Retailer Profile: Arabica

CHola everybody! We are back in the capital of Peru, and this time we are going down to one of Lima’s most successful independent coffee shops – Arabica espresso bar/roasterie. Please meet the happy coffee stoned owner David Bisetti, who will share his wonderful story with all of us.
V. Buenas tardes David! First of all, what a comfy place you have, it looks like a little castle! Coffee business owners usually have interesting stories of how they evolved, so let’s hear yours?
B. Thanks Max! Actually, the roasting business has been in my family since before I was even born; my grandfather, the son of Italian immigrants, was a roaster, and he had his roasterie in Lima back in 1958. That roasterie closed down sometime later, but it didn’t stop my family from giving me coffee since I was very little: my grandmother would make sure to serve me a cup of caffe latte before every trip to kindergarten (laughs).
This business (Arabica espresso bar) is pretty recent, my partner Hannah Scranton and I created it four years ago. After coming back to Lima from NYC, where I got my barista experience, we couldn’t find a nice, quality coffee shop in Lima. This is what motivated us to open up our own. As you can see, the inside design is meant to be simple and laid back –local art, cushions, knee high tables and a bookshelf with an extensive collection of board games.
V. The rumor around the city is that you have some of the best espresso drinks and pastries in Lima, particularly a carrot cake. I have tried both, and they are delicious!
DB. Sure! Hannah, my business partner, is an incredible pastry chef. We divided the whole project up from the very beginning. I took care of coffee, and she got in charge of pastries with other helpers in the kitchen. Her pastries have become an instant success and another appeal of this place.
V. Could you shed some light on the quality of coffee consumed and distributed in Peru? Has it improved?
B. The market for good coffee is still developing in Peru. The majority of the coffee that you find here is burnt ground and instant; it tends to have that bitter taste that fills your throat, and many people still mistakenly take it as a sign of good coffee.
Fortunately for us, Starbucks came to Peru years ago, and now more and more people get acquainted with the idea of whole coffee beans being the raw material of what is in their cups. I personally don’t enjoy Starbucks coffee, but thanks to Starbucks’ brochures and marketing strategies, the right information is now out there, and this setup is good for our local roaster/retailer business.
V. How do you manage to get good quality beans for your business if almost all of the good Peruvian stuff is being exported?
B. Yes, sadly, most of the great Peruvian coffee goes straight out for export; coffee corporations and organizations here are not so familiar with the idea of selling this high-profile coffee in the local market. We always try to convince them otherwise; we say, “Don’t sell it all, leave some here – we have clients.” We never ask for a special price, since we are always ready to pay whatever their American or German clients pay, and we have now developed some great relationships with local suppliers, which allow us to use only the highest quality beans for our coffee needs. We are not greedy though; we don’t ask for exclusive rights to roast one’s coffee because good beans are meant to be shared between different roasters. We also let everyone know who the farmer is, and we never try to brand the beans as our own. This is our philosophy – to be fair to everyone involved in the industry.
V. Where do the majority of the beans that you use come from in Peru, and do they have any unique attributes depending on their geographical origin?
B. Definitely! We have coffees from Jaen, which is in the north of Peru and from Puno, which is in the south. I find coffees from the north to be predominantly fruity and acidic with pineapple and tangerine hints, whereas the ones from the south tend to be more delicately-bodied and chocolaty with hints of vanilla.
V. That is a nice looking workhorse (roaster) over there? Where is it from?
EB. The roaster that you see here was made in Peru by a local factory. We had a choice of going German, but I have decided to go local, and I am really happy with its roasting capabilities.
By the way, we have already bought our next roaster from the same company. It is 15 kilos, and it is going to our other location – a huge roasterie/coffee shop that we are opening up next week in another high-traffic district of Lima – Barranco. Larger size will provide more seating area for computer geeks (laughs) and will allow us to introduce frequent cupping sessions in our own coffee lab.
V. Who are Arabica’s customers?
B. In the morning it is mostly tourists because most of the Peruvians start working too early to be able to get a cup of coffee before work. Here in Peru coffee is more of a social thing; our rush hour starts when locals (young professionals) meet for coffee and pastries after the workday is over.
V. What is the ultimate recipe for success in roaster/retailer business?
B. Nowadays, if you open up, and if you don’t pursue the quality of your product, you are eventually bound for failure. Peruvians have a great palate for food in general, and the tastes for good coffee are getting better and better, so, just like for similar businesses in the U.S., it is all about quality, quality, and quality.
F[iconbox title=”Arabica” icon=”adress_book.png”]Recavarren 269 Miraflores, 18
Lima, Peru
t: (+51) 715 – 2152
David Bisetti[/iconbox]

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