Amid a global pandemic, when a natural reaction might be to take a step back, Alyce and Skylar Barrick instead took a leap forward.
Equipped with experience, knowledge and a reliable source for roasted beans, the husband-wife duo decided the moment was right and launched Queen Cup Coffee, a cozy brew stop located inside downtown Santa Ynez artisan cheese and meat shop Lucky Hen Larder.
"It's been a long-term goal of ours," said Alyce Barrick, "we just didn't know it would happen so soon, especially during a pandemic."
When family friend Cynthia Miranda, co-owner of Lucky Hen Larder, decided to step away from coffee making at her store and focus solely on epicurean provisions, she extended an offer to the Barricks. Skylar Barrick, born and raised in the Santa Ynez Valley had worked for Miranda in the past before relocating to Los Angeles, he said, adding that he has maintained his deep Valley roots.
In a matter of weeks, the pair moved on Miranda's invitation to take over a cozy nook inside the store, dipped into savings, pulled from their arsenal of coffee equipment and opened their doors on Jan. 21.
Whisked from their resident city of Los Angeles to chase their dream, the pair relocated to Buellton and vowed to fill what they considered an obvious void in the local coffee market.
"The coffee scene hasn't hit the area yet," said Skylar Barrick, referring to the third wave coffee movement, which highlights high-quality coffee that is distinct from commercial grade. "And it's not necessarily just an L.A. thing. Small cities in the Pacific Northwest, like in Washington and Oregon, have roasters who focus on quality."
"The beans are ethically sourced," said Barrick, noting that fair trade and sustainability practices are hallmarks of the third wave coffee culture from which Queen Cup Coffee was born. "It's important and good to know that the farmers are paid well."
Their shop menu features a lineup of veritable java treats that range from espresso and cold brew to mocha and cappuccino.
The horchata latte — a coffee drink combined with the popular sweet Mexican beverage made up of rice, milk, vanilla and cinnamon — is available to those who "want to mix it up," according to Alyce Barrick. The drink also is an ode to Skylar Barrick's grandmother, Theresa Sanchez, a longtime Santa Ynez Valley resident who decades ago emigrated from Guadalajara in search of greater opportunity for her family.
"We consider her a queen," said Alyce Barrick, explaining the genesis of "Queen Cup," which is derived from all things queen, from Freddie Mercury's classic rock band to the most powerful piece on a chess board to its actual bee-related etymology. "We enjoy symbolism."
A queen cup also is the start of a queen cell in a beehive, noted Skylar Barrick.
"It represents the beginning of a hive — its foundation," he said. "That's what we're building."
Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record.
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