I was invited to go to a Latin American coffee and food tasting in Boyle Heights, which is located in East LA. It’s not a neighborhood I’ve ever spent time in but the temptation of Mascarpone Cheesecake was calling my name. It was held at Primera Taza Coffee on 1st Street owned by 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.
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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 Breakfast Tea. 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 is generally bolder than African with hints of fruit (like blueberry) and chocolate. It turned out to be my favorite with notes of chocolate, cloves, and citrus. Originally, we were going to try Mexican coffee but the shipment hadn’t arrived on time. Chuy mentioned that there are several brands of outstanding Mexican coffee. It made me eager to try some that Doug had brought back from a film festival he attended in Tijuana.
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 di 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. I’ve heard it’s only offered once a month but call to make sure. It’s so worth it!
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 back 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 1930’s 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, which lets off at 1st Street. I wish I’d known that ahead of time because I prefer to take the subway instead of drive downtown. One thing I love about Los Angeles is its diversity and the fact that you can experience the cultures of many nationalities, especially Mexican. Los Angeles was first ruled by Spain and then by Mexico. There’s a rich Mexican influence here that includes its cuisine and colorful traditions.
We don’t want to build a wall and send the people who were here before us back to Mexico Mr. Trump. We embrace and appreciate all the cultural richness they have given us.
The Primera Taza Coffeehouse is located at:
1850 ½ E. 1st St. Boyle Heights, California 90033 (parking in back)
If you’re in that part of town, be sure to stop in.
Have you tried Mexican or Latin American Coffee? What’s your favorite brand? Please leave a comment below.