Some are born to their calling; some take time to find it. For Angel Orozco it's a little bit of both.

As a native of Guatemala who immigrated to the San Gabriel Valley with his family in 1982, Orozco fully discovered coffee during graduate school at UCLA. While working on projects with farmers in Guatemala and Costa Rica as part of his studies in the Urban Planning and Latin American Studies programs, he came to understand how it could be “one of the products with the greatest potential” to promote sustainable agriculture and improve working conditions.

Orozco had a lot to learn. Instead of pairing up with a mentor, he relied on his instincts and evolving expertise. First at home with a small automatic machine, he taught himself the art and techniques of coffee roasting and barista-tending. He then set up the tools of his trade in a space shared with Mama's Hot Tamales Café across from MacArthur Park.

Orozco started the Coffee Cellar, now called Cafecito Orgánico, about five years ago. That was well before Intelligentsia and those more visibly identified with coffee's Third Wave came to town.

For Orozco, a thoughtful, goateed 34-year-old, coffee is more than a beverage. It's a succinct, powerful vehicle for social change.

Some of Cafecito Orgánico's goods.; Credit: Photo credit: Jessica Ritz

Some of Cafecito Orgánico's goods.; Credit: Photo credit: Jessica Ritz

Much like roasting, which requires tweaking and tinkering, Orozco likes to test models and theories. He's part of a growing legion of local food producers who are shifting entrepreneurial paradigms. He acknowledges that Starbucks has been “great at making a market for coffee, but it's also created a monster. Some people think they're actually in the dairy business.” Plus during the time he spent working with Mama's and the Institute for Urban Research and Development, Orozco participated in community job training programs and invested in a neighborhood many similar businesses ignored.

Cafecito Orgánico sells small batches of beans roasted with Orozco's Primo roaster. Orozco schleps an Astoria 2 Group Lever espresso machine to the Silver Lake Saturday and Hollywood Sunday farmers' markets (the stand is at the corner of Selma and Cosmo at Hollywood). Local businesses that stock and/or use Cafecito Orgánico's medium and medium dark roast goods include Stories Bookstore, Delilah Bakery, Elf Café, Locali, Tribal Café, Kiss My Bundt, Erewhon market, and Café Vida. Beans are also sold online.

When talking about his work, Orozco shrinks the wide world into a microcosm. Suddenly his zeal for roasting and making coffee, green values (he lives in Los Angeles's environmentally-centric Eco-Village and is an avid cyclist), ties to Central America, and interest in empowering communities of color coalesce. And he'll gladly discuss the various coffee certification processes, or the relationship he started with a coffee grower in Oaxaca and the shipment Cafecito Orgánico recently received from them.

Some people demand microphones and global media networks in order to trumpet their message. All this man requires is raw organic coffee beans, a roaster, and way to brew.

LA Weekly