The Taste of Guatemala
Pastries from scratch, coffee fresh from Belgian press at new Cafe Kape Panaderia
When it comes to drinking coffee, there’s no straying from tradition in Guatemala.
“You have a friend or family, you go there at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, knock on the door, and you come inside and drink coffee with bread,” said Erick Perez Sr., owner of the new Cafe Kape Panaderia in downtown Rifle. “That’s all the time. It’s like a tradition.”
For Perez Sr. and his son, Erick Perez Jr. — who came Colorado 20 years ago when they moved to the Aspen/Snowmass area — their tradition of coffee now percolates in a different way.
Instead of a late-afternoon jolt at 4 p.m., the father-son duo rises at 4 a.m. daily. Dough needs to be prepared from scratch before spending the next hour rising in the oven. Once it takes shape, the Perezes spend another hour or so shaping the liquid-forged flour into crispy, flaky pastries.
Sweet or savory, the scent of authentic Guatemalan delights like quesadilla, cuernitos, and azucaradas permeates this Rifle workshop. Go there at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, and you’re lucky to find a crumb on the front racks.
“It’s been passed down from generation to generation, so from my great-great-grandma the recipes have been passed down and passed down, and that’s kind of what we serve here,” Perez Jr. said. “It’s really a home kind of food.”
Amid the family pastries tempting the hungry morning rushes, Cafe Kape Panaderia emulates a more retail-style quality experience spawned from humble beginnings in Huehuetenango, Guatemala — Perez Sr.’s hometown.
The front area has no tables. The front counter is more modest kitchen table than service countertop. The bakery in the back is a simple room of few cupboards, portable stainless steel racks and a dusty wooden table where the kneading happens.
Boom. You’re in. You’re out. But that’s not the case if you decide to have the Perezes stop and fix you a cup of pure, 100% Guatemalan whole bean roast Perez’s sister had shipped in fresh — about 150 pounds worth, Perez Sr. said.
By the spark of a match, Perez lights a flint and places it underneath a copper labyrinth known as a Belgian press. The complicated brewing process takes about 15 minutes to conduct, but what comes out is a heavenly brew for most coffee connoisseurs.
If you have another 10 minutes to spare, have one of the Perezes concoct you a cold brew coffee from their tall, Japanese cold brew press. This trophy-sized coffee apparatus is made up of gigantic glass beakers.
The strong, liquid product is then poured into a simple cup. You chase each coffee with sparkling water to enhance the aroma and flavor of the coffee.
“We’re so used to a generation of ‘grab your coffee in a minute and go,’” Perez Jr. said. “We kind of want to change things around, and for those people who actually enjoy watching a good brew, we want to let them have that experience, and just even watching the ice drip coffee as well. It just takes time.”
But when it comes to time, it seems to be a key ingredient of the entire operation.
Perez Sr. said his mother learned from her mother and originally started baking bread when she was 6 years old.
“We never buy bread from another place,” Perez said of his childhood. “And a lot of people liked it, so that’s why we decided to start the business over here.”
On the coffee side of things, Perez Sr. was influenced by his grandfather.
“My grandpa, he started a business with the coffee 80 years ago. That’s why we know how to pick the coffee and everything about that,” Perez Sr. said. “And we start to bring some coffee in from Guatemala. It’s really hard.”
Perez Jr., 28, said his family originally moved to the Aspen/Snowmass area when he was 8, in 2001. From there, he went on to attend Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, before attaining a master’s in business administration from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
With dreams of opening his own business, his father helped make it happen.
“The idea came to my dad about eight months ago, when he came back from Guatemala and said, ‘What about opening up a bakery?’” Perez Jr. said. “Obviously, he knows how to bake, and my grandma’s always baked for us, so we kind of started playing around with the idea.”
“Thanks to God, we’re here, and we’re able to make it happen now.”
Now that he’s gotten the cafe started, Perez Jr. said he loves making people smile.
“There’s something about seeing people smile when they walk through the front door that’s just priceless,” he said.
Which is why, for Perez Sr., the 4 a.m. starts and repeat customers are worth it.
Plus, they have a little help.
“We drink coffee all day long,” Perez Sr. said. “Before we go to sleep, we drink coffee.”
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