Meetup groups are always fun and this one took me to Boyle Heights for a Latin American coffee and food tasting in the heart of East LA. I had never been to that neighborhood before but the temptation of Mascarpone Cheesecake was calling my name. It was held at Primera Taza Coffee owned by locals Chuy Tovar and Antonio Segoviano. The host for our event was Brian Melendez, also known as Chef Turok.
The parking lot in the back is surrounded by colorful LA street murals and a few randy cats. The black one was an unabashed poser.
Click on Images to view full size
A premiere in Mexican and Latin American coffee
Chuy seeks out mostly Mexican and Latin American coffee. As he spoke, I could tell he was an expert in picking out the best brands. Our first sample was from Ethiopia. Most African coffee has more of a “tea” taste, sort of like Earl Grey. Its beans are typically smaller than Latin American varieties. Because it’s a lighter coffee, we enjoyed it with Chef Turok’s incredible Mascarpone Cheesecake. I thought I died and gone to heaven.
Our next coffee sample was from Guatemala. Mexican and Latin American coffee have bolder tastes than African with hints of fruit (like blueberry) and chocolate. It was my favorite and had notes of chocolate, cloves, and citrus. Originally, we were going to try Mexican coffee but the shipment didn’t arrive on time. Chuy mentioned that there are several brands of outstanding Mexican coffee.
Mexican food and treats
We also sipped a Mexican coffee treat called Café Di Olla, made with “cheap coffee,” cinnamon, cloves, and unrefined brown sugar. You’ll often find it at authentic Mexican restaurants. It was sweet and tasted almost like flat coke.
The piece de resistance was Primera Taza’s Lonche De Lomo sandwich created by Chuy’s wife Rosalinda Hernandez. It’s made with pan-seared pork loin, Mexican crema, purple onion, tomato, jalapeno, avocado, and a “secret” red sauce. The ingredients were stuffed inside a wonderfully crunchy long bun.
Boyle Heights – From a Jewish to Latin American neighborhood
Boyle Heights was once a Jewish enclave. Jews arrived at the turn of the 20th century from the east mostly to take advantage of the good weather. At one time, Brooklyn Ave. was filled with kosher butchers, delis, bakeries, and Synagogues. The Famous Canter’s Deli was located there in the 1930s before it moved to the Fairfax District. Now Boyle Heights is a working-class and vibrant Latin American community.
You can take the Metro Gold Line to Mariachi Plaza Station, and get off at 1st Street.
Since my visit, Primera Taza has moved to a new location.
It is now located at:
622 S Anderson Street, Suite 107 Los Angeles, California 90023
Have you tried Mexican or Latin American Coffee? What’s your favorite brand? Please leave a comment below.