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In the Heart of Downtown
To tell the story of Café Corazón, you could, in one word, say this: love.
It makes sense, right? Corazón=heart. Heart=love.
That's a man's love for his women. Or a couple's love for their community. Or a gigantic, almost obsessive love for that perfect cup of coffee.
So, yeah, there's good reason Leo Rios and Liz Madrigal chose that name for the coffeehouse they opened on the Fulton Mall in November. It's what Rios calls Madrigal his corazon, his heart, his love. It's totally how they feel about their community, why they chose to be downtown, on the Fulton Mall, no less.
And of course, they both love coffee.
It's how they met. Madrigal was working at a coffee place. Rios was looking for a good espresso. He didn't find it, but he did come back for the girl. Even though I was getting coffee grounds in my cup, Rios says.
Some people, the ones who search out such things, have known about Café Corazón's fresh-roasted beans for awhile. Rios has been selling fresh-roasted beans at the Farmer's Market on Olive and Van Ness avenues in the Tower District, and downtown at the Yoshi Now! flea markets for about a year.
Before that, he was roasting mostly for his coffee club at his work. This was in his garage, using a converted popcorn popper. The response was so good, eventually, he was running two poppers. When people started asking for beans to take home, he decided to get serious, borrowed $5,000 from a friend and bought a small roaster.
The man is all about his coffee.
He studies his beans, working with a coffee broker to buy from small farms in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Peru. He knows his roasts too, how overdoing it can cause a bitter taste and that burning in the pit of your stomach even though most people expect a dark roast.
There are standards for everything at the shop, from the foam on a latte to the temperature of an espresso draw.
(Editor's note: My Americano had a ridiculous amount of golden foam, the sign of a great espresso shot).
The brewed coffee has its own set of standards. Same for the French press. Yes, it might take a minute or so longer to get your cup, but that's the compromise Rios makes.
This is a transition period for the café, Rios says. The former Café Fulton was mostly a lunch-time spot and that's what people know. The café does have food, soups, quiches and an assortment of pastries and baked goods that Madrigal makes each morning. It is also hosting events, including monthly open mic nights and ArtHop receptions. There will be a hip-hop event in February.
Rios and Madrigal will admit starting the business was scary. Still is. The Fulton Mall might not be the most popular hang-out spot in the world, the world has a lot of coffee places and Fresno isn't always nice to its mom-and-pops. But so far the response has been great. The Speak from the Heart event they hosted this month was standing-room only. It was what we envisioned for what the coffeehouse could be, Madrigal says.
And anyway, screw it, man. This is love.