There’s about to be an all-women-run Colombian cafe in Palo Alto. Hope Hangar, a nonprofit on the Peninsula providing support and food to low-income families, linked with local coffee roaster Progeny Coffee to open Hope Cafe in mid- to late-summer 2023. The small business will take over half of the nonprofit’s eponymous hangar and install a coffee bar, seating, and a pastry menu. Progeny Coffee co-owner John Trabelsi says the business will work alongside Hope Hangar’s mission to uplift impacted communities. Fellow Progeny co-owner Maria Palacio’s identity as a Latina immigrant entrepreneur resonated with Hope Hangar, so the new cafe will also function as a job training program for women with similar backgrounds. That means an all-woman production, roasting, and service team. While Progeny has worked to better the lives of farmers in Palacio’s home country of Colombia, the partners would like to provide opportunities to workers in the Bay Area, too. “Hopefully this can change their lives,” Trabelsi says.
The cafe, Progeny’s first physical location, will further the company’s commitment to all Colombian specialty coffee. The menu, while still in development, will be simple: black coffee, cappuccino, and pour overs. There’ll be no blends, focusing instead on single-origin micro lots. As a certified Q-Grader through the Quality Coffee Institute — like a sommelier for coffee — Trabelsi has had a hard time finding coffee that tastes as the back of house, coffee buying community first tastes it. That means coffees that are as close to their original tasting profile rather than prepared poorly in a cafe or degraded through supply chain mismanagement. At Hope Cafe, he hopes that’ll be different. “We’re going to make sure the coffee customer’s drink is as close as possible to the one cupped at the farm,” Trabelsi says. There’ll be a bit of seasonality on the menu in that spirit, as well. The Piñita, which won a Good Food Award in 2022, is an example of a fruity, expressive cup that will rotate through. “It didn’t need anything,” Trabelsis says. “And people are shocked to realize there’s more to coffee than we know.”
The Colombian and French owners won’t skimp on the food side either. Potentially, it will be similar to Queens in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset, but instead of small Korean producers, the business would feature Colombian makers and creators. Or, it could be Latinx businesses in the Bay Area, like a cottage license-empanada producer for example. In any case, it will be a menu featuring majority Latina producers. But, Trabelsi says the Frenchman in him wouldn’t mind croissants on the menu, either. “It’ll be about our heritage,” Trabelsi says.
It’s been a meteoric rise for the young coffee company. The husband and wife founders launched their business in 2016 when Palacio took Trabelsi to her home country, showcasing the beauty and difficulty of living in a coffee-growing community. Since then the two have built bridges for numerous farmers to share their stories at companies including Google; roasted and sold agroecologically produced, intercropped coffees; and even made it on the Emmys. That’s why Hope Cafe will be a major next step for the company. Trabelsi says he realizes how corny it is, but he says the way Apple store employees guide customers through all their various computer woes is how Progeny can educate cafe-goers about the ins and outs of the coffee industry. “We love sharing our knowledge,” Trabelsi says.