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Meet Crystal Weintrub of 1802 Roasters in North East LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Crystal Weintrub.

Crystal, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in the L.A. area; I love L.A. and have never left. As an adult, I have always had an equal love of good coffee. I grew up with the influence of coffee in my parents’ house; the smell wafting room to room every morning. My dad has also always been a coffee drinker and my love of coffee began with him.

The path I took was curved and meandering rather than a straight line. I became a social and environmental activist in college; I really wanted to contribute and affect change in the world. Eventually, I ended up working in the non-profit sector to fulfill this need. A few years later, I got married in Buenos Aires – they have a great café scene! After returning from Argentina my husband and I felt inspired and began looking for better coffee at home. At the time, there was a limited selection in LA of specialty coffee, so we began roasting our coffee at home to satisfy this desire. In the meantime, years of frustration working in the non-profit sector began to surface and I started to look for something else – a new road to venture down. I noticed opportunities developing from one of my hobbies – coffee! We had purchased a new sample roaster and to offset the cost started passing out samples in our neighborhood to see if anyone wanted to buy some roasted beans. A neighbor who had received a bag raved about how good our coffee was and inquired about getting more; it so happened that he ran the largest chain of farmer’s markets in Southern California. This was just the impetus we needed!

On weekends, started selling coffee at a farmer’s market in downtown LA – ironically it was not one of the markets run by our neighbor, which gave us a real perspective. In order to expand and focus on coffee full-time, I left my job – no hard feelings there – and we went from selling at one Farmers’ Market to four. It was around this time that an old meat market, close to home, which had been closed for some time and become the neighborhood abandoned car lot, came up for lease; we decided it was time to have a brick and mortar if we wanted to really pursue coffee roasting. Fast forward to three years later after a lengthy buildout and we are finally ready to open our first café and roastery at that same location.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The roads been a bit bumpy, our buildout alone took almost three years to complete, more than double what we had anticipated, and once everything concluded we were already in the middle of this pandemic. But we don’t let the struggle get us down now – these past years trained us to be resilient and adapt when facing challenges. Each corner we turned presented a new challenge but now that we are finally at the other end, we find ourselves more capable than we ever thought we were and stronger than we knew. There was not one thing that happened as had been planned from the beginning. Being in the struggle has taught us to always look ahead, prepare and expect the unexpected.

Please tell us about 1802 Roasters.
We’re specialty coffee roasters. We showcase coffees from different regions around the world; our beans range from Central and South America to Africa and South East Asia. All of the retail coffee we sell is single-origin; we roast to showcase and bring out the natural flavor of each bean; letting the coffee speak for itself. Sometimes people ask if we add flavoring to our coffee. They are surprised when I tell them “Never! That is the natural flavor of the bean. When we source green beans, we use local importers that are either Direct Trade Importers or are affiliated directly with the farms, farmers and co-ops.

All of the products we use are considered for a range of impacts: from social, environmental and economic; we acknowledge our choices have effect on the environment we all share and so we make decisions to prioritize those products and people that act in a responsible way and support our own mission. This is how we generally approach business. In addition to our green beans, we carefully source each product we use considering both the quality of that product, the ingredients and its’ overall impact – for instance the coconut milk we use is 100% pure there are no preservatives, fillers or thickeners. The tea we source is 100% whole leaf tea, it comes from well-managed estates, no pesticides are used and all of the packaging is plastic-free using biodegradable PLA and FSC certified paperboard. On the consumer side, we also apply these choices in our café by using compostable cups and NOT up-charging for alternative milk (dairy is 3rd largest contributor to GHG emissions inside the café environment) to help our customers make responsible choices and to reduce our own footprint. We also make an effort to emphasize local; from buying local, using local artists, having community events, and being involved in local activities. We understand having a local influence can directly affect the “triple bottom line” impacts of our community in a positive way.

And finally, our coffee is DOPE! Which is why people seek us out. None of our other business philosophies take away from what we are known for – our coffee.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
So many things! But hindsight is always 20/20 and as I said earlier, the struggle has made us stronger and more resilient – the true mark of any survivalist – many lessons have been learned which will be carried forward and applied to the next project or challenge.

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