The smell of freshly brewed coffee takes Marvin Guerrero right back to his childhood in Honduras where he lived on the family coffee farm. Now, he’s fulfilling a dream by bringing a little bit of Central America to Masterton.
“My job as a boy was to make coffee for my grandfather, every breakfast, lunch and dinner. It wasn’t made in a coffee machine, we would put the grounds in a cloth and then pour hot water over the top. He would say to me, ‘you need to do it three times if you want a really good brew’. And he wanted the coffee warm, not too hot; so he would pour it into a saucer first,” says Marvin.
The memory of his grandfather lives on in Marvin’s new café and coffee roastery, named Don Luciano, after his grandfather.
In fact, the whole venture is very personal. Marvin, who was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen last year, moved here in 2005 after meeting his wife, Juliet, while they were both working on a cruise ship.
“I fell for a Kiwi girl and we’ve been together since then. When we left the US, I thought I would stop working in restaurants, but I’ve worked at Salute, the Copthorne, the White Swan and Café Medici.”
Marvin’s also taught at Ucol, and he and Juliet run a homestay, Casita Flora, in Carterton. But he has always wanted to run a business connecting his two homelands, and coffee is the natural link.
Honduras has been fast developing its coffee industry. A small country, with a beautifully diverse landscape, it produces well-flavoured beans imbued with hints of chocolate, fruit or nut, depending on where the beans are grown.
“Coffees are like wines, they all have different flavours,” he says.
Marvin, whose family coffee farm was in the mountainous west of the country, near Guatemala, says the higher the altitude the better the flavour. He will be creating his own blend, mainly of beans from Honduras, but with a balance from Guatemala and Colombia.
“I am calling it Gracias because in life, we need to think of all the things we need to be grateful for, and this is about all those things that really matter to me,” he says.
He intends to donate some of the profit from coffee sales to those suffering from chronic kidney disease in Honduras where there is a relatively high incidence of the illness.
The magical transformation of raw green bean to roasted coffee takes place in the shiny new Probat coffee roaster. This elegant piece of engineering, freshly imported from Germany, sits towards the back of the café.
“They’ve been making these roasters for over 150 years, and everything is still handcrafted,” says Marvin.
Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu leans naturally towards Central American food – tortilla and tacos plus a hearty Honduran breakfast of eggs, chorizo and tortilla. Slow-cooked beef sliders and plenty of vegetarian options round out the menu, and there is also counter food.
At time of writing, Don Luciano was emerging from extensive renovations. As light flooded in over the newly restored parquet flooring, and lit up the brightly coloured blue, orange and yellow walls, it looked like some Central American sunshine had come to Masterton.
Don Luciano, Cnr King & Chapel St, Masterton, Open: 7.00am – 4.00pm