WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — A couple is turning a hobby picked up during the pandemic into a full-time business, opening a neighborhood coffee shop on the West Side.
Tasa Coffee will be one of the only local cafés and roasters in West Humboldt Park when it opens at 4136 W. North Ave. Owners Jackie and Pierre Marquez received about $230,000 from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to build out of the store. They hope to open in early 2022.
The couple didn’t initially have ambitions of starting their own business when they dove into coffee last year. They started exploring coffee beans, roasting and the history of coffee around the world as a way to break the monotony and solitude of the pandemic, they said.
Jackie Marquez has a background as a chef. But since many restaurants were closed throughout the pandemic, she had a lot of spare time to pursue other interests, she said.
“We started kind of just supporting local coffee shops and we really got into coffee. One day, I thought, ‘Let’s look into the history of coffee,'” she said.
The couple’s curiosity blossomed into a full-blown hobby when they decided to buy a small roaster and green coffee beans.
“Obviously, the first few batches were pretty bad. But once we got the hang of it, we were surprisingly pretty good at it,” Jackie Marquez said.
The pair started experimenting with roasts and offered them to friends and neighbors to taste test, Pierre Marquez said. They researched beans and flavor profiles for coffees grown in Mexico, Ethiopia, Columbia and Guatemala, he said.
All that inspired them to turn their newfound love of coffee into a business.
A core value of Tasa Coffee is cultivating direct relationships with coffee growers and ensuring they are fairly compensated, Pierre Marquez said.
“People are kind of cut off from the process sometimes, so they don’t realize you’re paying $10 for a pound of coffee beans, you’re not really supporting the farmer adequately. That’s important to us,” he said.
The shop will have a café area with seating and a full kitchen serving food and pastries to go with the coffee roasted on site, Pierre Marquez said. The shop will have a pickup window for grab-and-go coffee, and guests will be able to view the roasting area so “people can see me roasting the coffee. They can really see what it takes to make that cup of coffee,” Pierre Marquez said.
The city grant will help them increase the scale of the coffee shop, including having a bigger coffee roaster.
The area doesn’t have many options for coffee besides Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin’, they said, so they are eager to give residents a local café where families and friends can get together and enjoy themselves.
“We always remember that our families would bond with a cup of coffee,” Jackie Marquez said. “It just reminds us of how that one cup of coffee brought the family together. That’s kind of what we want to do with the community, bring people together just to have a cup of coffee.”
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