We’re all used to the “third-wave” coffeehouses by now, the post-Starbucks cafés like La Mill or Caffe Luxxe, where beans come not just from Guatemala but from obscurely located fincas
, where baristas command more machinery than some industrial chemists, and your morning cappuccino, drawn from a $12,000 machine, is decorated with a heart, a leaf or the likeness of a Powerpuff Girl lovingly coaxed out of foam. Tierra Mia
, Ulysses Romero’s coffeehouse on a busy corner in South Gate, is a new kind of third-wave joint: the impeccably sourced beans, varietal characteristics and latte art of the uptown places, but with flavors adjusted to the Latino palate. What this means in practice is not just world-class espressos and lovingly brewed coffees from tiny El Salvador estates, but killer Cuban-style café con leche
, syrupy and rich in a way rare even in Miami; lattes enriched with the Mexican rice-pudding drink horchata
; and mochas flavored with an intense, peanutty chocolate Romero brings in from Guadalajara that is to commercial Mexican drinking chocolate what a Stone IPA is to a can of Coors Light. Romero, a young Stanford MBA who came to the bean after he realized consulting wasn’t feeding his soul, is undoubtedly ambitious, and the comfortable modern-Mexican feel of the place is distinctive enough to be eventually franchisable, but for the moment it is his caffeinated enthusiasm that makes the place run — that, and the espresso frappé flavored with horchata
and crushed coffee beans, a concoction he calls Rice and Beans. 4914 Firestone Blvd., South Gate, (323) 563-3948.