Contra Coffee and Tea founders Julie Nguyen and Paul Del Mundo have made a name for themselves with unique creations like dirty horchata and lil’ fizz orange soda, all served from a cute van. But you won’t have to wait for your weekend farmers market fill anymore, because the company is going brick-and-mortar with a new shop in Old Towne Orange.
Nguyen and Del Mundo met in food chemistry lab at Cal Poly Pomona, and would graduate with food science degrees to take on jobs that weren’t as fulfilling as they had hoped. “I had nothing but time on my hands, I quit my job that I was unhappy with and I gave myself three months to figure it out,” says Del Mundo. “It started with one keg and until I could get that one keg right, I wasn’t getting to the next five.”
“We got the keg off of Craigslist,” adds Nguyen with a laugh. “You gotta start somewhere.”
Nguyen was able to apply her R and D experience working for food manufacturing companies to their Contra formulations. “I knew the basics steps of how to start something off from a small scale, like a 16-ounce drink and convert it to five gallons, ten gallons, thirty gallons and I was able to relate that to Contra,” she says. Keeping the quality and taste as they scaled up, they garnered a following at local events and farmers markets.
It was at the Santa Ana Patchwork Show that Nguyen and Del Mundo met Kevin Staneic of the nonprofit organization 1888, a cultural heritage and literary arts center. “We were just doing our thing, serving coffee and they asked for a business card,”says Del Mundo. “We didn’t think much of it.” When it came time for the 1888 to incorporate a cafe into the cultural center, Staneic says it was Contra’s individualistic style and innovative approach that made them a perfect fit. “There’s a story behind every drink that they make, and that falls in line with the concept of storytelling,” says Staneic.
The cultural center brick-and-mortar will host a bookshop, gallery, multi-use performance space and Contra, creating a cafe experience closer to a brewery tasting room than a coffee shop. “We want you to sit at the bar and conversate, It’s not like a normal coffee shop vibe where you order your coffee and get on your laptop,” says Del Mundo. “We want something that’s more comprehensive and relaxed — feel free to let loose, ask us questions, and let us take care of you.”
Join Contra Coffee and Tea for their soft opening TODAY from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Taps will be live with all your favorite sips. See you there!
Contra Coffee and Tea, 115 N. Orange St., Orange, (657) 282-0483; @contracoffeeandtea
Cynthia Rebolledo covers anything and everything food, culture and spirits.