Best of Sacramento 2016: Food & Drink
Best caffeinated rule breakers: Identity Coffees
Lucky Rodrigues wants to raise curtains and break down barriers—in the coffee industry, specifically.
As one of the founders of Insight Coffee Roasters, Rodrigues holds serious clout in the local coffee scene. He says he turns down offers to open a new cafe every month.
That’s because he’s totally focused on Identity Coffees, the company he and Ryan Rake started in March. It’s a unique concept: Every person who works at Identity has their hands in every part of the coffee business. Typically, a coffee shop has people who only run the register, people who only make the coffee, people who only roast the beans and so forth. If you’re a barista, sourcing can seem like a totally hidden, mysterious process.
“When you have that segregation, I think you forget that it’s one large industry,” he says. “The big-picture goal is to have our model change the way we think about being in coffee.”
But that same, ambitious business plan doesn’t negate the fact that Rodrigues envisions Identity’s spacious cafe as a community space as well. Rather than just serving coffee, he’s slowly adding more beverages that the neighborhood is seeking. You can now find cold-pressed juice from Liquidology. and Rodrigues-made kombucha is on its way. And he’s hoping to partner with another group to bring an old-school soda bar with shrubs and other syrups in the near future.
Every Second Saturday, Identity Coffees hosts a daytime makers fair known as the Midtown Bizarre. And every so often, there’s live music. Rodrigues says he doesn’t want to become a real venue, but he is nostalgic for a Midtown he once knew, full of all-ages events and DIY show spaces.
“We feel like it’s a cultural responsibility,” he says.
Will Identity follow Insight’s lead and expand, expand, expand? Unlikely. Rodrigues isn’t opposed to the idea of growing the company, but right now, he’s focused on sustainability. Unlike other Sacramento coffee companies, Identity is tiny—like, four people tiny. And though the staff is so small, he still wants the team flying to farms in Central America and bringing back green beans.
“We’ve got a long row to hoe, because there isn’t really a preexisting gateway for us to follow,” he says. “We’re figuring out how to make the concept work in real time.”