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Sample Coffees and Teas of the World at Pasadena's Copa Vida

By Marina I. Jokic

Copa Vida explores the world of coffee and tea by procuring its raw ingredients from different national and international roasters, and by embracing classic as well as more contemporary brewing methods. Located in Pasadena, Copa Vida provides the ideal setting to enjoy a hot or cold beverage in the temperate California climate. Principal owner Steve Chang charts his and his wife's journey to finding some of the highest quality beans and turning them into delicious coffees.

"Copa Vida started out as a passion project for my wife and me when we sold our last family business," explains Chang. The two resolved to create their dream job, namely their very own café which would serve not only beverages, but also breakfast, brunch, and lunch foods. Chang knew that he didn't want to open just another run-of-the-mill coffee house, however.

Instead, he wanted to bring some of the highest quality beans to his customers. "We traveled all over the world to research coffee, we spent time in Italy, France and Spain at some of the very first cafes," he says. Visiting some cafes in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Portland and San Francisco, the team wanted to learn from the best players in the business, and use their knowledge to build their unique vision. Chang and his wife also traveled to Costa Rica to learn about coffee bean production and harvesting from the farmers and producers themselves.

Bringing in the best ideas he could find, Chang used them to build Copa Vida's foundation. The key elements that make the café successful and interesting include the spatial design, staffing and training, and expert coffee bean selection. "Our cafe bars are designed to pull people in and not be a barrier between us and the customer," says Chang.

The counters are noticeably low and the equipment is inconspicuous so as not to create a wall. The seating is varied to meet the needs of different patrons, while the lighting is also customizable depending on where you are sitting. Last but not least, Chang cannot overestimate the importance of finding the right staff and providing them with the proper training that emphasizes customer satisfaction above profitability.

A look at the menu reveals a well-stocked cache of breakfast and brunch favorites like French toast, Chorizo Egg Hash, and Croque Madame. There are two drinks that Chang especially prefers?the Cortado and the Copa Cold Brew. The Cortado, essentially a short latte with equal parts coffee and milk, gives customers a taste of Copa's Grace Espresso as well as the barista's exquisite milk froth. The Copa Cold Brew is refreshing and energizing on a hot day, expertly blending different coffees to create a flavor profile nuanced and versatile enough to meet even the most fastidious of palates.

The tea selection includes white teas such as the Bai Mu Dan with notes of dried apricot, almond, and grass; the Organic Dragon Peal Jasmine; black teas like the Organic Darjeeling Soom with an astringent finish, florals, and apple aromas. There are also green teas and herbals, hot and iced, as well as milk and tea combinations such as the Organic Masala Chai and Brulee Mint Latte.

In addition to its core business, Copa Vida offers catering with onsite barista service, which not only makes for better coffee but also a more intimate and experiential atmosphere for the guests. Whether you come into the café or need service at your event, Copa Vida can capably fill your needs.

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