World class cafes: Joan Reis Nielsen continues on her quest for independent World Class Cafes that are unique in concept and whose proprietors are passionate about roasting and serving the finest coffees the world has to offer. She reveals her latest find.
What: Three coffee shops, offering coffees roasted daily from Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle and Near East, Indonesia and the Pacific
Where: Las Chivas Coffee Roaster (#1), The Agora Center, 7 Avenida Vista Grande, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505, Tel: (1)(505) 466-1010 (1000 sq. ft.)
Las Chivas Coffee Roaster (#2), Plaza Entrada, 3003-C South St. Francis Dr., Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505, Tel: (1)(505) 995-0099 (1500 sq. ft.) Downtown Subscription (#3), 376 Garcia Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 (1)(505) 983-3085 (2200 sq. ft., not including a large outdoor patio)
When: Store #1, open 7 days/week, Monday-Friday, 6am-6pm; Saturday, 7am-6pm; Sunday, 7am-3pm. Store #2, open 6 days/week, Monday Saturday, 7am-6pm; closed Sunday; Store #3, open 7 days/week, 7am-6pm
And: The Downtown Subscription shop offers a worldwide selection of magazines and newspapers for sale. All shops offer an extensive selection of teas, freshly baked goods and sodas.
Joan Reis Nielsen (JRN): Why "Las Chivas?"
Kristina Paoff (KP): Las Chivas means little girl goats, you know, in homage to the Kaldi legend. We wanted a name that was Spanish and meaningful for our foray to a new state and a new (to us) business.
JRN: Where do you two originally hail from?
KP: I'm from Los Angeles. He's from Mars.
JRN: Welcome to earth, Richard! Seriously, how did you both come to settle here in Santa Fe? I sense there's a story behind Los Chivas Roasters ...
KA: Richard has a BA in Mechanical Engineering (which comes in pretty handy when a coffee roaster quits) as well as a MBA in Business Administration. At one time he had an office maintenance company with 100 employees. When I met him he was executive director of facilities management and planning at California State University at Los Angeles.
Richard Paoff (RN): Kristina's no slouch either. She has a Masters in Epidemiology!
KA: Anyway, I was working at University of Southern California School of Medicine as a program manager for a cancer epidemiologist. After we got married, we decided that we both wanted a change--a career we could do together--that was more fulfilling and (dare I say?) more fun. We just knew we'd never be ultimately happy stuck where we where, doing what we were doing, in Los Angeles.
RP: I wanted to grow my hair long.
JRN: A brave career change, but what made you decide on coffee?
KP: Honestly, we ran through a lot of ideas and looked around at a lot of businesses. We really liked the idea of coffee so we decided to read up on it. That's when we found this guide, a book called The Perfect Cup, by Timothy J. Casde, and fell in love with coffee. We said to ourselves, now this looks like fun! Then we went around to as many coffee shops as we could manage until we found The Coffee Roaster in Sherman Oaks. Dick Healy was running it at the time, a very passionate and devoted man. He let us apprentice with him every weekend, for free. For a whole year he let us watch and taste and learn--very generous of him--until we were sure.
JRN: How did you choose Santa Fe?
RP: New Mexico was the only state we weren't "Wanted" in.
KP: We looked all over the West Coast for a great spot to put down some roots, from Oregon to Monterey/Carmel to Southern California. We knew we wanted to find a spot that needed us, too; that wasn't over-saturated with coffeehouses on every corner. We ultimately got discouraged with the amount of investment it would take to start a coffee biz and buy a home on the West Coast, but we also knew that we wanted a place with a southwest casual feel to it, one that would fit into our budget. So we flew to New Mexico, drove to Santa Fe, saw just one spectacular sunset, grabbed some real estate info and that was it! We've been here nine years now and are still loving every minute of that decision. Santa Fe offers everything important to us--natural beauty, art, cultural diversions and a wonderfully temperate climate.
RP: Besides the sunsets, the lightening storms over the mountains are the most impressive sight you can ever behold; some of the most beautiful shows on earth. In the early 20th century artists and writers began to gather here to establish a real colony of creativity. Of course, the indigenous Indians and strong Spanish Colonial presence already existed. Santa Fe now has a huge art market and all the ancillary events that surround it--the Santa Fe Opera season, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, great food and wine events and some of the finest museums in the Southwest.
JRN: I'm sure Santa Fe is glad you're here, too. Let's talk about Las Chivas Coffee Roaster ... Where's your first shop?
RP: It's in a shopping center called The Agora in El Dorado, El Dorado being one of the fastest growing suburbs of Santa Fe. In the beginning, we did everything ourselves, from out of that one shop, roasting and serving coffees and teas and food ...
KP: We practically lived there, which wasn't hard to do as we were also building our house in El Dorado at the same time. We both worked 24/7, almost no days off, for several years. Still do sometimes, but that's another story. Next came an opportunity to put in another shop at another new shopping center being built in Santa Fe called Plaza Entrada. That shop had a kitchen and suddenly I became a baker as well as a barista and a bookkeeper! We jumped on it and that's shop number two.
KP: Our third and most recent shop is called Downtown Subscription. It's on Garcia Street closer to the heart of downtown Santa Fe. It was an already existing coffee shop with a few problems, like the quality of their coffees, which we've put to rest now.
JRN: I've never seen so many magazines for sale under one roof!
KP: Yes, besides our coffee at Downtown Subscription, we currently offer over 2,000 tides of magazines and newspapers from all over the world. We actually have one employee devoted to keeping all of the subscriptions current and well ordered. So, our customers can take their coffees and newspapers or magazines out to the patio garden, or stay inside and linger over the latest news and a cuppa.
JRN: Whose equipment do you use for your coffee service and what else is on the menu at your shops?
KP: We have identical equipment at all our shops--Brasilia espresso machines and Wilbur Curtis brewing systems. We also offer the largest collection of loose-leaf teas in Santa Fe--black teas, green teas, scented and flavored teas and decaffeinated teas, too. I no longer do the baking for the shops, thank goodness. We've since become a very, big client of a terrific local bakery called the Chocolate Maven. They deliver all of our goods from coffee cakes and muffins to breakfast burritos and sandwiches twice a day, every day. In the hotter months we also sell lots of vanilla ice cream-flavored milkshakes like our espresso shake and lots of icy Italian sodas. I'll bet we go through at least four or more cases of Torani syrups a month.
JRN: Richard, will you talk about the coffees that you roast and your roasting prefences? I particularly enjoy your "Dos Griegos" blend ...
RP: That's a blend of beans from Tanzania, New Guinea and Brazil. I don't like to roast super dark. The only coffee that I'm going to take much deeper than full city is the Sumatra--our Italian roast is 100% Sumatran. As soon as I can smell that certain sweetness I drop it, right after the second crack. I roast about 120 to 180 pounds of Viennese-style Espresso a week--the rest is pretty much full-city roasts, like our "Des Chivas blend of Indonesian and Latin American. Kristina's got me on a schedule where I only roast what is needed and what we want to highlight twice a month at our shops, so we are constantly rotating our stock. We buy the highest quality single origin and single estate beans that we can get, regardless of price, regardless of all that "fair trade" stuff, too. Each coffee has its own "personal" roast that I try to bring out. And I'm not going to burn it beyond recognition like some other coffee companies might do to hide poor quality.
KP: As far as "fair trade" is concerned, we do have our share of affluent, very liberal, alternative lifestyle customers who often storm in demanding "fair trade, shade-grown, organic, bird-friendly" coffee. (Working on assuaging their collective social guilt or whatever, I suppose.) We try our best to please them and educate them to our standards of quality--quality no matter what it's called.
JRN: What about your wholesale sales? Any restaurant sales?
RP: We have a 1700 sq. ft. roasting facility in El Dorado with a 24 kilo Diedrich. I roast about 3,000 pounds a month, which I think is pretty impressive considering that this is all for our stores, very little for wholesale. To me, the real issue boils down to this: do you want to be a wholesaler or a retailer? We have our hands full as a retailer. As far as restaurant sales go, restaurants are not the coffee industry's greatest friends, are they? I've found over the years, that the restaurant coffee biz is essentially an equipment business with coffee as an add-on. Here in Santa Fe we have some of the greatest chefs in the nation, yet they still view coffee as a giveaway. And worse, they almost never brew the coffee correctly. They are very demanding. They are slow-pays or no-pays. On the other hand, we have a great B & B client in town that really cares about their coffee. So, if you come to us seeking out great coffees, and really want to do it right, we'll set you up!
JRN: Well, since we are on such tame topics, how about your stand on paper vs. plastic cups?
KP: An issue dear to the hearts of all environmentalists! I've spent far too much time researching this one. In a nutshell, paper vs. plastic is six of one, half a dozen of the other. I've given up trying to explain myself to the eco-wackos! It seems to be a production vs. disposal issue, but when you get right down to it, it's a trash issue. We decided on thin walled poly styrene cups for several reasons: they don't get hand-hot, we don't need to double-cup as with paper, it compacts twice as tight as paper and it is turning out to be no less bio-degradable than paper. If you drill a deep plug in a concrete-lined landfill you'll be able to read a newspaper from 15 years ago. And, no one thinks about the fact that paper weighs two and a half times as much as plastic. And what about the petroleum fuel used in transporting that weight to us? How much more fossil fuel is used?
RP: We give our customers a 10-cent discount if they bring their own cup.
KP: Decaffeination was another customer driven bug-a-boo. You know, the chemical vs. water issue, and we put that to rest by completely switching over all of our decaf coffees to Swiss Water Process out of Canada. They do a great job with their coffees and our customers are more comfortable with the water process that's perceived as more "healthful."
JRN: Any other problem issues to solve?
KP: Well, just one slight employment issue. Santa Fe is a very small town for a state capital and in recent years larger retail operations moving into town have put a tremendous drain on our labor pool. There's a terrible lack of permanent help. Believe me, we've spent a lot of time and money trying every incentive in the book. Our manager of operations, Maria Erdely, is a rare exception who has been with us for five years and not only does she help me train our short-lived employees, she often has to double up behind the bar. Richard and I often end up working 70 to 80 hour weeks (not much time for Richard's favorite pastime--his motorcycle--and not a lot of spare time to play with our four dogs)!
JRN: I noticed that almost every other store in the downtown area had "help wanted" signs in their windows, and this is the height of the tourist season ...
RP: We only need to employ 20 to 25 persons but the employee base here is so transient that the demand exceeds the supply. It's a problem existent in all of the specialty coffee industry, I know, but especially tough on us. At the end of the day, however, it's the customers who make or break my day. Little things, like a gang of Italian tourists on motorcycles who stopped at our El Dorado shop and raved about our espresso. They said it was the best espresso they ever had in America--that made my day.
JRN: Not only is your coffee wonderful, this has got to be the best homemade coffee cake I've ever tasted. It is so rich and satisfying, definitely not on the Atkins diet! Would it be possible to get the recipe from you, Kristina?
KP: Sure. It's something I worked long and hard to perfect. I call it the Las Chivas Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cake. (See sidebar for recipe)
JRN: Thanks to both of you, for your humor and gracious Santa Fe-style generosity.
(Look for future profiles of World Class Cafes from Sao Paulo, Vancouver, Chicago, New York, and Seattle to name a few.)
LAS CHIVAS SOUR CREAM PECAN COFFEE CAKE This sweet and moist coffee cake disappears swiftly, so you may want to double the recipe f you flavors for tomorrow morning! INGREDIENTS 1 cup sugar 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (such as Crisco) 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 4 large eggs 1 1/2 cups sour cream 3 cups flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, softened 1 cup brown sugar 1 cup pecans 1 teaspoon cinnamon INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch x 13-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the sugar shortening and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each one and then add the sour cream. Mix in the flour, baking powder and baking soda until well blended. Pour this batter into the prepared pan. In another bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon. (This mixture will be dry and crumbly.) Cover the batter with this mixture and bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy!
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|Title Annotation:||Las Chivas Coffee Roaster|
|Author:||Nielsen, Joan Reis|
|Publication:||Tea & Coffee Trade Journal|
|Date:||Apr 20, 2005|
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