Amalia Litsa at Pricey Diary (Photograph by Wayne Alan Brenner)
Longtime Austinite and artistic neighborhood acquainted Amalia Litsa opened her vegan espresso store Pricey Diary, a part of a revitalized retail strip close to the nook of twelfth & Chicon, simply because the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning.
She and enterprise associate Joshua Adrian quarreled to maintain the place going by months and months of lockdowns and social distancing and ranging security ranges. And collectively, by some means, with prepared staff and a loyal neighborhood neighborhood, they helped the place to outlive.
Possibly even, comparatively talking, to thrive.
Promoting espresso, promoting pastries, promoting artwork provides and artist merch. Offering a shiny and welcoming neighborhood hangout spot within the midst of fraught instances. Onward, although the ‘ronas.
Now Litsa has purchased Adrian’s share of the enterprise, is working Pricey Diary solo (albeit with a scrappy crew of espresso wranglers), and is plotting, like a Bond-movie anti-villain intent on committing good, to take over the world of barista -ready oat milk. We figured it was about time to examine in with this native mover and shaker, to see what it is like working a vegan espresso store as Our COVID State of affairs strikes from pandemic to endemic and the meals service trade makes an attempt to reconfigure itself alongside extra strains.
Inside Pricey Diary (Photograph by John Anderson)
Austin Chronicle: Why’d you begin Pricey Diary within the first place? Why, of all issues, espresso?
Amalia Litsa: It was actually the artwork half. I moved to Austin in 2002; Austin Sketch Group began in 2004, and I’d go weekly to the meetup. That was how I made all my buddies. It was largely indie comedian artists on the time, and it had such an enormous affect on my profession: I acquired my Scanner Darkly gig [as animator for Richard Linklater’s film] as a result of I realized about it by Sketch Group folks. And, again then, the seed was planted in my thoughts: Would not it’s so cool to have a espresso store that is oriented to artists? What facilities would I’ve for them? In fact I would have retailers for all of the folks engaged on their laptops and whatnot, however perhaps I might even have good lighting and galvanizing artwork on the partitions and perhaps a little bit art-supply retail house. So, with Pricey Diary, I used to be making an attempt to create the setting I wished. And naturally I like espresso! However I do not suppose I’d’ve had the eagerness about this concept, to really drive me to doing it, had I not had the will to construct a artistic neighborhood house.
And, again then, the seed was planted in my thoughts: Would not it’s so cool to have a espresso store that is oriented to artists? – Amalita Litsa
AC: And, regardless of the pandemic, y’all appear to be doing … nicely?
AL: I will not lie – it hasn’t been straightforward. Pricey Diary would not know what it is prefer to be alive in a traditional financial system. However we did not qualify for any sort of federal, state, or metropolis help as a brand new enterprise – as a result of they’re all based mostly on prior-year data. And that is sensible, as a result of in any other case everybody can be like, “Yeah, certain, I personal a espresso store, give me cash!” However so we did not qualify for any sort of aid, we simply needed to bootstrap it and survive on our personal. Once we could not use our eating room attributable to capability limitations, I turned it into an artwork retail house. I could not afford extra stock, however I might pay artists on a consignment foundation. And that labored out for them, as a result of the entire common artwork markets had been restricted or shut down. So when folks had been on the lookout for facet hustles, I had a facet hustle for them. Despite the fact that we weren’t having artist meetups, at the very least we had artists in right here, displaying their work. So we pulled by.
AC: And also you switched to roasting your individual espresso, too. Was that a part of your survival techniques?
AL: All of that is survival-inspired. The constraint-breeds-creativity factor occurred with the artwork and with the roasting. We weren’t planning to roast our personal espresso so shortly, it wasn’t a part of the unique sport plan in any respect, as a result of there’s lots of glorious espresso roasters in Austin and we’d’ve been glad to maintain carrying the beans roasted by one other model. Nevertheless it’s simply a lot more cost effective to roast our personal – and it is good for our model, for differentiating ourselves out there. And I’ve this chance to essentially take into consideration the farms we’re shopping for the beans from, and that is thrilling to me. After which, with the oat milk, it was the identical factor. As a vegan myself, I all the time used to complain in regards to the “vegan tax,” you already know? Why does it value extra if there’s much less elements in it? Like, why does this cupcake value extra when it is acquired the identical elements as this different one besides you retain the eggs out? Are you able to simply pay me for the eggs?
Bricco Blends’ oat milk (Courtesy of Bricco Blends)
AC: [laughs] OK, I do know oat milk’s an enormous factor with you, and we’ll undoubtedly get again to that, however – the roasting?
AL: So, us and some different espresso retailers share an oven up in Georgetown. There is a grasp roaster who works up there, and he helps all of us – he does the exhausting half. We design the espresso, we import it and provides him suggestions, however he truly sits there and works the gear, watches the roasting beans. Proper now we’re working with a pair totally different importers, they usually cope with farms all over. So we have espresso coming in from Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, and a few Ethiopian Sidamo, and now we have Rwandan espresso – which most retailers on the town haven’t got. Principally, we have a smattering of berry-flavored African espresso, stone-fruit-flavored Central American espresso, after which Brazil is generally for mouthfeel. We’re largely working with that palate proper now. However there is a new crop of espresso berries that are available in with the spring harvest, so I am trying ahead to working out of our present provide, as a result of, “What are we gonna substitute it with?” And I truly do not know but.
AC: And at last, what about this oat milk? Bricco Blends?
AL: Sure! So, with the oat milk, I used to be like, “Possibly, to chop prices, we will begin making our personal oat milk in-house?” And I attempted, however I noticed that my baristas must spend a lot time pureeing and straining oats that it might value extra ultimately. They usually’d in all probability all stop – as a result of it isn’t enjoyable. So what if I might make it to the place all of the baristas needed to do was mix elements in water – with none pureeing and straining? So I spent over a yr simply formulating an oat milk that will foam for lattes – as a result of selfmade oat milk would not try this – and that will be minimal effort for the baristas. It is a lot science, you already know? If I would gone to high school for meals science, perhaps I might’ve gotten there quicker. As a result of, at first, it was like throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what caught. However that is the place my Bricco Blends got here from, and now the prices aren’t much less, however that is simply because I haven’t got financial system of scale on my facet but. And that is why I need to develop this and make house-made oat milk extra possible to folks. I do know that, on the very least, if I made it possible for different retailers, they might cost a premium for that – they usually might customise it – they usually might make it pair nicely with their explicit espresso roasts. And it might additionally make oat milk buying actually native. Proper now, prospects are buying house-roasted coffees from espresso retailers, so why not get your specialty milk to match from these retailers as nicely?