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Horchata lattes, rice and bean frappes; coming soon to DTLA

By Hayley Fox
Published: Friday, July 20, 2012, at 10:44AM

Owner Ulysses Romero wears a "I love Tierra Mia coffee" shirt and stands in the middle of his new Downtown store, which is currently under construction.

Joining the ranks of coffee shops on Spring Street comes a "Latin coffee concept" shop, whose menu is full of decadent sounding drinks like horchata lattes and rice and bean frappes.

"Even though there are coffee shops and coffee houses in downtown L.A., I think there's still room for quality providers," said Tierra Mia owner, Ulysses Romero. "I think you have to be a quality provider."

Romero already has four Tierra Mia (my land) locations throughout L.A.; in Pico Rivera, South Gate, Huntington Park and Santa Fe Springs. The name of the shop is intended to reflect the Latin American origins of coffee, said Romero, and conjure up images of a product that comes straight from the earth.

He said his original idea was to bring "quality coffee" to Hispanic neighborhoods in L.A. -- and built his decor, menu and customer approach accordingly.

But in the end, Romero said, many people have gotten tired of chain store coffee shops and the "unique" items Tierra Mia produces could be appreciated by all -- including downtowners.

"We saw that the market for quality coffee is everyone -- it's really not just a particular population," he said.

This is the fifth year for Romero's company, which began by using coffee beans they purchased from Intelligentsia and Stumptown, and pastries bought already made from Porto's Bakery.

Now, Tierra Mia roasts all of their own coffee and distributes the beans to their multiple locations to create specialty drinks such as the mocha mexicano. The coffee shop also bakes everything "in-house" -- using Porto's raw danish dough to make tres leches muffins (the store's most popular snack), cheese rolls and guava cheese pastries.

Tierra Mia also makes their own iced and blended drinks, a practice "shunned in the true specialty coffee circles," according to Romero.

"I think about it from a real culinary aspect," he said. "If you can combine different ingredients and make something that tastes good, then i think you should do that."

His new store location on Spring Street will be taking over the storefront where Night Toast cafe used to be -- making the transition smooth for Romero, who was able to purchase a lot of the necessary equipment from the previous store owner. Equally convenient is the fact that Romero lives in the building -- only a few floors up from the new space.

"It'll also mean that I can have an important role in managing the store and making sure our coffee quality is at the highest level," he said.

Romero added that they will be bringing over their experienced baristas to the new location -- not hiring new ones -- in order to ensure quality and "put our best foot forward."

Tierra Mia is expected to open later this summer.

Tierra Mia will be located at 653 S. Spring Street


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