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A Coffee Tree Grows in Cypress Park: Daughter sips and savors the fruits of her father’s labor

Alejandra Avila under her father’s coffee tree

Cypress Park — Los Angeles is known for many things, but coffee production certainly isn’t one of them. Rarely do you find a mature coffee tree in the region because the climate makes it hard to produce.

That’s what makes the lush, decades-old coffee tree standing in the corner of Alejandra Avila’s Cypress Park backyard so unique. But it’s not the only reason why this tree is so special — it’s a living reminder of Avila’s father, who tended the tree for decades but never ever sipped a coffee made from its beans.

Last month, Avila posted a picture to her Instagram account of the tree’s first beans that were picked and then roasted and packaged by the Los Angeles-based coffee chain, Tierra Mia Coffee.

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A post shared by Alejandra Guzman (@laguzman2005) on

“This brought tears to my eyes, Dad always wanted to figure out how to harvest and roast the beans from his coffee tree,” she said on Instagram. “I was taught how and when to pick the beans and I did and I handed them over just wishing that I would get something. Here’s to you dad and your coffee tree! Thank you Steve for your help you made one my dad’s dreams come true!“

The Steve she was referring to was Tierra Mia’s COO and general counsel Steve Olivas, who went to Avila’s house and helped her pluck off about three pounds of the red berries that would eventually become the coffee beans in the pictured package. (That amounts to about 100 grams of roasted coffee) Olivas said the beans showed some sweetness and notes of chocolate.

That’s a pretty big feat, for a coffee tree in Los Angeles.

“I am not familiar with another tree that is that mature (in Los Angeles),” he said. “ It’s pretty rare.”

That’s because the further you get away from the equator, the harder coffee production becomes. Kenneth Licea, who sources coffee for the company, said frost can damage the trees and the climate interrupts the long maturation phase that allows the sugars to develop, giving the beans a sweeter flavor.

But somehow, this coffee tree thrived in Cypress Park.

Decades ago, Avila’s father Jesus, a construction worker who raised the now mother of three, brought the tree from his in-laws home on 28th Street shortly before they moved in the 1980s. Avila thinks her uncle, a priest in Mexico, first brought the tree to her grandparents. She believes it’s from Mexico but nobody knows from where exactly.

“My dad always had a green thumb,” Avila said.

Jesus Avila tended the tree for years. He passed away five years ago this month. He would have been 74-years-old.

This past weekend dozens of his relatives gathered near the tree at Avila’s Cypress Park home to sip the fruits of his labor and remember his life.

“He was always wondering what it would taste like,” she said.

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2 comments

  1. Great job Steve and Tierra Mia Coffee for embracing community! And thanks to The Eastsider for sharing the story. The smile on Alejandra’s face says it all, what a great memory and tribute.

  2. David Rocket Rowley

    Great family story. I have a producing coffee tree also . We enjoy the coffee cherries produced by the tree as well as the possums who like them because of the nite shifts they work. The tree is available from the Echo Park Nursery in Eagle Rock. When i get enough beans i too will make some and call it “FELIZ”.

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