Photos c/o of @cafecalle on Instagram.
This year, we're sharing the coffee journeys of the recipients of the Getchu a (gear) Grant, an initiative hosted by getchusomegear and sponsored by Brewista. Founded by Chris McAuley, getchusomegear is a grassroots organization collecting coffee gear to distribute to marginalized coffee professionals. From drippers to scales to kettles, the bundles contain gear needed to outfit a cafe. We’ll spend the upcoming months introducing these amazing grant recipients to you, many of them doing radical community work (in coffee and beyond).
Diana Martinez is at an exciting time in her coffee journey. Established in 2020, Los Angeles-based Cafe Calle started as street vendors (En La Calle) serving specialty coffee to the underserved community. Through hard work and dedication, Diana scaled her business to catering events, serving coffee at pop-ups and markets, and then at the 2021 BET Awards Red Carpet and celebrity after party. This week, Diana is celebrating the grand opening of Cafe Calle's first brick and mortar location in LA.
We had a chance to catch up with Diana digitally as she prepares for her grand opening. Through coffee, she is encouraging conversations that highlight producers, recognize farm workers, and focus on organizations and individuals that value sustainability. She takes us through her journey of hard work, taking risks, consistency, and staying motivated.
Brewista: Why did you start your coffee business?
Diana Martinez: I started my business because I realized that specialty coffee wasn’t targeting the surrounding underserved community or the Spanish speaking community. I also became very passionate about being able to help the producers and workers that work the coffee farms. I felt like there wasn't enough credit being given to the people that work extremely hard to push out coffee at origin, and so a huge detail in my business is to highlight those hard workers.
Do you remember your first (ever) sip of coffee? Tell us a little about it!
AH! Yes. I do remember my first sip. In 2019 my partner and I signed up for a cupping class where we would get to meet exporters that were working extremely hard to get their families coffee out to the U.S. They were showcasing some of the coffees they were bringing in and explaining the importance of learning about the roots of coffee. I had already thought about some day opening up a coffee shop, but had told myself that in order for me to one day open up a shop I needed to learn all there was to know about coffee. That first sip at that cupping class opened the doors to a whole new meaning of coffee and community for me.
What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve experienced with your business so far?
Getting the opportunity to open a brick and mortar! I didn't think I would be able to qualify for a brick and mortar, but I was blessed with extremely supportive family and friends and humble landlords that gave me an opportunity to live out my vision.
Why do you think it is particularly important for the coffee community to take care of each other?
It's important for the coffee community to look out and care for each other because the workers picking our coffee need us. My goal has always been to help the workers back in origin. If we as roasters, baristas, and consumers work together to keep purchasing the coffee being produced, then we are on the right path to slowly helping them live a more sustainable life.
What advice would you give to someone that holds a marginalized identity who is looking to start a coffee business?
I would advise them to look for their tribe. Yes, there are a handful of people that don’t want to see minorities win for whatever reason, but my best advice is to not pay attention to all of that. Use that hate and negativity as a boost to your success and keep growing. There are so many other people willing to help and want to see others win. That is who you should want to work with and learn from.
In what ways do you show up for yourself every day?
I try my best to take care of my mental health. Running a business isn’t easy, and is a bit stressful. There is so much that needs to be done and taken care of, but I feel like being more organized has helped me. When I feel like i'm going through a rough patch, I'll reach out to my sister whom I trust dearly. She’ll hear me out and point out where I can do better, or give me praise on my accomplishments. Venting and expressing myself helps my mental health, and in return, I don't carry negative energy around. I’m able to lead my team with positive and strong energy.
What kind of music do you like to listen to while you work?
I listen to all types of music! I grew up listening to salsa and cumbias and so that is what I tend to open the day with. I also love ska, reggaeton, rock en español, hip hop, mambo, and the list goes on. I usually play a little bit of everything throughout the day.
Describe your favorite coffee drink!
My favorite coffee drink is a short cappuccino. I absolutely love the creaminess of microfoam and if I'm craving something sweet i'll do a cappuccino with some honey and cinnamon. Delicioso!
Where do you look when you’re expanding your coffee knowledge?
I’ve made a few friends in the coffee industry, from roasters to exporters. I have also recently been introduced to producers and professionals in agriculture at origin that are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about coffee. I also do my own research— if there is something that interests me, I look for books or go online to do research. There's also a few podcasts I am a big fan of — the one that has helped me a lot is Keys to the Shop.The last two years have been particularly rough (to say the least), what kept you going?
Oh man! The love for coffee trees, culture, and my people have kept me going. The support of my friends and family always motivates me to get up and set up. Having a coffee pop up is a lot of work and heavy lifting, but it always pays off when I see customers enjoying their drinks and becoming repeat customers. Making my parents and family proud has kept me going.
I am in the process of opening up a coffee shop, and I hope that it grows successfully and that we are able to hire others that are interested in the coffee industry. I want to keep highlighting producers, workers, and exporters that are continuously looking for ways to improve the coffee supply chain. Once we open up the shop, I would like to offer my community events in which they can learn more about the roots of coffee, and share the space with other small businesses so that we can all grow together. Lastly, I would like to expand our catering services.
You can follow Diana and Cafe Calle's journey at @cafecalle on Instagram.