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The charismatic yellow 1964 Citroën van that Los Angeles-based Farm Cup Coffee has depended upon for its mobile coffee operation may no longer be on the road, but it’s still the star of the show.
The van known as Sunny is now permanently parked inside the new 550-square-foot West Hollywood Farm Cup retail shop, where customers can order drinks with coffees that were roasted at their country of origin.
“We wanted Sunny to shine in her new home, and that she does,” Farm Cup Coffee Co-Founder Tony Yuan told Daily Coffee News. “We have seating outdoors and a couple chairs inside, but we are definitely a ‘to-go’ spot. Sunny has always been a beautiful vehicle, but with the constant breakdowns and scarcity of vehicle parts in the U.S., we drove her into the building for good.”
In addition to dealing with Sunny’s unpredictable mechanics, Farm Cup also struggled during the pandemic because of event cancelations and the loss of larger gatherings. To stay afloat, the launched bottled cold brew delivery while also opening a kiosk coffee bar inside an office building in Century City last October.
“It has been an extreme year-and-a-half for us as owners,” said Yuan. “Dealing personally with the pandemic, let alone running a company, has definitely been rough, and taken a toll on us.”
With Sunny back in the spotlight, the coffee bar in the belly of the bright yellow beast includes a 2-group La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine paired with a Fiorenzato Evo grinder and a Fetco batch brewer for drip coffee.
Surrounded by vivacious potted plants and wooden patio furniture, the shop maintains the brand’s vacation-like spirit of adventure and of fun-loving inclusivity.
Yuan and Emerson Haro, partners in life as well as in Farm Cup Coffee, came up with the business concept while on vacation together in Tulum, Mexico, seeking something that would reflect both their personal and professional backgrounds.
Haro, who grew up in Mexico City and attended business school in the United States, has cherished a daily “cafecito” in some form since childhood, while Yuan’s background in culinary arts resulted in a passion for knowing the origin of food and ingredients.
Today, the proudly LGBTQ+ supportive company aims to forge deeper connections between coffee drinkers and coffee producers, while also paying producers more for their valuable contributions to the finished product.
The company exclusively serves drinks from beans that were roasted at origin — either by producer organizations that have roasting facilities on site or are owned by entities that roast coffee.
“We believe that the people who grow the coffee know best as to how to roast it,” said Yuan. “We go through multiple tastings of the coffee until we find what works best for every brew method. It’s a very different selection process that goes beyond choosing green beans. Rather we choose the final roast to match our brewing method.”
Prior to the pandemic, Farm Cup’s sourcing strategy involved regular travels to coffee origin countries for collaboration and procurement.
“We have always taken pride in the fact that we always do direct trade with our multiple farmers,” said Yuan. “As of now all of our coffee is purchased directly from our farmers and flown in courier service.”
Yet as the company’s growth is returning to the fast lane, Yuan said the model of the business may evolve as Farm Cup seeks to bring roasting in-house.
“We want to be able to deliver our beans to our customers from Los Angeles and supply everyone with directly traded coffee that does not break the bank,” said Yuan. “It is becoming a challenge to get all the coffee over to Los Angeles quickly enough. We are partnering up with our farmers to gain their knowledge in how to roast their coffee over here. We will be visiting them and taking classes to learn their craft as best as possible.”
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.