"Wind and Water," if you're wondering. Viento y Agua is an art gallery-turned-coffee shop, still housing artwork on every wall (for sale). It has some day-of-the-dead elements to the place, but this is first and foremost NOT a third-wave coffee shop, in the owner's words. I sat down with founder & owner Bela over a rave-reviewed Mexican mocha (thinking, it's another cinnamon-y mocha, right? Wrong!) and he gave me the history on his 15-year old space (the oldest coffee shop in Long Beach).
Bela was in the film biz, and every day he would get to shoots a couple hours early to go to a new coffee shop nearby and just sit, drink coffee and enjoy the ambiance. When his best friend opened V&A as an art gallery, Bela had the idea to add a coffee shop in the space, and so eight months later, in July 2004, Viento y Agua the coffee shop opened. "It was a ghost town before we opened, there were no coffee shops anywhere nearby," he says. "We came in on the second wave of coffee shops with Starbucks."
People from all over come to hang out here, though they initially set out to be just the "neighborhood coffee shop." Bela's watched kids from the school across the street grow up as they came in every day after the bell rang. So how did V&A evolve?...
Bela drove from Long Beach to Santa Monica looking for the best roaster, and found them: Rocky Roasters. Now they use Copa Vida, but no matter what Bela stresses the importance of "doing it right," whatever it is. His favorite coffee origin is Guatemala, so that's something they usually have on tap. He mentioned that there's a lot of older customers who like the ol' fashioned first/second wave coffee (think Folgers, then Starbucks/Peet's), so he keeps medium and dark roasts around especially for them, and Latin American coffees suit a universal coffee flavor-profile.
The best thing to come out of owning V&A? "Relationships."
My ratings for Viento y Agua:
Study spot? 5 stars
Quality pour over? N/A
Espresso? 5 stars
Seating? 4 stars
First date spot? 4 stars
Customer Service? 5 stars
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