Whenever I go to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, one of the first stops on my trip is to go see Angel for a perfectly brewed cup of coffee from Cafecito Organico. Though carrying produce is always more difficult with a cup of coffee in hand, the flavor of Cafecito’s racy elixir is always worth the juggling.
FW: Tell us about Cafecito Organico. When did the company start and how did it come into being?
Angel Orozco: The company officially started in July of 2004, but I started to work on it in early 2003. It came about as a result of working with issues of organic agriculture in Guatemala. Although organic coffee was not a new idea then, it was still a niche market. I was looking for opportunities that would connect me with my home country via commerce, and coffee seemed like a logical choice, especially given the history of coffee not only in Guatemala but throughout Latin America.
FW: Have you always been interested in coffee?
AO: I increasingly became interested in coffee during my travels to the coffee growing regions of Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. During my visits to these regions I acquired green beans, which the next step was to get a home coffee roaster. I started to roast coffee at home and immediately realized the difference in fresh roasted coffee vs. coffee that has been in the shelves for who knows how long.
FW: What is your first memory of coffee?
AO: My family has no reservations about drinking coffee at an early age. Coffee has always been around at home and enjoyed primarily in the evening. However, it was highly sweetened, instant “cafe de leche.” That is, instant coffee that has been dissolved in hot milk, as opposed to hot water.
FW: Do you travel to the locations you purchase your coffee from? How do you source your beans?
AO: I have had the opportunity to visit coffee producers in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. The Oaxacan coffee we carry occasionally we obtain directly from the grower. The other coffee we source through an importer that specializes in organic and fair trade coffee, as well as other sustainably grown coffees.
FW: Tell us about your relationships with the coffee makers in Central America and Ethiopia.
AO: Currently, the relationships are limited and go as far as visiting some of the producers at what is termed in the industry as “origin.” Cafecito Organico currently does not have the volume or capital to trade directly with the producers. However, our importer facilitates interactions with producers either here in the US during the Specialty Coffee Association of America annaul expo, or through visits to origin.
FW: Your coffees are unbelievably flavorful, smooth, and undeniably addictive. What is your secret to making great coffee?
AO: There are many factors involved in achieving a great tasting cup of coffee. It starts with origin, of course. However, we take much care in roasting the beans and preparing the beverages to appreciate coffee’s geographic indications of origin.
Indications of origin include variety of coffee species, soil type, altitude, growing methods, the farm or cooperative that harvested the coffee, and the way it was processed. It also accounts for the distinctive aroma and flavor characteristics exhibited by the coffee when ground and brewed.
FW: So, “Origin + Terroir + Varietal + Growers’ style + Brewing methods” equals Great Coffee?
AO: Each of the coffees we carry is distinct in its own right. Optimum flavor from these coffees is achieved when properly roasted and freshly brewed within days of roasting. One must remember that coffee has a short shelve life. Most quality roasters recommend that you use up your coffee within two weeks of roasting. After two weeks it starts to oxidize it eventually it becomes stale. Just like chips. Leave the bag open and pretty soon they are stale. Just imagine the condition of all the canned and bagged coffee at supermarket shelves.
FW: What are some important things to consider when brewing your coffee at home?
AO: Brewed coffee will begin to oxidize within an hour. You must drink your coffee as soon as it is brewed.
A proper balance of grind coarseness, amount of coffee grounds, and water heated to at least 195 F degrees, will also make a great difference. However, you can play around with these variables to brew coffee to a strength that you are happy with.
FW: What kind of roaster do you use?
I roast the beans along with Victor, one of the guys that works with me. We use a Primo roaster. Primo is a roaster manufacturer based in Southern California.
FW: Tell us about how you serve your coffee. I notice you brew individual cups of coffee, rather than one big pot. Why do you choose to brew coffee this way?
AO: For two reasons. One, because coffee does not sit around and become stale. And two, so that folks can choose a coffee that has characteristics that fits their palate. Plus they have an opportunity to appreciate coffee from different parts of the coffee growing world.
We are going to be changing our system around a bit, mostly because we are recognizing certain patterns in the way people consume coffee and because we want to offer a cup of coffee at a slightly lower price in order to help compensate for the current economic situation. A sort of economic stimulus incentive, if you will.
FW: Do you believe paper filters are better than the gold mesh kind?
AO: Gold mesh filters are good, but they do not work in our setup at the farmers market. I definitely support people using reusable filters, nonetheless. Paper filters can impart a bit of the paper flavor. If you are using paper filters you can run water through the filter before putting coffee grounds into it, to wash off any paper flavoring, that is, if you have a sophisticated palate enough to distinguish the paper flavor.
FW: You offer molasses at your coffee fixing bar. Where did this idea come from?
AO: I like molasses, particularly sugar molasses. We use sugar molasses for a drink that we will soon be serving at the markets. Plus, sugar cane and molasses were a great treat during the sugar cane harvesting season in Guatemala.
FW: What is your favorite thing to eat in the morning with your coffee?
AO: Toast, peanut butter and jelly. Or toast, guayaba preserve, cheese and ham.
FW: What is your favorite coffee recipe?
A cake that includes molasses, cloves, chocolate and olive oil. However, my favorite coffee recipe is not a recipe at all, it is just straight espresso.
Thank you Angel and all the wonderful people at Cafecito Organico for teaching us about the secret to great coffee. If you live near Los Angeles, be sure to visit them at the Hollywood Farmers Market every Sunday!
Silverlake Farmers Market
Saturdays from 8 am – 1 pm
Hollywood Farmers Market
Corner of Selma and Cosmo (Gourmet Alley)
Sundays from 8 am – 1 pm
Angel’s Chocolate-Coffee Bread
Adapted from a recipe from Bon Appétit, December 2008Coffee-Bread:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup robust-flavored (dark) molasses
1 cup mild-flavored olive oil
3 large eggs
1 cup freshly brewed coffee (or cold brewed coffee for more caffeine)
1 cup chopped bittersweet (60% cocoa) chocolate (5 to 6 ounces)
Coffee whipped cream:
1 cup chilled whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
For coffee cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan, then spray with nonstick spray. Dust pan lightly with flour. Whisk 2 cups flour and next 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Combine sugar, molasses, olive oil, and eggs in large bowl; whisk until well blended. Add dry ingredients and stir to blend. Mix in hot coffee and then chocolate (most of chocolate will melt). Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan, 55 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to rack; cool cake in pan 20 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool completely. Cover with cake dome or wrap in foil and store at room temperature. If desired, uncover cake and place on oven-proof platter and rewarm in 350°F oven for 15 minutes before serving.
For coffee whipped cream:
Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until peaks form. DO AHEAD: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.