It's a good time to be a pop-up in San Francisco, and an even better time to be getting into the coffee business. And that makes right now a very good time indeed to be Fernando Diaz. But Diaz isn't in it for himself — he has bigger things on his mind.
Diaz is the young man behind Proyecto Diaz, the city's newest, tiniest homegrown coffee pop-up, and it's a full-blown family operation. Coffee runs strong in Diaz's bloodline — his grandfather owns and runs a coffee farm in Oaxaca, and Diaz himself has spent hours roasting beans on a stovetop and honing his barista chops at church gatherings. Together, the two men form the most direct of all direct trade models, collapsing the supply chain into a space no bigger than a family photo.
Diaz buys a good portion of his beans off his grandfather's farm (the rest from another producer in Chiapas), beans which he then roasts under the mentorship of a friend at Uncommon Grounds in Berkeley. After that, you'll find him popping up in the Mission with a folding table and three-cup pourover brewing set-up shimmied from some thin copper pipes, grinding and brewing for $2 a cup. His right hand man is a friend, Travis Cabello. Together, they pop up all over 24th Street.
Proyecto Diaz is unique in a few ways, one being the way it distills what Diaz's family is all about. Yes, coffee runs thick in the Diaz pedigree, but so does another trade. Diaz's grandfather has worked as a drug and alcohol counselor in Mexico for years, as do other members of the family. Proyecto Diaz aims, at its heart, to bolster the mission of recovery. Profit is beside the point at such an early stage, but when Diaz talks about his dream for the project, he talks about building a drug and alcohol recovery center in Oaxaca, sustained by the profits from the coffee company.
Though he sees shadows of the same problems in the Mission he hopes to help alleviate in Mexico, he says impact is more readily had in Oaxaca. "A dollar goes a lot further in pesos," he says.
Diaz is drawn to the symbolism of the coffee seed, too, and imagines the project will grow into something bigger, just like a coffee seed transforms into a beautiful, fruitful shrub.
"With just these few grounds, this little bit of coffee, we can do so much. We can use capitalism for good. We can actually do something good with money," says Diaz.
Proyecto Diaz offers coffee from only Chiapas and Oaxaca, with plans to open sourcing relationships across Latin America. Soon, Diaz hopes to nail down some wholesale accounts in order to lighten up on brewing and concentrate exclusively on roasting. Right now, the pair is popping up outside of three bookstores, three times a week. Find them at Adobe Bookshop (Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.), Alleycat Books (Wed., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), and Modern Times Bookstore Collective (Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m).