Alum of Coffee- Akat Café Kalli / Sin Fronteras Coffee
After touring rural communities in Central America, Jose Rodriguez returned to Oakland with a kernel of an idea – one that went beyond the typical sourcing and brewing of coffee. He wanted to recreate the sense of community and pride he’d witnessed in the coffee-growing regions. This is the origin of Akat Café Kalli, a space not only dedicated to coffee but also community, art and culture. Five years on, after completing FCI’s Coffee Roasting and Retail Industry Intensive course, Jose has launched a coffee-roasting project, Sin Fronteras Coffee, sourcing and roasting quality coffee while creating sustainable income and opportunities for people involved in its production.
How did you become interested in coffee?
Traveling through southern Mexico and Guatemala back in the summer of 2007 was the first time I became interested in the human relationships involved with coffee and its production process. During this trip my partner and I were visiting as many ancient Indigenous temples as possible and learning so much from the communities around them. We reached the coffee lands of Oaxaca, Veracruz, Chiapas and Guatemala. There is a land base, kind of like a home base – a relationship between coffee growers and the land. Through coffee an economic and cultural living are able to be sustained. This was how my interest was sparked.
What was the moment you decided to start a cafe?
We moved to Oakland’s East Lake back in the Summer of 2012. We wanted to help build a community, cultural and artistic space that was safe, sustainable and flexible. We started out using the space for community events and a gathering space for neighbors. The people who attended the gatherings and supported the space inspired us to create a small cafe for the community.
Tell me about Akat Cafe Kalli and your new business Sin Fronteras Coffee?
Akat Cafe Kalli is about community, art, culture and coffee. Kalli means house in Nahuatl, a base and safe place. Akat means reed, also in Nahuatl and signifies awareness and flexibility. Our coffee roasting project, Sin Fronteras Coffee, is about sourcing, roasting and serving quality coffee while creating sustainable income with opportunities to gain economic agency and forming relationships between people involved in the production of coffee.
Who (or what) is your biggest food/business inspiration?
The people who work the land and harvest the coffee. They are my biggest inspiration. The people who work that land with dignity, those who have worked to create a sustainable and gainful income for their families and have developed agency.
How did FCI’s Coffee Roasting and Retail help you launch/grow your business?
Both simple and profound. I went from reading books and watching videos on roasting to actually roasting and interacting with experts in the industry. I met great people who I am working with at the moment to develop and launch our coffee roasting company Sin Fronteras Coffee. Since the course, I have begun buying green coffee from Royal, roasting coffee with experts in Oakland and have sourced coffee directly from origin. Before the course buying green coffee, roasting and sourcing were in motion, but a lot slower and I had many questions and even doubts. Now I have a lot more clarity which is key in planning.
What did you find most helpful about the course?
The sites visits were the best, hands on experience, Q and A with experts and networking.
What do you envision the next year will bring your businesses? The next 5 years?
Akat Cafe Kalli will serve 100% Sin Fronteras Coffee by the end of the winter and continue to expand its food menu according to customer preference while offering its space and essence to the community. Regarding the roasting side, Sin Fronteras Coffee, I aim to build meaningful relationships between coffee growers, roasters and drinkers.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered (before & after FCI)?
Business plan development and funding.
If you could give yourself some beginner’s advice 1 year ago, what would it be?
I would tell myself to develop a business plan and then follow it, keep customers engaged and keep track of progress.
Learn more about Akat Café Calli by visiting their Facebook page, or enjoying their community space, art and brews in Oakland’s East Lake.
If you’re interested in Coffee Roasting and Retail, you’re in luck! Our next upcoming course is May 21 – 24. Visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.