When Jen Apodaca started roasting coffee in 2005, they didn’t know they’d someday open their own cafe in the Jewel Box neighborhood in 2023. Nor did they know it’d be with through their company Mother Tongue Coffee, a high-quality roaster that’s been supplying coffee shops and grocery stores throughout the Bay Area since 2019.
The former US Cup Tasters Champion says the new shop will offer pastries and toast with vegan pate and smoked trout alongside a robust coffee program. Plus there will also be a strong cocktail-forward bar program from consultant Daniel Ames. The cafe and bar will open on April 5. “We’re an extremely small company,” Apodaca says. “We’re scrappy and resilient. We’re just really excited and proud that we could get to this spot.”
Apodaca found the soon-to-be all-day cafe space through friends at the Lede when they were closing their business. They say the Lede’s owner Becki Couch-Alvarado was stoked to get an email from Apodaca and was excited to turn the space over to Mother Tongue. The roaster had been looking for a space for a year and obtained a key purchase — like a lease takeover — from the Lede. The plan was to run all the typical espresso drinks on the coffee menu, in addition to to-go options including pastries and deli items.
But the space also happened to include a liquor license. “I was like, ‘Oh shit, I don’t know how to run a bar,” Apodaca laughs. That’s when she got in touch with Ames. The bartender cut his teeth at Bear vs Bull, Lazy Bear, and as a catering and events manager for Rye on the Road. He worked with Mother Tongue’s team to bring a down-to-earth beverage program to the Oakland spot, keeping drinks light and punchy rather than heady and cerebral. Think pisco palomas and house spritzes with strawberries and lemon — though the Italian Spider-Man with tequila and mezcal might be the frontrunner for a soon-to-be-favorite drink.
While perhaps not a cocktail wiz, Apodaca is known for their contributions to the women-led and -owned coffee business community. Apodaca coined the hashtag #shestheroaster in 2017, and Mother Tongue itself is woman- and Latina-owned. On April 1 the business welcomed guests into the new space with a friends and family preview. Caravedo Pisco poured Peruvian spirits and cocktails while Lizzy al Toque bumped bops at the celebration. Apodaca, a single mom, has lived in the Jewel Box neighborhood for 10 years and lives just seven minutes away; her son attends Oakland Technical High School. Thanks to a huge outdoor deck and parklet, the Mother Tongue Cafe and Bar looks to be the dream business Apodaca has always wanted to run. “This is the location that eight years ago I thought, man, if I had a cafe I’d like to have it right there,” Apodaca says. “It’s going to be beautiful.”
Mother Tongue Coffee will debut at 308 41st Street on Wednesday, April 5, and will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.