Blooming business brews

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By Maria Odenbaugh

The owners and employees who founded Slow Bloom Coffee Cooperative in Redlands hosted their first anniversary party March 4 to celebrate and give thanks to their patrons for their support.

Slow Bloom, a coffee cooperative in Redlands, Calif., celebrated its one year anniversary on Mar 3 with a party and a “Latte Throwdown” bringing in more than a dozen latte artists from all over the region to vie for best latte artist. (Stephen Day | Viewpoints)

During the pandemic all 54 of Augie’s Coffee employees were fired with no warning after voicing they needed better pay and support from their employer.

A group of people who share their love for coffee and serving the community created a welcoming and encouraging space for others to do the same. This was the foundation for the opening Slow Bloom Coffee.

Coffee, a cup of joe, a brew—or whatever you prefer to call it—is a sacred part of most people’s day. Morning, midday or evening coffee is always there to pick you up.

However, what’s more important than the quality of the coffee is people connecting, serving and supporting the community within that cup.

Slow Bloom hosted its one year anniversary party March 4 to celebrate and give thanks to their patrons for their support.

 “We were not getting what we needed from our employer, so we all got together and educated ourselves,” said Miranda Castaneda, Slow Bloom employee, while doing a pour-over.

A latte artist pours a tulip, the first round challenge, during the Latte Throwdown held at Slow Bloom, a coffee cooperative, in Redlands, Calif on March 4. (Steven Day | Viewpoints)

After being left jobless, 15 of the fired Augie’s baristas decided to band together and open their own shop. 

The coffee shop was born after only a couple of months, built on hard work and dedication.

“Everything was built from the ground up,” said Erik Lopez, an original Slow Bloom barista.

The staff credits the community with the shop’s recent success.

“Being a barista, our job is to be social, all our customers are cool,” Lopez said. “I rarely have bad interactions with our customers.”

Lopez and Castaneda agreed that the community is the reason they were able to start a successful, collective ownership of the business. The appreciation was noticeable.

They spoke about the community with gratitude.

“The community is the reason why we are even doing this, they donated to our kickstarter, (they) came to all of our pop ups,” Castaneda said. “That is how we made the money to be here.”

 It was a two-part event where the coffee shop offered its new spring collection and had multiple vendors. The line was out the door full of customers waiting to try their new spring drinks.

Slow bloom invited vintage clothing, books and vegan food vendors for the daytime event. When the sun went down, the cafe lights turned off and the disco ball turned on for the latte art throwdown. Along with Ryan Bermuda’s comedic commentary while emceeing, the event was filled with increasingly intense music as the cafe housed friendly supportive yet competitive vibes.

Bermuda said in his speech that it was important for Slow Bloom to become the establishment they are today: a completely democratic workforce where every position is elected and they each receive equal pay.

Slow Bloom workers were proud and continued to keep that energy throughout the throwdown. In the latte throwdown, a total of 24 willing baristas competed in four rounds, single elimination, where all were required to create different styles of latte art.

The small, intimate shop was packed, shoulder to shoulder, with people standing on top of seats, dancing and cheering for each barista. Latte art throwdowns are a common competition for latte art lovers so naturally some brought their own milk pitchers. 

“You know you’re a serious barista when you bring your own pitcher to the throwdown,” Bermuda chuckled to the crowd.

As each round went by, the crowd got more invested. By the last round, which was a free pour (total free range of design) everyone had their phones out closely huddled together, ready to capture the final moments of the competition.

The most intense part of the night, however, was the rush made by Paden Frye and Johnathan Revaldo to make their best latte in a sudden death round. Frye and Revaldo both poured swans as their final designs, with Frye taking second place with loud and obvious cheers from her friends. 

Martin Fuetre, who is employed by Stereoscope Coffee in Newport, took home the first-place cash prize.

This event was welcoming, exciting and a great way to celebrate the coffee shop’s enormous success over the past year.

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