With seven shops in their hometown of Los Angeles and now two in the Bay Area, Tierra Mia Coffee is rapidly putting together a state-spanning specialty coffee empire. Their latest expansion is a soaring space in the iconic 1930s Art Deco I. Magnin building in Oakland's Uptown neighborhood.
Tierra Mia is a fascinating company owned by an affable, hardworking man named Ulysses Romero. Sprudge writer Julie Wolfson profiled the company culture and Mr. Romero in this excellent two-part interview. I got the chance to chat with Mr. Romero as he waited for the health inspector to give the final approval on the new shop.
Tierra Mia Coffee’s new location is a prime spot in the southeast corner of the I. Magnin building, situated directly across the street from the busy 19th Street BART stop. Built in 1930, the Magnin Building was designed by Weeks and Day – a wonderfully named architecture firm that also designed the nearby Fox Theatre – and sports a distinctive marble and green terracotta façade.
Tierra Mia's first SF location in the Mission is decked out in gorgeous custom woodwork and they've brought that same sumptuous aesthetic to their 1,900 square foot corner space in the I. Magnin building. The space's ceilings are an astonishing 24 feet high, which Romero and his team have balanced with an impressive custom marble and wood bar. There's seating for around 44, including a massive communal table. The result is a little art deco, a little bit neo classical, and a little bit retro-future. Check out those giant steel girders.
Tierra Mia’s coffees will be served mainly as pour-overs at this location, grinding coffee with the ever-so-hot Mahlkönig EK43, and they will be pulling a single origin Brazil for espresso on a La Marzocco Strada MP. A Fetco batch brewer sits on the back bar for catering orders and making some of the preparations of Tierra Mia's signature selection of frappes and other fancy drinks. Romero was excited about several new coffees he was bringing in, including a Geisha from Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama, and some coffees from the Café Imports ACES Program.
In 2013, Romero and his team worked around the clock to open three new cafes. Tierra Mia Coffee roasts all of their coffee back in L.A., but Romero said that a northern California roaster was likely in the cards if they open another café or if the San Francisco and Oakland locations move enough volume to support it. Romero said he already has a 5-kilo Probat roaster sitting unused in L.A., and it would have been great to put it in their new Oakland space – but venting to the roof of an 80-year old building would have cost a veritable fortune.
The space was previously occupied by a café called Café Madrid and the old awnings are still to be replaced. Nevertheless, Romero told me that he’s basically just waiting for the health inspector to give the go-ahead and then they’ll be ready to open. If everything goes according to plan, Tierra Mia should be bringing their unique approach to specialty coffee to Oakland some time next week.