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Meet Andres Jinhan Kim of Kumquat Coffee & Tea in Highland Park (North East)

 

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andres Jinhan Kim.

Andres Jinhan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have a chemistry background and pursued myself to become a dentist, just like my other family members. I studied chemistry from Boston University and worked as research laboratory administration manager at UCLA School of Dentistry while I was applying for dental schools.

During this time, I met Miran Oh, an instructor for Q-Arabica Grader who grades and qualifies specialty coffees. At her shop, I was able to try specialty coffees first time of my life. It was very shocking experience. Those coffees I tried were definitely different from the coffees I had in past. Each coffee had its own character and it was enjoyable without adding any cream or sugar. I immediately fell in love with specialty coffees and decided to become a Q-grader. As I was trained, I realized my decent talent on coffee tasting.

Within my group of Q-grader certification, there was a founding member of new coffee startup company, Reborn Coffee. The lady was very interested of my background and performance during training and reported to her co-workers about me. After I finished the certification, I received an offer from Reborn Global Holdings for position of founding member and research and development manager. I first politely refused the offer since I was waiting for acceptance letters from several dental schools which I had been pursued for majority portion of my life. Despite of my refusal, the board members of Reborn continuously invited me to emphasize their vision. As I had meetings with them, I was moved by their passion and professionalism. Finally, I decided to work with them during summer as of trial period to experience Reborn Global Holdings. I truly enjoyed this trial period. I had a confidence this company is the right place for me to learn more of specialty coffee and pursue my career in coffee. As my love towards coffee was growing even bigger during the summer, I received a full-time offer from Reborn once again. Around same time, I also received few acceptance letters from dental schools. I had to make a decision.

After numerous consideration, I decided to follow my new raw and pure passion towards specialty coffee by accepting the offer from Reborn. It was not easy for me to take the challenge while giving up my past efforts for dentistry, but my passion on specialty coffee led me to overcome those pressures.

Three years with Reborn was very intensive and challenging. First, I spent days and nights to analyze the science behind coffee production and processing. Since Reborn was a sister company of Tutti Frutti, an international frozen yogurt franchise that once had 1200 retail outlets worldwide, I was able to utilize their well-developed infrastructures. Reborn had many helpful networks for me to implement my insights on actual commercial coffee production. The year of 2016 was for me to enlighten my view on coffee culture for upcoming Reborn outlets. Supported by the company, I was able to travel twelve different countries from Europe to Africa to Asia and was able to experience extensive and various forms of coffee industry. I observed how the coffee is planted and harvested from countries at Africa, Asia, and Central/Southern America. Then I saw how the coffee is being processed and traded from there to countries like US or Europe. I saw how the cafe culture was evolved from Europe to United States and to Asia. From an annual specialty coffee and tea expos from US and other countries, I was able to experience innovative approaches on coffee and tea.

In year of 2017, I was promoted to become a business development manager. Within this year, I planned and opened first two Reborn Coffee Shops (Brea & La Crescenta) and consulted another bakery cafe in Houston, Texas. In October same year, I directed and won a first place of “America’s Best Cold Brew” Competition from Coffee Fest Portland, Oregon. At the end of the year, I was once again promoted as Reborn’s Operation Director. Until then, my friends and people around me did not believed my passion was worthy of sacrificing dental school. However, as they saw those progresses of 2017, they finally started believe in me and support my decision.

Despite of Reborn started to show remarkable progresses, I could not resist myself of thinking the company’s direction is going different from my passion. Since Reborn had numbers of big investors, the company’s fate is to become a fast expandable business. As I was involved in the middle of this development, I found myself sacrificing many crucial values of my life. Beginning of 2018, I had several signs of health concern due to stress and this leads me to look back and think seriously about priorities of my life. I finally realized my priority of life should be relied within myself and to care my close ones. Without any backup plan, I decided to resign Reborn after finishing all the permit procedures of its third location in Corona Del Mar.

First half of 2018, I spent most of my time to make up family bonding and further research on coffee. I also worked at Los Angeles Coffee College to instruct and train future baristas and cafe owners. On the other hand, I continued to question myself what should I do for my next career step while not loosing the priority of my life. The opportunity came all of sudden. I found a business sale listing Juice Bar in Highland Park for a great value. It was located close enough for me to commute and be efficient for other priorities. I decided to become a partner with Scott Sohn, former General Manager of Document Coffee Bar in LA, in order to convert the place together as our playground for the higher end quality coffee and service. Instead of sacrificing relationships, we made our structure efficient as possible so we can focus more on quality of products and services. Due to our lack of budget, we had to do everything ourselves from most of construction to aesthetic designs. Our previous experience in coffee industry made this possible and more than that, led each details of Kumquat to have intentions to make us, our team, and our customers to feel comfortable and to be excited.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Once I follow my inner passion, everything went smooth. Of course it required responsibility of the decision and as well as sincere amount of effort and dedication. I rather say the most struggles were the budget, especially when we opened the shop.

Kumquat Coffee & Tea – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Kumquat Coffee & Tea is a creative coffee & tea house for those who seeks outstanding cup of coffee or tea. We are dedicated and responsible for precise and better quality of specialty beverages. Quality is our first priority. This includes our skills, equipments, ingredients, and our services. In each cup, we serve our masterpieces. We are in front of seeking for better ingredients and resources. We believe our pure dedication in quality will lead us to the success of our business. We have broad knowledges and experiences of coffee industries and have numbers of remarkable accomplishments, titles such as “America’s Best Cold Brew Champion” or “Local Latte Art Winner: However, we are more proud of our coffees and teas those we serve at our shop made out of our continuing researches and strict precision.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me, being successful means to be genuine of yourself. Despite of uncertainty in our lives, if we are trying to make our mindsets as well as our surroundings to be supportive to be genuine of who we are, I believe we are on the right path to be successful. I believe there is a rewards of tremendous joy given when we are truthful of ourselves.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 4936 York Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90042
  • Website: kumquatcoffee.com
  • Phone: 626-375-6820
  • Email: aj@kumquatcoffee.com
  • Instagram: kumquatcoffee

Image Credit:
Haven Kim

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