Coffee shops are the setting where bridges are built between cultures, communities are galvanized, and relationships are formed. Back in 2018, a newfound friendship made at Kiosko coffee shop between two aficionados would lay the groundwork for the now industry veterans to bring their project to life. Angel Medina, Founder of República & Co., has teamed up with Seiji Nanbu to open their new cafe: Electrica.
“Seiji was one of the first people I’ve met when I opened Kiosko,” Medina tells Sprudge. “We stayed connected over the years and I ultimately wanted to work with him due to his passion for coffee.”
While concepting Electrica, the duo leaned into their expertise from their own cultures with the intention of telling their origin stories. With Medina’s track record in the coffee industry, and Nanbu’s knowledge of Japanese tea, the two have launched a Mexican coffee and Japanese tea program that represents who they are, and what they don’t see enough of in the industry. Luckily for them, they landed a location that was built to harness the sparks they’ve created.
At the edge of the industrial district of Northwest Portland, Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. is a Portland staple filled with modern heirlooms. The brick building contains a showroom and new tenants occupying the cafe as Electrica officially settled in just before Thanksgiving. The turnaround time was quick as both brands came together to allow this process to be expedited.
“They’ve been wonderful,” says Medina. “From offering furniture, to their overall excitement of our arrival, Schoolhouse has been amazing partners throughout the entire process.”
“It’s a unique concept that nobody has seen cohesively exist before: a strong Mexican coffee program to pair with a strong Japanese tea program,” adds Nanbu. “We have coffee for people who love coffee, and tea for people who are passionate about tea.”
To ensure visitors get ample opportunity to try their offering, the two owners meticulously crafted a menu to cover all phases of their program. For their coffee, Electrica is touting Reforma Roasters, which is owned by Medina. They partnered with Yugen for their tea, a popular Kyoto-based specialty tea company. Their signature drink is the “Saikyo Candy” latte, which contains a sweet white miso and caramel sauce. Not to worry, the fan favorite cafè de olla can be found on the menu as well. For baked goods, conchas and other options are provided by Matutina, while the tea desserts are from Yume Confections. To round it out, all drinks can be enjoyed in their glasses from the Japanese drinkware company, Kinto.
While customers enjoy drinks in fancy cups, the baristas behind the bar are working with high-end gear. Electrica is using a Slayer two-group espresso V3 that contains with a see-through glass panel on the back, a nice touch from Black Rabbit Service Co. For grinders, they opted with both the Mahlkönig E65S espresso grinder as well as the Mahlkönig EK43 for batch brewing and pour-overs. For those pour-overs and tea brewing needs, Electrica will roll out the Kalita Wave Dripper.
Quickly after their gear was in place, Electrica saw quite the rush during their soft opening that coincided with Schoolhouse re-opening their showroom. For Medina and Nanbu, it was just another day on bar. Most importantly, it was another opportunity to tell the story of two countries coming together for the ultimate cafe experience customers didn’t know they were missing.
“Whether it’s Mexican coffee or Japanese tea, we ultimately wanted to have something in the shop that everyone cares about. We wanted something new and adventurous that nobody else is providing” Nanbu tells me.
Medina and Nanbu succeeded at creating a new experience inside one of Portland’s oldest buildings. The juxtaposition between Portland’s history housing the opportunity to learn Mexican and Japanese traditions is a connection the entire city can benefit from.
Giovanni Fillari is Brand Marketing Specialist at Nike and the publisher of @_coffeefeed. He is the honorable mention Sprudgie Award recipient for Social Media in 2018 and 2021. Read more Giovanni Fillari for Sprudge.