At age 6, Jennifer Martinez began baking cupcakes. Cupcake baking turned into grad school, grad school turned into working with at-risk youth, and now, at age 34, she’s back to the basics. Just a few weeks ago, Martinez combined her love of small goodies, great coffee, and community and opened Bello Mundo café on Monterey Street in downtown SLO.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- CUTE AS A BUTTON : Café owner Jennifer Martinez and baristas Colby Reece and Andrew Aghajanian are offering a good cup of coffee, as well as a fine setting in which to enjoy it.
Sandwiched between an independent bookshop and an independent record store, the mini-cupcake size of an espresso shop is an ideal place to stop and sip a fresh cup of direct trade coffee and nibble on a raw mango spring roll, a surprisingly delicious gluten-free coffee cake, or simply a banana chocolate chip cupcake—before strolling off to pick up a used record and an old copy of Mrs. Dalloway.
“I couldn’t have better neighbors,” Martinez said as she reflected on the serendipitous spot.
Bello Mundo’s staff is kind and smiley and amounts to the large number of four, including Martinez and three passionate baristas: Andrew Aghajanian, Ashley Rexford, and Colby Reece, all old-time espresso slingers. The crew doesn’t believe in pre-brewing coffee for their customers, and therefore all drip coffee is brewed by the cup using a pour-over system. They use only organic Strauss Family milk, offer no artificial sweeteners, and shave real chocolate into your mochas. (Before the summer ends, try their cold-brew iced coffee with a dash of cream—it’s blissful.)
Bello Mundo will serve Ecco Coffee, a roaster based out of Sonoma that’s affiliated with the Los Angeles roasting gurus of Intelligentsia. Ecco Coffee purchases directly from farmers who practice sustainable and organic agriculture.
As for food, the shop is partnering with Roxanne’s Café at Smiling Dog Yoga and will feature a daily menu of different salads and refreshing snacks from primarily local produce sources.
“We don’t have the space for a huge kitchen, but we want to serve really delicious little things and really delicious coffee,” Martinez said.
From the edge of the floorboards to the ceiling, the walls are covered in a colorful patchwork of local art. Most of the art will rotate every month, and Martinez encourages everyone from professional to amateur artists to come talk to her about contributing to the collage.
With a master’s in education and a love of cupcakes, Martinez has followed a winding career path.
“I taught in a correctional facility for teenage boys in Boston, and they said to me, ‘If you really want to make a difference in our lives, then why don’t you give us jobs instead of teaching us?’ So two of my childhood friends and I were going to open a cupcake bakery to give at-risk youth jobs and job skills so that they can go be successful in the world … ,” she said. “However, just as that was about to happen, one had a baby, one moved to San Francisco, and I moved here.”
Eight months later, Martinez has started her small dream.
“There are so many different ways to create and contribute to the community; if all I can do is provide a good living for my baristas, I’ll be happy with that,” Martinez continued. “And if later down the road we can support community projects, awesome; if we can just provide a place for people to hang out and have good conversations, than I’d be happy with that, too.”
In an effort to encourage people to commune with each other and unplug, Bello Mundo intentionally doesn’t offer WiFi—yes, a café without Internet. The effect, however, is wonderful. Free of headphones, you can sip a cup of coffee and listen to some hand-picked indie rock and world music jams, read a real life book, and get to know the barista across the counter.
To find this gem of an espresso bar, walk down to 980 Monterey St. in downtown SLO, contact them at 345-2155, or visit bellomundocafe.com.
It’s time to debut your talents and show the world that you are, in fact, the next Frida Kahlo. The SARP Center is calling all artists to apply to be the chosen artist in their seventh annual Evening With An Artist fundraiser. Applications are available online at the sarpcenter.org and are due by Thursday, Sept. 1. This year’s event will be held at the beautiful Edna Valley Vineyard on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, call 545-8888 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intern Lauren Cook compiled this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send comments to email@example.com.