Why Latino Coffeehouses Are Flourishing in Los Angeles

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Coffee has always been a big deal in Latin America – so deeply embedded in our cultures that it is the subject of iconic songs; used as a metaphor for everything from skin color to sex. Countries like Costa Rica, Colombia, and Guatemala export some of the boldest, most flavorful beans in the world, and in the U.S., the majority of coffee consumed is sourced from Latin America. Taken together with the fact that no ethnic group drinks more coffee than Latinos, it would seem like a no brainer that Latinos would be killing it on the craft coffee scene.

That’s certainly the case in Los Angeles, where Latino entrepreneurs have been opening third-wave coffee shops – those that treat coffee as an artisanal product – and tapping into a market that is often ignored in LA’s specialty coffee scene.

Ulysses Romero, who opened Tierra Mía Coffee in 2008, can be credited with kicking off the wave. Instead of heading to trendy locations like Silver Lake and Venice, where many specialty coffee shops were located, he chose South Gate – a neighborhood where 9 out of 10 people are Latinos.

“I decided that I wanted to start a business, and I felt it made the most sense to do something that reflected who I was and what I understood and what I grew up with,” Romero told The Guardian.

Valentina Silva
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Mexican-American Romero jumped at the opportunity to represent Latin American flavors at his coffeehouse. “To me, it totally makes sense to connect to where the product comes from,” he said. Seeing this potential was a catalyst for Latino coffeehouses.

There’s now 10 Tierra Mía locations, which serve delicious drinks like horchata lattes, Mexican hot chocolate, and tres leches muffins. Other Latino coffeehouses, like Cafecito Orgánico, Primera Taza, and Antigua Coffee House, have also had success.

Antigua Coffee House sources all their coffee from Guatemalan farms, and it was inspired by Espresso Mi Cultura – an OG Latino coffeehouse that closed in 2003. When Yancey Quiñones worked on making Antigua a reality 10 years ago, he couldn’t get anyone to invest in his Cypress Park business, an area that had high level of gang activity.

The neighborhood is still mostly Mexican, but the demographics have shifted a little. With that, Quiñones has been able to introduce his coffee to a new group of people. “I feel like [new residents] like it. It’s different from what they’re used to seeing,” Quiñones says. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about the espresso. It’s all about the high-quality machines we use, and the way it’s pulled. People are going to pay you if it’s a good cup of coffee.”

Cafecito Orgánico, which has been around since 2004 but got its first storefront location in 2010, proves that even in affluent communities, Latino coffeehouses are doing well.

[H/T The Guardian]