by Tom Sims
If you are in the Fresno Tower District between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and you get that familiar craving for a cup of coffee with atmosphere, you really owe it to yourself to discover Café Corazón.
Café Corazón is a coffee shop, but it is also far more than that. It is a culture and a way of life. It is also the spot for locally roasted, organic coffee, purchased from scores of estates around the world at fair trade prices.
They describe themselves as “a micro coffee roaster located in the Tower District of Fresno.” They brew small lots to order and offer coffee tastings, catering to “connoisseurs of Fresno.”
Café Corazón is a statement of quality, responsibility, and love. Leo Rios loves coffee and he loves Fresno. He and Liz make it a point to engage with the community and to provide the best product to loyal customers who become part of their community. Café Corazón is a brand. Opening his first shop on the Fulton Mall in November 2007, Leo moved to the Tower District in July of 2010 and it is there that his business began to grow.
“Fair trade coffee,” according to Wikipedia, “is coffee which is purchased directly from the growers for a higher price than standard coffee.” The beans come raw and ready. Leo roasts them and that process creates varieties of flavor that are constantly changing. It started as a hobby based upon Leo’s love of coffee. He taught himself how to roast, first using a popcorn popper and moving from roaster to roaster until he purchased the massive machine that sits in his shop today. All of the roasting takes place in his shop, out in the open, and visible to the public. He will gladly explain the process and let you watch.
Since the fair trade certification process is sometimes prohibitive for small farmers, Leo often uses informal networks and relationships to insure quality and to guarantee that more profit goes into the pockets of the growers. Some of the principles of fair trade are:
Fair labor conditions
These are commitments that Café Corazón share and seek to insure.
This sense of community and social responsibility is demonstrated locally as well. Besides a profound commitment to freshness and high quality, Leo has this goal, “I want Fresno to be proud of itself.”
With that in mind, he links with local businesses and community groups, including his neighbors up and down the street, participates in Art Hop and Jazz Hop, and encourages his customers to do business locally. The Dusty Buns Bistro Bus is parked outside his establishment every Thursday from “5 to 9ish.”
Inside the shop, it is all about the coffee and the community. With Internet, clustered and comfortable sitting areas, and huddles of activity and conversation, Café Corazón is, as reminiscent of “Cheers,” a “place where everybody knows your name.”
I became captivated by Leo’s coffee when I needed to “kill some time” in the Tower once a week a few years back. Through conversations with him, with Liz, and with the young people working for them, I came to respect the integrity of their product and vision. When I was ready to set up a coffee bar on the other side of town, I went to Leo to purchase beans and to be taught the fine art of dripping a cup of coffee, one cup at a time. Leo generously and carefully taught my wife and me how to do it and someday, we hope to make a cup of brew as tasty as one you can buy on Wishon.
Subscribe to the newsletter through the website for updates and “like” their page on Facebook. You will receive updates like this: “We recommend our latest FairTrade & Organic addition, Rwanda Abakundakawa. Guess what that translates into…”
Note: I looked that up: Abakundakawa translates to: “those who love coffee.” That says it all.
1306 N Wishon
Fresno, CA 93728