CORSA PRO COFFEE – THE LIFEBLOOD OF SO MANY
It was another early morning at the Sea Otter Classic, too early really for people to already be lining up to talk about bikes. But then we noticed a line forming over at the Continental tire booth. As we got closer it became clear. Coffee. And not just any random diner-like cup-o-joe, but Corsa Pro Coffee. Of course. Soon enough we quickly found ourselves standing in the same line waiting for our own wake-up shots of espresso.
A few weeks later while attending the Belgian Waffle Ride, I noticed the same scenario playing out again, only this time at the Kask booth. Finally, instead of just indulging in another shot of caffeine and throwing a buck in the tip jar, I decided to find out more about the jovial man behind the grand Rocket Espresso machine that was pumping out so much morning joy. Jaime De La Cruz was the founder and proprietor of the Corsa Pro coffee stand and as I would later find out, he not only knows a lot about coffee, but bikes too.
INSIDE CORSA PRO COFFEE
What is your background in cycling?
I began working at Tri-a-Bike in Palm Desert just out of high school, and that’s when I started getting into mountain bikes. I moved to the Los Angeles area in 1998 to work in film production but continued working in the retail end of the cycling business at Helen’s Cycles doing sales and bike fittings. I was still doing a lot of mountain biking, so it wasn’t until about 2006 that I started cycling. A few years after I started working at I.Martin Cycles in West Hollywood, where I worked as store manager, I ramped up the services and support for the AIDS Lifecycle teams, and worked with local riding clubs by providing bicycle maintenance clinics, tips on how to prepare for the century rides, and road safety. In 2007, a couple customers and I established the Friday ride out of King’s Road Cafe, a 30-mile loop around the west side of LA and back from the store. It was definitely a coffee ride pace but a great place to connect with other cyclists and plan the next ride together. I’ve never been into racing, but I’ve done centuries and Gran Fondos both in the states and in Italy.
What is the biggest misnomer that people (cyclists) have about coffee ?
A lot of people think that coffee is bad for you, but it actually has a lot of antioxidants. There’s no doubt coffee can help a cyclist remain mentally alert and energized. Everybody’s different and needs to try out what works best for them.
How long were you at I.Martin for?
I. Martin is part of the Los Angeles bases chain of Helen’s bicycles stores and I managed the Beverly Blvd shop from 2002 till March 2020. The days at I. Martin in itself merits an interview. So many random customers and events on a daily basis. We were known for trying out new products for the bicycle industry. If the products did well, they would eventually make it into our other five locations.
What was the actual motivation to leave the shop and start-up with coffee?
My wife and I had been on a few cycling industry related trips to Italy over the past several years, and really enjoyed the coffee culture there, as well as what I experience in the LA cycling scene. I wanted to create my own brand that reflected and expanded that sense of community within the culture of cycling. I fell in love with that sense of freedom I get when riding on the trail or on the road, so having our own coffee business also allows the inspiration that I get from the bike when I’m creating a new roast. That’s a big part of the reason why our coffee roasts are named after routes near and dear to our hearts. My wife Susan and I chose the name Corsa Pro Coffee because it “corsa” means route or path in Spanish and Italian, and it reminds ourselves that every route taken is a new journey no matter how many times you take it. Due to the uncertainty of COVID at that time, I decided to step away from the shop all together and focus on growing Corsa Pro Coffee as a company.
We started with online direct to consumers, and we also sell our products in local cafes and specialty markets like a bloc in Highland Park and Farm Shop in Brentwood. Then when expos and racing began to open back up, we partnered with brands we believe in like KASK Helmets, KOO Eyewear, BMC, and Continental to serve espresso drinks at events like Sea Otter Classic, Ironman World Championships, and the Belgian Waffle Ride. Corsa Pro helps these brands create an inviting experience for people to gather, look at new products and have one hell of a good cup of coffee from our espresso counter.
What is your favorite coffee and drink – and why?
Ha, that’s like asking me which one is my favorite bike! Currently my favorite is our Latigo Canyon medium roast. It’s a blend of coffee from Ethiopia and Brazil. This roast was a big hit at The Sea Otter Classic and The Belgian Waffle Ride this year. It’s a nice balance of rich tasting notes of bittersweet chocolate, vanilla and apricot. My favorite coffee drink depends on the time of day and what my day looks like. No matter what’s on the agenda, the first thing we do at home is turn on our Rocket Espresso machine. If it’s a work day or time to ride, you’ll find me drinking a double shot of my Saddle Peak, followed by an oat milk cappuccino made with our Latigo Canyon by mid-morning. If it’s a travel day for an event weekend, Then it’s a pour over of our Mulholland dark roast in a travel mug. There’s something about a rich smokey dark roast that’s perfect for a road trip.
What is the benefit of buying fresh beans vs store bought?
By fresh I think you mean craft coffee. Many markets have upped their coffee game a bit. You can find some good coffee out on the shelves in your local supermarket. The thing to watch out for are the mass-produced brands. They’re more concerned with high yield, cheap production and not the quality of the product. My recommendation to the cyclist that enjoys a good cup of coffee is to look for those craft coffee brands that are out there. Life’s too short for bad coffee.
Pour over, French press, Mr. Coffee – what’s the “best” way to make a straight cup-o-joe at home?
For me there is no wrong way to make a cup of coffee. But there are four rules to follow when making coffee. Rule #4: Keep your coffee equipment clean. Rule #3: Find the right grind for your brew method. Once you start grinding your own coffee, you’ll never go back to buying ground again. There is nothing like fresh whole bean coffee. And by fresh, I mean at least 7 to 10 days after it’s been roasted. That’s the best time to open a new bag. The beans slowly release the gas left in them, usually over the course of about two weeks. Coffee is a lot like wine or really good cheese. You have to allow coffee to go through its process. Rule #2: Water temperature is key. The right temp helps with the extraction of flavors. If you’re using Pour overs and French press heat your water to 203*F. Rule #1: Do not use tap or purified water. Always use filtered water. The minarality adds to the flavor while keeping the impurities out of your coffee. If you’re looking for a game changer, try alkaline water in your next pour over.