Friday, July 17, 2009

I Heart Coffee

The last time I ran into Leo Rios he was perched under a pop-tent on a lazy Saturday afternoon with his girlfriend Liz and their button of a toddler. The faint smell of coffee was in the air and customers lined up for cups of the best brew in town: Café Corazon.

Leo is a coffee roaster, and is, at the very least, passionate. In his spare time, he studies plantations and growing practices. On weekends he spends hours filling orders for small batches of coffee beans, hovering over the roaster, jotting down temperatures every thirty seconds. In addition, as the business owner, he is inundated with paperwork and phone calls. “If you are not prepared to have your business consume every part of your life, then you are not prepared to have a business,” he says.

Leo’s first roast experiment was years ago at home with a modified popcorn popper and some green coffee beans. “That very first roast left me in awe,” he confessed. It wasn’t long afterward he knew he had a business on his hands. After a short stint owning a full-fledged coffee shop on the Fulton Mall, Café Corazon now provides fresh roasted coffee beans to local customers. “People are learning the difference that a fresh roast makes,” said Leo. And he’s right.

My first cup was supreme. Dark and smooth. None of the tricks certain coffee companies use to substitute complexity for sheer smoky bitterness. It was almost immediately I realized I was screwed- all other coffee tasted inferior to me. I had found the best. The freshest. The Master. Right here in Fresno.

My second bag was an Organic Chiapas from the PROISCH CoOp. Leo painstakingly took into account the natural growing conditions and inherent flavor of the bean. It was roasted to bring out the subtle complexity instead of being burnt to a crisp. I savored… Chiapas has earthy notes and a wisp sweetness that I never could have tasted if it were charred. “When you sip on a cup of Organic Chiapas… you're tasting the true flavor of Mexican coffee. You're tasting the flavors of the rainfall, the earth, the sun and the hard work of the processing that has gone into it,” said Leo. Hats off to respecting the true nature of the beast.

Tasting a cup of coffee made with Café Corazon beans sells itself. Leo’s painstaking care and love of the process is evident in every sip. “It is my aim to bring out the finer aspects of a coffee and give the coffee connoisseur something to savor,” he says. And, Leo is a man with an abundant heart, corazon, for his coffee, his family, and our little spot in the world, “You help in any way you can to improve the community. This is what I saw my parents do growing up, and it's what we wish to do, be true Chicanos. I'm trying to help build a strong community.” We’ve got a true Fresno treasure on our hand people. Drink up.

Get yourself a bag!
Email Leo:
Follow him on Twitter for the latest roasting info: @CafeCorazon
Pick up orders at Yoshi Now! On Broadway in downtown Fresno


Abe said...

There isn't a weekend that goes by without me wishing he still had his shop on the Fulton Mall.

Leo and Liz are good people and I hope they find success if they ever decide to open another shop. They can count on at least one faithful

Abe Lopez

Leo said...

Thanks Abe, that means a lot to us.

We'll save a chair just for Abe when we get a new spot setup.