‘If it’s not now, it’s gonna be never’
Lupita Sanchez has close-cropped, platinum blonde hair and a smile that can light up even a Zoom call. On a shelf behind her are a smattering of pour over cones and stands and what looks like some kind of old-school turkish coffee brewer. She’s in a backroom at her roasting facility in Los Angeles.
We’re mostly talking about how she got into coffee and why she has such a passion for Mexican specialty coffee (more on both later), but honestly? I just can’t get over how she manages to take everything that happens to her, the good, the bad, and the truly horrific, and crank it through some internal joy-machine that turns it all into fuel for her fire of indefatigable happiness.
Lupita is an outsider to coffee. She wasn’t practicing her latte art right out of high school, she never hung around roasters waiting for the second crack, in fact, she didn’t hang around third-wave cafes at all. She laughs as she tells me that before she tried specialty coffee she thought cafe enthusiasts were ‘just extra.’
For Lupita, the draw of the cafe was always the people, the coffee was secondary. Coffee and chisme (Spanish slang for gossip, but really it’s more like smalltown news chit-chat) go together, she tells me, but she was mostly there for the chisme. It was the idea of creating a place for people to come hang out and talk that gave her the dream that she would one day open a cafe.
But it wasn’t until a trip to Mexico where she randomly decided to visit some fincas to see how coffee is grown and harvested that the coffee bug really hit her hard. Except, even then, it was really about the people. Lupita had found some women-owned fincas, and the farmers were teaching her all about the coffee growing process. But what really struck her was the abject poverty of the women she was learning from. ‘In my head I was like, I’m paying $5, $6, $7 for a cup of coffee? It wasn’t clicking why they were living in those conditions.’
She did a little more digging and learned more about the tenuousness of these women’s lives, the difficulty of a short harvest season, the manipulation of large coffee buyers who would lump the high quality coffee these women were producing in with mass produced nonsense.
And so, Lupita Sanchez, who had never worked a day in a cafe, never pulled a single shot, never used a roasting machine, decided right then and there to buy as much coffee as she could from these women, at a fair price that would allow them to flourish, and then figure out everything else as she went.
The results have been truly remarkable. Lupita had been dreaming of having her own cafe long enough that she already had a logo, she just pivoted from cafe to roastery and got to work. Cafe Metzli now roasts and sells specialty coffee from multiple regions in Mexico, and they’re making quite a splash in the coffee roasting world. But Lupita’s just getting started. In addition to getting the roastery launched and pumping out great whole bean, she’s working on events that help bring more awareness to the kinds of specialty coffee Mexico has to offer.
As for a cafe of her own where she can get all the juicy chisme? It’s still on the horizon. But for now, Lupita has her hands full roasting amazing coffee, helping to bring financial viability to the women-owned fincas she works with, and celebrating the beauty of the country that has captured her heart.