Café Justo opens for business

Café Justo opened on campus today, selling coffee drinks to support Mexican growers and raising money for scholarships. 

Located in the former school store on the edge of the cafeteria, the cafe is open before classes on most Fridays during the school year. Featured drinks include El Otro Latte, Sister Jodi Mocha, Chiapas Cold Brew, and Mexican Hot Chocolate. Prices started at $1.75.

The student-run shop buys its coffee from Cafe Justo, a co-op based in Chiapas, Mexico, that supports coffee growers by selling their products. Students work in the shop for free; channeling all proceeds and tips to a scholarship fund.

"I want this shop to symbolize fair trade and justice for everyone," said barista Lenora Mathis '19. "I hope it can bring together the La Salle community while also connecting us to other parts of the world."

The idea of opening a coffee shop at La Salle has been brewing for more than a year.

Graduates Emma Ly ’17 and Christian Reyes ’17 came up with the idea while on La Salle’s 2016 immersion trip to the U.S.-Mexico border. They were inspired by their visit to the headquarters of Café Justo during their journey. 

Reyes, who now studies at the University of California-Berkeley, says he and Ly wanted to support the co-op and help more La Salle students go on eye-opening immersion trips. So they applied for a La Salle Dare to Dream innovation grant to open a coffee shop at school, buy coffee from Café Justo, and put earnings toward scholarships for students who wanted but couldn't afford to go on an immersion trip. They winked at the Lasallian motto "Enter to learn. Leave to serve" by calling their proposal "Enter to learn. Leave to serve coffee."

After getting a grant for $8,000, Ly and Reyes started hashing out the details. They researched machines. They scouted Pinterest for recipes. They considered where on the school's 34-acre campus to put the coffee shop. Then, knowing they were heading off to college soon, they put out the word they needed younger students to keep the project going. Mathis and Brigid Hanley '19 stepped up.

With the help of school staff and parent volunteers, the two juniors cleared, painted, and installed a coffee machine in La Salle's former school store, transforming it into the new coffee shop. They took a barista class, practiced making drinks, hired student workers, and, a little before 8 this morning, opened for business.
"Each cup of coffee," said Mathis, "is a reminder of all of the hard work put in to make it what it is, starting in Chiapas, Mexico."

Ly, now at the University of Oregon, says the enterprise is an example of how La Salle students can – and should – dream to make a difference.

"It's amazing to see them grind it out," she said as she watched Hanley and Mathis churn out about 60 Americanos, Mexican hot chocolates, and other orders on opening morning. 

"The mission of Café Justo is beyond the coffee," said Ly. "With each cup of coffee they will be reminded not only how good it is, but the mission the coffee is rooted in. We can help farmers achieve a better quality of life." 

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