Tanger Outlets may not be the first place that comes to mind when deciding on the perfect spot for a local coffee shop. But for Alexander Escobar and his partner and girlfriend Monserrat Ruiz, it’s proving to be the ideal location.
“We have an opportunity here to grow our business,” said Escobar. “We are ambitious about our company and spreading our love and knowledge of coffee and the culture that surrounds it.”
Last July, Escobar and Ruiz opened Café Victoria in the Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead, selling a wide variety of their house made hot and cold coffee drinks and sweet treats like cookies and muffins.
The café is sleek, modern and spacious. Natural wood paneling complements the black painted walls and dark furniture placed throughout. Upon walking into the café, you’re immediately drawn to their “rainforest wall” — an expansive, faux-forest collage with beaded lizards and frogs hidden throughout.
“Some of our coffee comes from the rainforest in Guatemala,” said Ruiz. “It’s like having our own rainforest here. It’s our own little part of the coffee process within the café.”
The shop’s name celebrates two themes. The first is Victoria, Escobar’s grandmother, who always had a cup of coffee and a cookie to offer visitors. The second is the fact that victoria means victory in Spanish, and Escobar sees the café as his “victory tour” – representing the success of his decade-long journey to understanding Latin American coffee culture and bringing it to the United States.
“I was a cinematographer who filmed the different cultures of Latin America,” Escobar said. “Between 2009 and 2013, I had the opportunity to visit a coffee farm in Costa Rica and another friend took me to a coffee shop in Colombia. That coffee was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. I knew nothing about coffee, but I knew I needed to learn everything about it.”
Escobar spent the better part of the past 10 years learning about the coffee industry and the culture that surrounds it and wanted to understand why the United States lacks such a traditional coffee culture. Nearly 60 percent of worldwide coffee production comes from Latin America, and its connection to the region’s culture is deep rooted.
“No matter whose house you’re at throughout Latin America, it’s more than likely that it will smell like coffee,” said Ruiz. “Coffee is very important to our culture. We often start drinking coffee as toddlers. It connects us to our culture starting at a very young age.”
Escobar is in direct communication with co-operative farmers in Guatemala, and Café Victoria knows the provenance of all of its coffees, from farm to pot to to-go cup. The business model relies on a strong emphasis on fair trade and eco-friendly production methods.
“We are proud to say that a large percentage of our profits go back into funding the education and health of our farmers in Guatemala,” said Escobar. “There are over 280 families that help to farm our coffee beans. We invest in these communities and make sure that our coffee is sourced in the most ethical and eco-friendly way possible.”
The beans are imported from Guatemala and roasted in Brooklyn –– one of the main U.S. locales spearheading coffee culture. Prior to the launch of Café Victoria, the couple sold their packaged coffee beans at farmers markets throughout the Hamptons.
Upon opening last summer, Café Victoria made the effort to ensure that all their baristas were professionally trained. Escobar flew in experts from Latin America to ensure that his staff was knowledgeable in the craft of the coffee making.
“We took the time to perfect every part of our process, from farming to roasting, to the recipes we serve at our coffee bar,” Escobar said. “We are excited to share our coffee and our journey with the community.”
Escobar and Ruiz are continuously coming up with new ideas for the café. They hope to soon offer homemade jams and other delicacies with an eye to creating a mini marketplace within their café. The pair also hopes to work with other stores in the community to sell and supply their coffee beans.
“Coffee is a billion dollar industry worldwide,” Escobar said. “Our goal with Café Victoria is to share the social elements of the coffee culture. We want to be a place of gathering around an amazing, ethically sourced product.”
Cafe Victoria is located between the Forever 21 and Nautica stores at the Tanger Outlets. Check out their website here.