Bringing Brazilian joy to coffee one cup at a time

Bringing Brazilian joy to coffee one cup at a time
Co-founder Marcelo Kertesz, who hails from Brazil and lives in Olivenhain, samples coffee. Kertesz has teamed up with Matt Delarosa of Ironsmith Coffee Roasters in Encinitas to launch Mesteeso, The Brazilian Coffee Co. Photo by Sam Kim

ENCINITAS — “Life is better when we mix,” said Marcelo Kertesz, co-founder of Mesteeso, The Brazilian Coffee Co., which recently started selling its specialty coffee varieties online. Mesteeso also runs a coffee cart at Viewpoint Brewing Co. in Del Mar.

Mesteeso is an anglicized spelling of the Portuguese word “mestiço,” which means “mixed,” particularly in the context of ethnicity. Kertesz, who moved to Olivenhain from Brazil four years ago, said, “In Brazil we are very proud of being mixed race.”

The company reflects mixture in many ways. It brings together the strengths of two founders: Kertesz, a visual creative who also enjoys the analytical aspects of running a business, and Matt Delarosa, an expert roaster with a meticulous approach to process who co-owns Ironsmith Coffee Roasters in Encinitas.

Mesteeso also forges an alliance between two countries, Brazil and the United States. The beans are sustainably grown in Brazil and carefully roasted in California by Delarosa and his team.

Furthermore, Kertesz likens the light and dark roasts of coffee beans to skin tones and says the roasts can be blended together to create unique flavors. He also elaborated that the brand’s concept conveys a sense of “coming together” — by socially mixing and mingling — to enjoy coffee.

Mesteeso sources its coffee beans from Brazil and roasts them in California. The new company sells its coffee varieties online and also operates a coffee cart at Viewpoint Brewing Co. in Del Mar. Packaging art courtesy of Mesteeso

After all, in Brazil, drinking coffee is seen as a social activity, according to Kertesz, as opposed to what’s often depicted as a solitary, mainly consumptive practice in the United States. The two Mesteeso owners want to bring vibrancy to the coffee scene.

The bright, vivacious colors of the coffee’s packaging reflect that branding. The cheerful yellow and playful graphics break away from the coffee-design trend of minimalism and muted color.

Mesteeso is joining what has been referred to as the third wave of coffee. Food critic Jonathan Gold defined the third wave in LA Weekly by explaining that the first wave consisted of Folgers and other similar brands making their way into American homes, while the second wave kicked off in the 1960s with the rise of espresso enjoyed at places like Peet’s Coffee and continuing with Starbucks.

Gold wrote in a 2008 article, “We are now in the third wave of coffee connoisseurship, where beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure.”

Like other artisanal food movements, the third wave focuses on craft and taste, as Kertesz explained, and seeks the highest quality at all stages of production, from growing, harvesting, roasting, packaging, brewing and sharing. Kertesz referred to Delarosa as “the third wave of coffee in a person.”

Delarosa uses metrics and standards when it comes to selecting beans, which are rated based on characteristics such as moisture and density. This approach ensures consistency and caliber. About the roasting process, he said, “I don’t create flavor. I bring out the quality that’s already there.”

Delarosa compared roasting coffee beans to cooking. The key is using the highest-caliber ingredients that are full of flavor and “just not messing them up” through overcooking, he said. It’s as if he’s coaxing out the flavors rather than introducing them.

In addition to co-owning Ironsmith and co-founding Mesteeso, Delarosa recently collaborated with Bird Rock’s Wayfarer Bread & Pastry, which was enthusiastically reviewed by the New York Times this week. Ironsmith runs the new eatery’s coffee bar. 

At Mesteeso’s website (mesteeso.com), customers can buy 12-ounce packages of coffee for $16 each. The sampler pack, which consists of the company’s four debut varieties, is shipped for free. The coffees can be ordered with a particular preparation method in mind, such as drip or French press.

The cart at Viewpoint Brewing Co.’s patio (2201 San Dieguito Drive in Del Mar) is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day except Monday. In addition to coffee, the cart serves traditional Brazilian snacks like pão de queijo — which are tiny, warm rolls of bread filled with cheese — and brigadeiro, a rich chocolate truffle.

Calvin Delacruz, who wants to open his own coffee shop one day, manages the cart and says the gig “allows him to spread his wings” in the coffee business. He noted the importance of “not just selling a product, but an experience” and said “the vibe of a place” really matters.

Mesteeso aims to expand its operations by selling its coffee beans and ground coffee to other retailers as well as launching new coffee shops.

Kertesz said he’s pacing himself and that the business’s growth process has to be one of “learn, fix and move forward.” Like a carefully crafted coffee drink, quality requires patience and practice.

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