Q+A: Zaruma Gold Coffee
Started in Ecuador 15 years ago, Zaruma Gold Coffee opened in Dumbo earlier this year, selling single-origin coffee from four regions of Ecuador: the Coast (where the town of Zaruma is located), the Sierra (home of the Andes Mountains and the province of Pichincha), the Amazon, and the Galápagos. In this Q+A, Diana Aguilar of Zaruma Gold Coffee will share the incredible journey of this family business and her future plan for the store in Dumbo.
How was Zaruma Gold Coffee started?
Diana: This business is my childhood dream. As I grew older, I started to sell coffee in my home country. Later, I exported coffee to the US, selling in Manhattan, in small supermarkets. These are single-origin coffee from four regions in Ecuador. We have been working with small farmers from these regions and paying them fair prices. When I expanded the business to Amazon.com, the sales were so slow that I was discouraged to continue. It was not until the pandemic that the sales started to pick up. But then, my distributor left, so I did not have anybody for distribution. Then, this opportunity came, and I took it. Now, we appear in some magazines, some newspapers. As we started in an area with a lot of competition like Starbucks or Bluestone Lane, many people ask me: “Are you crazy to open a coffee place among those big companies?” I want to do it. I want to try. And we are happy here. People like our coffee because it’s from different regions, it has different notes and different profiles.
People like our coffee because it’s from different regions, it has different notes and different profiles.
What are the challenges and opportunities in opening a store here?
Diana: It is very different from what I did before, which is just selling my products in supermarkets. More than one year ago when the pandemic just started, Dumbo was empty. All the businesses here were closed as a lot of people left. And Dumbo Market waited for me for six months. I was so lucky to have the space here. This location would help us with our mission to show to everyone what we can bring from our country.
But it was a rough start, as nobody knew our brand. In five months, we did not make any money. When we started to do Ecuadorian brunch, Ecuadorian people from Connecticut, South New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Long Island... they all started to come here. They are so proud that there is an Ecuadorian company in Dumbo. So now every Saturday and Sunday, we make Ecuadorian brunch.
They are so proud that there is an Ecuadorian company in Dumbo. So now every Saturday and Sunday, we make Ecuadorian brunch.
Why did you choose Dumbo to open the coffee store?
Diana: I love Dumbo and really wish that I would be able to live here. I grew up in a small town in Zaruma where everybody knows everybody. It was a small community. And I feel like I’m in my town here. My family also loves Dumbo. Every year, in the summer, we would come here and I would think to myself: I would love to have a business here, but it’s expensive. So when the opportunity came, I had to take it. There are so many coffee roasters, coffee companies, and coffee stores around, so people might think that I’m crazy. Now, it’s a small business, but in the future, you never know!
We are also very lucky to be able to share the tables and space with Dumbo Market. The cooperation benefits both sides, as the rents here are quite high. Maybe, in the future, we will be able to have a space of our own.
This must have been a very big step for Zaruma Gold Coffee as a family business!
Diana: In the beginning, other people kept telling me “ You are crazy, don’t lose your money!” But I know what I have. I have good coffee and a nice brand, so why not? We are making changes to this new store, little by little. For example, we recently changed the color of the store’s name at the window-front. And we finally received the newly designed paper cup with the brand name on it. This is like my kid.
My family is also helping me a lot during this process. My children come here every week to work with me. My daughter cleans the table, takes the orders, and takes on almost everything! My oldest son comes here from time to time. The other one is a barista, and sometimes he would help to make coffee here!
Can you introduce a couple of products you have here in store?
Diana: We rotate the types of coffee every week, so the cold brew tastes different every week. We want our customers to try different flavors every couple of days and get to know the diverse profile of Ecuadorian coffee. We also have exotic dehydrated fruits such as golden berries, which are like small tomatoes, covered with Ecuadorian Chocolate. Its citrus flavor is delicious. We also have cheese bread made of cassava. People in Brazil or Colombia eat these, too. We have Brazilians coming here for the cheese bread.
We want our customers to try different flavors every couple of days and get to know the diverse profile of Ecuadorian coffee.
Last question, where is your favorite place in Dumbo?
Diana: The river. I go there when I’m stressed!