In the 21st century, the rise of “third wave” coffee has transformed the way millions of people around the world get their daily fix. In lieu of the last century’s Folgers cans and — a few decades later — turgid Starbucks blends, contemporary roasters and specialty shops increasingly value the provenance and origin of coffee, celebrating discrete regions and farms (even individual farmers) through single-origin beans that express local growing conditions and cultivation techniques. From Brazil to Burundi, today’s coffee culture is a celebration of the terroir.
The same can’t be said for cafés themselves. From Barcelona to Buenos Aires, the same aesthetics tend to dominate — whether in the holdovers of the last decade’s salvaged wood and Edison bulbs, or the more recent turn to Japanese-Scandinavian blonde wood minimalism. In the city of San Pedro Garza García, however, a new café for Kali Coffee Roasters is among the exceptions, highlighting the coffee-growing region — and local culture — of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. In a space of almost 150 square metres, the café evokes the craft and landscape that goes into the cup.
Unlike most coffee shops and roasters — which typically purchase beans from farms around the world — Kali Coffee Roasters is dedicated to a single region, allowing the space to express a specificity seldom found in cafés. Designed by Mexican interdisciplinary studio Concéntrico, the shop recalls the homes, rituals and landscapes of the Chiapas region. In particular, the handmade clay tiles that clad the roofs of traditional houses are a motif throughout the space. Spans of brick imbue the room with an earthy texture, anchoring the interior walls while also serving as window-coverings — which welcome diffuse light — and acoustic ceiling baffles. Custom lighting by Ok Design Studio (who also designed much of the shop’s furniture) continues the theme with wall sconces and chandeliers.
Vivid greenery and rich walnut wood round out the space, with both elements underlining the Chiapas connection. Placed at both counter- and ceiling-height, the lush plantings hint at the southern state’s verdant, hilly topography, while the deep grain of the walnut — a wood prominently used at the base of the café’s central bar and across the booths — evokes sedimentary layers of soil, as well as the time required to produce a great cup of coffee. (The process of planting, growing, picking, selecting, pulping the cherries, fermenting, drying, sorting, milling, grading, cupping, distributing, roasting, packaging, grinding, brewing, and serving, is also a complex, layered undertaking).
The design also celebrates Kali Coffee Roasters’ long-held commitment to social and environmental well-being. Founded over 30 years ago by a group of local coffee producers, Kali — which means “home” in the Indigenous Nahuatl langauge — is distinguished by its stewardship of the coffee-growing landscape, as well as the housing, health, and education programs provided to the company’s employees.
According to Concétrico director and lead designer Alejandro Peña Villarreal, it all connects the coffee to its roots. “One cup at a time, this multi-sensorial encounter with coffee takes each customer to the Central Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico to discover their culture, traditions, and ways of living,” says Peña Villarreal.
A café in San Pedro Garza García evokes the landscape and culture of a Chiapas coffee farm in an urban setting.