s one that has a really sweet, sweet flavor. We’re working on sourcing some beans from those areas to where we can start mixing the two of these, so we can create a secret ingredient, a patented cold brew. It’s not like you can just buy our regular coffee and make it yourself.
Cary: Sure, interesting.
Brendan: That’s where it gets really fun and interesting is when you start blending different beans, different roasts, different coffees.
Cary: This does sound like you guys- or you- specifically tend to lean towards the lighter and sweeter flavored coffees.
Lisle: For now that’s what my palates are at, because I’m so new to this. I’m finally able to taste it, but everybody who I’m sharing with as well likes it too. Even dark roast people were like– I shared it with a couple of Canadian guys yesterday. I poured them just a couple of cups of it. They’re like, “What?” I had a couple of three kilo bags there. They’re like, “I want that. Tell me how to brew that at my house.”
Brendan: The craft coffee just eye-opening for people, a lot of people.
Lisle: Yes, most people just drinking, pour sugar and milk on it, right?
Brendan: Right, it’s like the Starbucks effect where we were talking about this a couple of episodes ago. People are introduced to coffee at Starbucks as kids. They’re starting them with Frappuccinos that are loaded with 50 grams of sugar, and then there’s obviously all the other drinks that they sell that are loaded with milk, and sugar, and cream as well.
Cary: Get them hooked early.
Brendan: Yes, but cold brews an entirely different experience because you don’t get necessarily all the betterness that a normal hot brewed cup of coffee has.
Lisle: I’ve been able to create with the stevia an all natural sugar. It’s almost like a sweet tea.
Cary: Interesting. Do you add that to your kegs?
Lisle: No [crosstalk]. I’m doing everything on concentrate. I want to do a ready to drink in a keg. We haven’t done ready to drink in a keg, because the places we were working with all are all crafty type people that they’re making it how they want to make it. I’m leaving them open to do that. But we are starting to play around. We have one place where we’re testing the nitro right now. The nitro black concentrate is scary how good it is. You can’t drink four ounces of it. You drink three, four ounces of it and you’re through the roof.
Brendan: Oh, yes. I think a lot of people are actually making that mistake. Just serving a heavy concentrate on nitro because it is drinkable in terms of flavor on your palate.
Cary: Yes, health feel and everything but-
Brendan: Yes, you’re just going to be amped for 16 hours straight.
Lisle: Yes, we’ve had a few people that are calling it crack. They’re just like,-
Lisle: -“Please don’t let me have any more of that.” I have one guy who gets a growler from me probably every two and a half days.
Brendan: Geez, going through growlers, huh? What size growlers do you sell him? [crosstalk]
Lisle: 64 ounce.
Brendan: 32, 64?
Lisle: Yes, 64s.
Cary: Big boy.
Lisle: Concentrate too. I’m like, “Man.”
Brendan: Yes, that’s a ton of coffee.
Cary: It is, man.
Brendan: That’s going to make over a gallon of coffee. That’s nuts. How’s it been? Obviously, you’re getting good response, good enough to start up a business around it, but how’s introducing this new kind of craft style coffee to a market that, like you said, hasn’t really enjoyed coffee or drank good coffee?
Lisle: We’ve been lucky because I have a lot of friends that have restaurants and they’re Americans, so we’re going with the influences. People that are in the circle of the restaurants here in town, and been testing it, and doing it with them. They’re helping by introducing it to their clients. We’ve been doing lots of promotions and giving it away every week.
Like, all last month we gave it away at a restaurant. Anybody who came and asked for it. Now, this one restaurant, Side Street, we’re going to have them on a dual-tap system, and they’re going to put it in the middle of their restaurant. They’re going to get rid of all their other coffee. They’re only going to distribute cold brew.
Lisle: Because of the convenience of it, they don’t have to deal with the waste and all that part of it. He’s also a brewer, so he just craft beer there as well and specialty drinks. They’re mixing them with their martinis, he’s doing everything. He’s created a drink we call The Knockout, which is chocolate coffee stout. Half chocolate coffee stout, half the cold brew concentrate with some simple syrup, and some orange zest, man.
Cary: Wow, interesting.
Brendan: Yes, it sounds good.
Cary: I was going to say, it kind of reminds me of that drink we talked about a while back that I had at that bar, Game Place, but instead of a stout, I think they used some kind of rye. And then, they used cold brew concentrate, some kind of simple sugar, and then orange zest. They shook it up, so it kind of gave it a nitro effect when you poured it. It’s called the The Wizard, but yes, it was kind of along the same lines but really good.
Lisle: It’s an afternoon nice head buzz.
Brendan: Yes. Plenty of energy too. Currently, you said you’re in full restaurants, so you’re just distributing growlers at this point or you’re already doing kegs?
Lisle: Just one keg. One place has kegs and the others ones we’re doing growlers. I have more keg equipment coming right now to help them set up, and then we’re really just trying to work out how they’re going to distribute it. Like the one restaurant, they want a ready to drink, they’ve come to, because they just don’t want their staff to have to worry about it.
Cary: More training.
Lisle: And then, I’m working on a gym right now, which we’re trying to figure out if we just do it like a shot before you work out. Sell it just as a shot to get people something to get them going, with all this body-builder type guys that they don’t want all the sugar, the additives.
Brendan: Yes. Cold brew’s been huge in the gym scene and crossfit.
Lisle: Yes, we’re just in that beginning stages when it comes to just figuring out how these guys are going to distribute but we’re already- [crosstalk]
Cary: Shot’s in concentrate, now that’s a good idea.
Lisle : -having people come to us and ask us. Like little coffee shops that are asking us to come and try samples of it. That’s where I want to really get a blend that no one else has. With the bean we have, no one else has this bean, and no one else has it roasted like this. You can’t just go make this exact flavor again.
Brendan: You’re setting yourself apart right there.
Lisle: But I’d like to take it one step further where we’re roasting it ourselves, and we’re doing a blend of two different beans.
Brendan: Nice. Is that the plan as you grow to either add a blend, or add different roast levels, or different flavors and start distributing multiple, I guess you could call them styles almost of your cold brew or your concentrate?
Lisle: Yes, that’s the goal. Ultimately, I’d really like to bottle this stuff. I think that’s the home run, is if you can get this stuff in a bottle and shelf life and all that, especially where we’re at you get it in enough places and you make a little impact. These large distributors will buy you out.
Lisle: There’s no competition here. It’s not like I’m in San Diego where there’s a hundred guys doing this. There’s one other person in Jaco that’s trying to do it, and their stuff doesn’t taste that good.
Brendan: The markets prime for you. That’s perfect.
Lisle: No, we’re excited about it. All my friends are super excited about it. Some of them are mad that they didn’t think of it.
Brendan: It’s just you and your wife that are on the business or there is anyone else?
Lisle: She has a business partner who’s financing it all. He’s the bank manager here and it’s really their business. Right there. Those two are the ones that own the business. I just started making this cold brew and just got myself into it with them.
Brendan: You’re the R&D team?
Lisle: Yes, I’m building up the website right now. We’ll have the website, the website will be live by the time the show is up.
Brendan: Cool. What is it? distribution coffee.com or?
Lisle: It’s fusioncoldbrew.com.
Brendan: Fusion cold brew? Cool. You guys are on social media and stuff as well or?
Lisle: Yes, we got Instagram and Facebook they’re both Fusion Cold Brew so we’re getting all that stuff going. My goal is just to focus on our little town of Jaco and if we can get everybody to love it here then organically it’ll just grow from there.
Brendan: How big is your – you mentioned you’re on the west coast of Costa Rica, right? How big is that town of Jaco?
Lisle: Jaco is about 10,000. We probably service 15 to 20,000 people, but any given weekend we will have 40 or 50,000 when it comes to tourism.
Brendan: Wow, so it’s a big tourist destination.
Lisle: We’re the closest beach to San Jose, so every weekend the locals are here.
Brendan: That’s where the International Airport is? San Jose?
Lisle: Yes, exactly.
Brendan: Getting back to your cold brew a little bit, a lot of our other guests, we ask them about their processes in terms of how they’re doing the cold brew, ratio of coffee to water, steeping times, you mind sharing any of that info with us?
Lisle: I do a gallon of water to a pound of coffee, is where is my ratio, and then we’re doing 18 hours of steep time.
Brendan: Pretty standard ratio and pretty much what we recommend today.
Lisle: I probably read it in your guide. That’s where it started.
Brendan: You found that guy down in Costa Rica?
Lisle: Yes, I downloaded that guy. That was one of the first things I read.
Brendan: Awesome. And we’re going to say about the nitro. Sorry, we’ve got a little bit of delay here.
Lisle: No, the nitro is. I’m trying to figure out the nitro more because we’re just playing around with it, but I still don’t know how you’re going to put it into a growl or put it in the bottle, and it’s going to last.
Brendan: Putting it into a growler doesn’t work very well if you’re just pouring it out of the tap. We’re actually going to have a company on and probably the next month, but specifically does nitro canning and bottling. We’re hoping to find some more answers, and be able to share a bunch of our answers with the both you, and all our other clients and customers.
Cary: Everyone is asking about that, like how do I bottle the nitro, and honestly it’s really not possible without specific equipment. It will be really cool to talk to them, and tell everybody else how to do this.
Lisle: People like mixing the nitro with milk, and all that part of it too though, like it just seems like it would ruin it. You should just only drink that stuff straight it seems to me.
Brendan: In my opinion nitro coffee is awesome by itself just because the nitrogen gives it a creaminess.
Lisle: You really don’t need the milk because of the nitrogen and used in it.
Brendan: But there are people adding milk and sugar, or simple syrup to their kegs, or other flavorings, shaking the kegs up, and then serving draught. Most people call them draught lattes.
Cary: Or nitro lates.
Lisle: It’d be pretty mixed. It would make sense.
Brendan: Yes, only concern there is now you have milk proteins in your draught lines, so cleaning becomes a whole other animal. Once you start introducing all that stuff, but yes people are doing it.
Lisle: I don’t even want- when I pour it in there it’s like I want to drink it with nitro-
Brendan: With nitros that is on the–?
Lisle: I was saying when I pour it in there. I want to drink it right away. I don’t want it to even sit. I want it when it’s still swirling, sure.
Cary: Yes, yes. That’s when you get the book of the best like mouthful and creaminess. The longer it sits, you notice that the nitrogen starts to escape from it so maybe by the end of your cup; it’s a little bit more flat than it was so it’s definitely ideal as drinking that immediately.
Brendan: All right. Any anything else you want to mention here Lisle? I think we’re getting close to our 30-minute mark that we usually do, and looks like I’m about through all the questions we had here.
Lisle: No no. Great time, keep doing a good job guys. You guys are definitely bringing awareness to cold brew and giving value back to everyone which is killer. A lot of people forget about that part of it. It’s not just about making the money, it’s about giving value back.
Brendan: We try man, we try. Well hey man we’re going to– when I decide to move out of the US thanks to our next president, I’m going to come check out Costa Rica, and I’m going to have to look you up.
Lisle: Just a vacation man.
Cary: I was going to say we might have to vacate soon.
Brendan: Company trip.
Lisle: I got a place for to stay.
Brendan: All right, Lisle. So fusioncoldbrew.com is where people can check you out?
Lisle: Yes, sir.
Brendan: All right, perfect. Thanks for joining us today.
Lisle: Hey man, have a great day guys, thanks a lot.
Cary: Thanks Lisle, you too.
Brendan: All right. Thanks again to Lisle for joining us today. Next time you’re in Costa Rica make sure you go check out or ask for Fusion Cold Brew. Just another quick reminder if you haven’t done so already, hop onto iTunes and leave us a review. It’s easy, it’s free and it helps the show out. If you’re going to look for show notes for this episode, you can find those by going to dripsanddraughts.com/31. That will do it for today. Thanks to Cary for joining me in studio, and to Lisle Head from Costa Rica. I’m Brendan Hanson and we’ll see you again next Friday on the Drips & Draughts podcast.
Mentioned on the Show
Honey Process / Honey Processed Coffee