Xocolatl Cacao, Tea and Coffeehouse in El Sereno, which had a soft opening about a month ago, will have its grand opening this Saturday morning, December 12th, at 10 a.m. The coffeehouse is a project of the Semillas Community Schools, an 8 year-old charter school right across the street from the shop, which was looking for a business that could generate revenue for the schools as well as provide a catering kitchen and function as a community center. Willy Huitzil Reyes, Xocolatl's head barrista and Program Coordinator, pulls shots of espresso on a La Marzocca. Art from Cristobal Ortega Maila lines the walls. There are pastries and sandwiches, and more to come once the kitchen moves into full swing with help from the students.

Most of the coffee is Antigua coffee, from roaster Yancey Quinones of Antigua Cultural Coffeehouse in Cypress Park. (Quinones is on the board of Tzicatl Community Development Corporation, a sister organization of Semillas and is a consultant on the project.) And for the kids, as well as adults who may not need any more caffeine, Xocolatl makes chocolate drinks too. They plan to import chocolate from Cacao Real, a network of Mayan organic farmers in Chiapas. A chocolate line is in the works.

The Saturday opening festivities will include an art exhibit and 5 area bands will perform in the large patio in the back of the building, which also houses Cal State Federal Credit Union. The coffeehouse will also host comedy nights, open mike evenings, chess and tai chi classes, as well as more art and musical events. “There's a big picture,” says Reyes.

Xocolatl Cacao, Tea and Coffeehouse: 4987 Huntington Drive North, Los Angeles; (323) 441-8400.

LA Weekly