Maria Camino is 26 years old and studied Design Thinking focused on service at Stanford University in California. After her graduation, in 2012, Maria came back to Lima, where she started to work in a bank and met her fiancée-to-be, Pietro del Sante. Now the two run a coffee shop, Tazze Caffé, in San Isidro.
(Living in Peru) Tell us the story behind Tazza Caffé.
(Maria) Pietro and I were always looking for places to go drink coffee – coffee was what we had in common since day one – and Tazza began from this search. I then studied at the Coffee Barista’s School at Le Cordon Bleu, and when we opened I brought two girls of my class with me.
What I had always wanted to do was to attract the attention to coffee, what distinguishes us from the other coffee shops around here.
Tazza, apart from a big passion for coffee, was born from the decision to want to change our way of life and be masters of our time. Opening something of our own, where we’d be able to play; a playground in which, since I am very passionate about design, we could work one day on the interior, the other on the product, and even on intangible things, like the language of Tazza.
Which characteristics should a coffee have for you to be good?
At this moment the tendency is to serve coffee at middle toast. That makes the coffee a little more fresh, green and for this reason more citric. I personally do not like this style very much, which is why here we have chosen a middle-dark toast that emphasizes more the sweet chocolate tones. Unlike other coffee shops, we maintain the traditional Italian proportions: we serve the espresso double, and the cappuccino with one part espresso to four of milk (not the classical Peruvian milk-soup).
What is the atmosphere you wanted to create?
What we wanted to transmit is that when you pass the door you feel relaxed, welcomed with a true smile. Since our customers are from this area, given the huge amount of offices in the neighbourhood, the 70-80% of them come here every day. It becomes like a family, we greet them by name, chat, creating a beautiful connection.
We are also preparing to change from coffee shop to restaurant: [soon] we are going to sell wine and artisanal beers.
What have you found to be the hardest part in opening a business at your age?
Make people believe in us. When we were searching for a place, we visited a lot of shops, but questions like, “Who are you? What experience do you have? What is your background?,” prevented us from taking them. Pietro is 28, I was 25 at the time- we were two young people without anything to back us up, two kids with an idea and nothing more.
When we arrived here [to the current San Isidro location] it was very weird, everything flowed perfectly, like an angel went down and did his magic.
As well there was the uncertainty of starting our own business, the risk of opening the door and not knowing if someone would enter. In the beginning we did not even have a sign.
Customers spread the word though, and little by little it has been growing. Now we are happy, and during some hours of the day it’s packed. The first few times this happened I would take pictures and send them to my family!
Tell us about the coffee: where does it come from?
We have two different beans: The first one is from Alto Palomar (Junín), a coffee of altitude, of a really little ranch (Finca Los Pinos). Francisco García won the last barista championship with this coffee and since then he has taken care of the process from the start. With him we developed the toast profile we were looking for. The second one is from Villa Rica (Oxapampa), a coffee that is by 99.9 % exported to Switzerland. In a country where many times the best is exported, we managed to make that 0.1 % come here.
Is there something else you would like our readers to know?
What I like to promote the most is the rescue of the role of the barista. Several times the coffee professional is forgotten. Coffee is a drink that, like the wine, is a whole world, with different varieties and a wheel of flavours. Various clients have told me that we have ruined them, now they cannot go back to what they drank before because they don’t like it anymore.
The interesting thing about our public is that half or more of our customers are foreigners, maybe because you don’t have to educate them, they already recognize the value of a good cup of coffee. Peruvians on the contrary are still moving the first steps. Our coffee is not expensive, I believe the coffee does not have to be expensive to be good, it is the care and love too that make it good, personalizing it for every customer. We have some that even have their own cup (Ducati for the motorbikes’ fan, Porsche for the cars’ fan, and so on). An espresso served in paper cups loses so much.
If you want to drink a cup of coffee and you are outside, where do you go?
The Coffee Road and Origen.
How do you see Tazza in five years?
With more shops, ideally three or four, because when you grow arrives a time where you lose your essence. Be the neighbourhood’s coffee shop and stay small.
Author’s note: I tried Alto Palomar’s coffee: speechless, home, Italy in a sip. Go try it!
Amador Merino Reyna 461, San Isidro