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The LAist Interview: Angel Orozco, The Coffee Cellar

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The quest for satisfying coffee is never-ending for true coffee fanatics. As a result of the vast wasteland of product served up by most coffee vendors, this search can also prove to be routinely frustrating. But thanks to local producers, including the Coffee Cellar/La Bodega de Café operated by Angel Orozco (located within Mama's Hot Tamales), we've got some exciting alternatives here to the Starbuckization of the world.

The Coffee Cellar's superior product and the amazing array of tamales at Mama's do more than just satisfy the appetites of caffeine-jonesing and hungry Angelenos. These enterprises are joint ventures with the Institute for Urban Research and Development, and are examples of how job training, community economic development, and progressive environmental policy can be effectively brought together while meeting market demand for delicious consumables.

LAist urges folks to head over to Seventh Street near MacArthur Park and try out these goods. And in the process, support businesses that make use of innovative grassroots business models.

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1. Age and Occupation:

30. Self-employed by choice, urban planner by training and humanitarian by conviction.

2. Where are you from?

I was born in Guatemala and came to Los Angeles in 1982.

3. What neighborhood do you live in?

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I live at the Los Angeles Eco Village, an environmentally intentional community in East Hollywood, Koreatown adjacent.

4. What type of business model does the Coffee Cellar/La Bodega de Café use and how is it different from the conventional, purely profit-driven approach?

The Coffee Cellar emerged as a result of three reasons. One, I consider myself a coffee connoisseur, that is, I roast coffee at home and engage in several preparation methods to extract the optimum taste from coffee. This way I can enjoy coffee that is freshly roasted and brewed and healthy, as opposed to drinking the stale coffee that one finds at the supermarket or even the franchises. Recognizing the lack of establishments that roast their coffee on site, I decided to offer this experience to the LA community. The coffee I source, I assess first its quality, second its origin (high altitude), third its growing method (organic) and lastly, whom it comes from (small grower or progressive coffee estate). I roast the coffee on site and in small batches to ensure its freshness.

Two, conventionally grown coffee is environmentally disastrous and small coffee growers are not receiving a fair price for their coffee. As a result, the coffees I source come from small growers and have either fair-trade, organic, shade grown and/or bird friendly certifications. This is an integral component to the business plan of The Coffee Cellar. There are few establishments out there that do this and I pride myself in having done it from the beginning rather than after the fact. As business grows I may be in a position to purchase directly from the growers I have relations with to assure them a better price for their coffee without passing on the benefits to intermediaries who could care less.

Three, I wanted to become a stakeholder in the MacArthur Park community. I carried out research for my M.A. work in this community, looking at the potential of intensifying mixed-use development in this area with the park, metro station and the area’s cultural history serving as anchors. Currently, I am working an establishing a committee that will work toward making MacArthur Park an example of environmental stewardness in the city.

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The Coffee Cellar is still a work in progress and probably will continue to be that way, especially given the current volatility of the coffee market and not to mention the larger economy.

5. Do you patronize any other purveyors of hot beverages in Los Angeles?

Urth Café, Pete’s and Tullys. The latter two do a good job at preparing coffee.