Family owned and operated
We are a small, family business. Owned and operated by Dan & Karla, partners in life and business alike. Before Yuccas Café became a thing, we worked together on some other business endeavors. Eventually, the coffee business came to us. Continue reading to learn more…..
Yuccas Café originally started in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 2019, under the name of Yuccas Boutique. At the time of our conception, our focus was on selling gift sets. Coffee was originally at the forefront, but we were simply building on that concept packaging our coffee with mugs, french presses, pour overs, and other accessories related to coffee. Initially, we weren’t in the roasting game. We had been given our first contact in the coffee industry through Karla’s father, David, who had traveled years ago to Coatepec, Veracruz to learn more about coffee production in Mexico. As a restaurant owner, he wanted to purchase a good quality coffee for serving to his customers. For many years, he maintained business with the producers and brought coffee from Veracruz to Northern Chihuahua. During this time period, locally roasted coffee was basically unheard of in most of Mexico. Generally, the producers would roast the coffee close to the source and either package it for resellers or send bulk roasted beans to resellers. We got our start as resellers, and had no knowledge of the coffee roasting process.
Since the beginning, having fresh, quality coffee was very important to us. Even when coffee wasn’t exactly the main focus of the business. With time, the scope of our business changed. We started to realize there was a huge opportunity for us within northern Mexico and beyond to break into the roasting scene. Being able to offer a fresher product and have more control over the roast profile coaxed us into exploring coffee roasting. Just one small problem. Generally, it takes a lot of capital to start a roasting operation. You need an expensive coffee roaster and a large enough space to use it. Or so it seemed. Having nothing to lose, during the height of the pandemic shutdowns, we decided to start small. With a little research and a lot of determination, we broke into the coffee roasting scene with nothing more than a stove top popcorn maker. We purchased a bag of green coffee and put in the work to learn how to roast.
Putting in the work
If you really want something worth having in this life, you’ve got to work for it. The whole stove top roasting method really works. You can learn everything you need to know about the science and mechanics behind coffee roasting coffee with a setup much like the one pictured above. You need a way to maintain a steady temperature and monitor it, a way to move the beans during the roasting process, and a way to cool them rapidly. Once you develop your style and methodology, it’s more than possible to take this knowledge and use it with a “real” coffee roaster.
Over the course of a year, I roasted over 100 kilograms of green coffee with my primitive setup. Little by little. About 500g at a time, requiring 30 minutes or more for each small batch. It was hard work. It took a lot of time, energy, and effort. I learned quite a bit during this time, but I realized that it was impossible to make any real progress this way. I dreamed of owning a small commercial roaster of my own, but that dream seemed out of reach. Or so I thought.
A new chapter
All the hard work, persistence, and dreaming eventually paid off. While we were diving deeper into the coffee business in Mexico and having a little luck with our local sales and e-commerce operations, there was something else happening. Many other small roasting operations started to pop up in Mexico. New manufacturers also entered the scene to supply the growing demand. The industry started to change, reflecting the model of many other countries. Smaller, more affordable roasters became available. With a little bit of luck, we found a small company located in Coatepec, Veracruz that was manufacturing brand new coffee roasters made for small batch roasting. We compared prices of machines capable of roasting 1KG, 3KG, and 5KG batches. We liked the idea of a smaller machine, allowing us to travel and also roast a wide variety of origins and profiles. Also, the smaller roasters were within our price range, and much cheaper than anything else we could find, new or used!
With our own savings and some help from family, we were able to contract with the company to construct us a brand new 3KG roaster at the end of 2020. It would approximately three months for our machine to arrive, but we knew it would be worth the wait.
Finally, in March 2021–nearly two years after we entered the coffee business–our new roaster arrived! We were so excited to finally have our machine. It was perfect! Not too big, not too small. Could easily fit in the smallest of spaces, but still allow us to really increase our production. Furthermore, it was a real roaster! All of the time I spent roasting over the stove would pay off, as I could apply the same mechanics but without doing all the manual work!
We would still have many challenges and obstacles to overcome to establish ourselves as a legitimate business. Yet, acquiring the coffee roaster was a huge step forward for us.
Entering the US market
The pandemic was a real weird time for the entire world. Living just a few hours south of the US/Mexico border, we decided to attempt selling to family and friends living in the states. Many people had been watching our progress via social media and had expressed interest in purchasing coffee directly from us. So, around May 2021 we opened our online storefront for the US market. We ran a pre-sale model, and would roast all the orders at once then make a trip to the US to mail out packages every few weeks. It was great, because it allowed us to make a larger profit margin since the US Dollar is strong in comparison to the Mexican Peso. This would allow us to invest more money into the business and seek out more small lots of Mexican coffee. Also, we needed to grow our business because our son, Dante, was on the way!
Things were going great. Or so it seemed. We were bootstrapping and bootlegging, roasting Fine Mexican Coffee and bringing it across the border to sell in the US. Of course, during this time, our budget was very stretched. We were operating our business out of survival, trying to overcome the financial havoc being felt around the world from the pandemic. I was naive and unaware of just how long I could get away with my hustle, “smuggling” coffee into the US for resell. I made many trips across the border. Many times, the agents would hassle me, but ultimately I was able to get through. The thing is, they observed my patterns and routines and connected the dots that I was operating a business enterprise in Mexico and importing coffee without the proper licensing and documentation. Every trip, I feared, would be my last. Especially as I increased sales and increased the amount I was bringing each time. Eventually, I was shut down. It was right before Christmas, in Dec 2021. I had A LOT of coffee to mail out. The buck stops here. After having to sit in the holding room for about an hour, the agents brought me back to my car. They told me I couldn’t continue to bring my coffee across the border through the civilian port of entry. They said I was more than welcome to attempt going through a broker, to move my goods across the border through the commercial port. Easier said than done. I won’t go into detail, but it was just too big of a barrier at the time. We were really counting on this business to keep us going. Not for fun, not as a hobby, but to live. To survive. To better our position in life.
By this time, our son was six months old. Karla needed to be at home taking care of him, and I needed to find a new source of income for our family. Selling coffee in the US would have to go on the back burner for some time.
In the beginning of 2022, I moved away from home to find some external employment. The world started to open back up, and things were getting “back to normal” whatever that means. I took the roaster with me, and kept selling coffee on the side in Mexico just to help cover living expenses. We had many uncertainties about what the future would bring for us, but we didn’t want to give up on our dreams. The spring of 2022 was especially hard on us as a family, being a part and having financial issues. I started to look for better employment in the states, with the hopes of saving back some money for the business and simultaneously keeping food on the table.
At the time of writing this page (September 2022), I’m thousands of miles from home. Working on an organic produce farm in Washington state. It’s very hard to be away from Karla, Dante and our doggies. But it was a necessary step for our future. This time around, we’re trying to do things the right way. We hope to reunite as a family in the upcoming months and figure out a way to keep roasting Fine Mexican Coffee and to get it to you!