A Cup for Humanity

Your vibe attracts your tribe. In my case, my vibe lead me to a café that had me at Aloha: Rio Coco Café in Vero Beach

My story starts on a Tuesday afternoon in Vero Beach. I pulled off to a Starbucks Drive-Thru for an afternoon pick-me-up between sales calls. I normally refuse to go to Starbucks when I’m at home in West Palm Beach. They are overpriced, over-roasted, and over marketed. However, I was dozing off and did not know of a good local coffee shop, and Starbucks has one thing done right: visibility.

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I pulled up to the window and kindly asked my Barista if she could fill up my reusable water bottle. As I took off the lid, and handed it to her, she rolled her eyes and said “I can’t take that. It’s against Starbucks policy.”

What policy? The Maximize Single Use Plastics Policy? I kindly canceled the order and she said “I can give you a cup of water for free,” to appease me. I replied, “You’re missing the point here.”

I typed coffee shop into my Yelp! App in the Starbucks parking lot. If the App could talk it would have said “You’re kidding me, right? Starbucks is 0.0 miles away!” I scrolled down past 3 sponsored Panera and Starbucks listings and found a unique spot with 5 stars “Rio Coco Café.”

My GPS lead me to an industrial park adjacent to the Vero Beach Airport. I thought Yelp was really yanking my chain, as this building looked purely industrial. I meandered down the rows of garage doors, and finally saw lovely green tables with smiling patrons beside a window sign that said “Legal Highs.” I chuckled to myself, this place had a sense of humor.

Opening the door, I felt the Spirit of Aloha rush over me. Rio Coco was a tropical hideaway with vintage plant hangers strung from the ceiling, tropical decor and vintage mid-century Polynesian couches luring guests to loiter.  I must have appeared elated and awestruck, as the Barista called out to me “First time here, huh?”

As she crafted a triple espresso coconut mocha for me, she told me how Rio Coco is a nonprofit charity to raise money for a school in Nicaragua. As if this place wasn’t cute enough, it was above all humanic, and they had a water cooler to fill up my reusable water bottle!

My coffee cocktail slid across the counter as the owner Laura placed a tray of tasty treats next to me and offered one to me. The Barista said “It’s her first time here!” and Laura smiled big and said “Welcome!” with a bear hug impressive for her tiny stature. I felt so happy to find this place and I just said “Would it be weird if I just took a bunch of photos? I want to write a blog about you. Everyone needs to find this place!”

Laura took me for the grand tour, talking about their grassroots effort in establishing local education in Nicaragua (I encourage you to go to their site). The first Rio Coco is in a town called Utila, and the shop is adorned with pictures of their dive adventures there. Laura led me to the Roasting Room, where beans from around the world were roasted, packaged and stored. She also shared that she wants the shop to be a community which it truly is, with a piano welcoming musicians on Wednesday evenings, and community rooms hosting church youth groups.

In addition to roasting their own coffee in house, they have a full breakfast and lunch menu at very economical prices. I brought my boss for lunch there and when he ordered the flank steak salad for $7.50 he said “Did they put the right price?” If you want to take Rio Coco home with you, they have a retail space selling cold brew and bags of beans, or you can purchase their roasted beans online.

So I challenge you to refrain from the frappeccino, and find a rad local coffee shop to support instead.

Have a cup for humanity and caffeinate kindly, my friends! And as always, live global and stay local.

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