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  • Lucas André Petrin

La Marzocco Residency: Little Waves Coffee Roasters and Cocoa Cinnamon

Updated: Oct 23, 2019



If you don’t know about La Marzocco Cafe’s residency program, and are trying to find new and unique coffee experiences, then you are truly missing out. I won’t go too much into the details of their residency program, as this post is meant to highlight the current roaster in residence at the cafe, but I’ll explain very briefly before jumping in. Basically, each month La Marzocco Cafe hosts a new resident in their cafe space. What does that actually mean? Well, typically the resident is a coffee roaster (although there have been some exceptions, such as Seattle’s Atlas Coffee Importers), and the cafe team works closely with that resident to cater the entire menu and layout to feature that resident’s craft. This means that with each new resident there is an entire overhaul of the coffee menu, but it even goes beyond that! They also work with the resident to change the physical layout of cafe itself in order to better represent their spirit. Even the dishes used to serve the beverages, and the brewing equipment for both coffee and tea, is often switched out. This means that every month is a brand new coffee experience at La Marzocco Cafe. New experience, but same fantastic baristas! I suppose the only downside is that it’s not as easy to walk in and get “the usual” from the barista you are on a first name basis with. Your “usual” 12 oz americano will end up being an entirely different roast and/or blend every month, but that’s not a bad thing! In fact, it’s a pretty great way to learn the more nuanced differences of different origins and roasts.


Signature drink Maria Laudicina in Carthage. “A house seltzer with espresso and spiced with coriander, maca, and sweetened with local honey.”

Anyway, enough about that, let’s get into the current resident! It’s actually a little bit of a two part resident: Little Waves Coffee Roasters (the coffee side of the business), and Cocoa Cinnamon (the retail/cafe space side). They are coming from Durham, North Carolina and are bringing one of the most involved and comprehensive experiences I have encountered at La Marzocco to date. I hope you like color, because this month the cafe is like a firework show.


The people behind Little Waves place a lot of importance on the value of culture and honoring ancestry. Talking about their business, they explain that “We aim to be as diverse as our city, knowing that we are indicators of the range of people we hope to invite.” Little Waves Coffee Roasters is a WOC co-owned and operated business by Areli Barrera de Grodski and Leon Grodski de Barrera (they are married! 🥰), and they are the ones producing the lovingly roasted aromatic beans that are so good at bringing people together. The beans are relationship-sourced from around the world, and then micro-roasted on a Loring S15 Falcon (for those coffee nerds who just need to know). Those beans are then crafted into beautiful beverages in the Cocoa Cinnamon shops, which are responsible for creating the warm and welcoming atmosphere for people to gather in. “Cocoa Cinnamon is driven by the experience that is amazed by the marvel of cities and the roots of languages, whose blood rushes in the awe of landscapes, the wonder of travel and the history, colors, textures, and stories of coffee, chocolate, and tea.”


Areli and a colleague demonstrating how to operate an espresso machine at the “Invoke a Loved One” beverage making class.

When you come into La Marzocco Cafe during this residency, you will immediately see the appreciation for culture through the design of the cafe. A great example of this is the community altar table upon which customers are welcome to participate by “adding a photo or an artifact that symbolizes a loved one you would like to honor and invoke.” Last Friday I attended their “Invoke a Loved One” drink making class with a couple friends, and we were encouraged to find inspiration for our beverages by thinking about loved ones, past and present, to embody through the flavors. My first drink was a spicy espresso-based beverage named after my Hungarian grandfather, Jani Papa, based on the memory of a funny experience I shared with him. Flavors of mole, cinnamon, cardamom, black lava salt, black pepper, and honey were mixed in with the espresso and finished with some (poorly) micro-foamed milk. This was also an opportunity for hands on experience with some of La Marzocco’s incredible espresso machines, and, while the Little Waves staff were there to help walk us through the process, I felt confident enough to try steaming my own milk. Oops! Years of using a cheap Cuisinart espresso machine does not compare haha. My second drink was named after my grandma, Sheila, and I decided to use rose water as the main ingredient, since she always had the aroma of your typical flowery-smelling grandmother. Rosewater mixed into seltzer with vanilla syrup, cardamom, agave nectar, and a maca/ginger mix.


During the launch event, costumers had the opportunity to play a game of Loteria, a Latino bingo-style game, with proceeds going towards supporting Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network.


Little Waves and Cocoa Cinnamon is coffee with purpose, and meaning. This is evident through their business practices, how they source their coffee and make their beverages, and even in the design of their cafe spaces. Meaningful differences can be made out of whatever people are passionate about, and these people are a wonderful example of that. I’m super late with writing this blog post, so as of posting they only have 11 days left for their residency (last day on Monday, October 21st), so go experience the magic while it is still there! Quick! Like right now!! Gooo!!!


Thanks for reading :)

Lucas André Petrin

Pronouns: they/them/theirs

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