The Mexican coffee industry is evolving quickly as owners innovate to shift their clients’ perceptions of what coffee really is. One industry-leading cafe is Mexico City’s Café Avellaneda. Owner Carlos de la Torre has completely changed the way people think a coffee shop should function, and has helped the whole industry to grow.
Mexican coffee farms are, like those of many other countries, struggling with coffee leaf rust. In order to both raise awareness and funds, de la Torre donates money from every cup of coffee sold at Avellaneda to a coffee farm. So far, his program has raised a good amount to help farmers purchase necessary resources to continue to thrive.
Additionally, Avellaneda provides an opportunity to new coffee farmers to sell beans at a price the farmers think they deserve to earn. They first buy 69 kilograms of their coffee, then decide whether to buy more or not. What is really remarkable is the conversation that baristas, roasters, cuppers, and farmers are able to have as a result of these initiatives—something incredibly valuable in a producing country, and with a direct effect on quality at the farm level as well as in the cafe.
When it comes to roasting, Avellanda is quite particular. They use a two-kilogram air roaster, but only one kilo at a time, cupping every batch. It is easy to experiment with different profiles as the batches are really small. Having such a small roaster is sometimes a bit difficult, but their big team manages to roast and cup up to 40 batches a day or more to be able to deliver the coffee to their clients on time.
De la Torre believes his coffee shop should function the same way a good restaurant functions. The baristas at Avellaneda not only have skills, they are involved in the strict quality control that Torre insists upon. Each month, the whole team gathers and picks three different coffees they’ll be serving during that period of time. Three team members pick a coffee they want to work with, and develop a recipe they believe best shows the beans’ best characteristics using one slow-brewing method. When they are ready, they present those recipes to the others, and the whole team evaluates it and shares their opinion. The staff then calibrates that recipe each day. If one team member disagrees with the chosen recipe, they have to change it until everyone is happy with the beverages. When an employee is happy with the products, believes de la Torre, they’re bound to prepare it better.
After the coffee has been approved and cupped by everyone, the team then develops a pastry menu that pairs up with the three different coffees of the month and that will be taste-tested by the team again.
De la Torre is the two-time winner of the Mexican Brewers Cup competition (2015, 2016) and has trained a whole team of high-achieving baristas in the national competitions. For him, competing is not only about having a great performance on stage, it is also about presenting those very skills when one is in front of a customer.
Let’s not forget about the espresso. Avellaneda has a La Marzocco GB5, and their grinder is a San Remo SR70. Every week they feature a new coffee, but they always have a different one from Zaragoza, Oaxaca. The most interesting part about any of their espresso-based beverages is that they give you a plain espresso shot when you order one of these drinks. After all, you never know if you like something or not if you never try it.
Visiting Avellaneda is a new horizon in Mexican coffee. It’s twenty square meters of coffee shop with good music in the background, nice people to hang out with, and a truly different flavor experience.
Ximena Rubio is a coffee professional based in Mexico City. Read more Ximena Rubio on Sprudge.