We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Bahamon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born and raised in Ibagué, the capital of the department of Tolima in western Colombia, known for its musical and cultural heritage. My hometown is also on the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes, where you can find coffee crops and it is in fact that Tolima is the third-highest coffee producer in Colombia. My upbringing has impacted who I am today and my company Yipao Coffee in many ways. I grew up surrounded by music, art and Colombian coffee culture. Since I was very young, the walls of my mother’s house had a variety of oil paintings inspired by landscapes of Colombian coffee crops. All the art was painted by my brother, Carlos Bahamon, a Colombian self-taught artist. We inherited my mother’s creativity, which is why I decided to pursue a career in Architecture. Some of the happiest childhood memories are on a Jeep Nissan Patrol for my father’s work trips. Most of the time, we used to visit towns such as Cajamarca, Tolima and small coffee towns with lots of “Yipaos.” The word “Yipao” comes from the name of the vehicle itself, as a precursor to the 4×4 Jeep Willys, which is “jeepao,” in Spanish it is called “mulitas mecánicas” – Mechanic Mules adopted by coffee farmers. In fact, the Yipao is able to carry at least a ton of the world’s best coffee through the rugged and steep Colombian mountains. For more than half a century, the Yipao has been a witness to and champion of the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Through these different memories, I have always considered myself to be a passionate and intense person, which is constantly reflected in most of the things I do. I left Colombia for about 15 years since then I lived in Mexico City for 8 years and then came to San Diego, where I have lived for the past 7 years. However, I never felt like I was moving away, instead, I actually felt I was more committed to my home country and my Colombian fellows. Although I am aware that I cannot completely change my country’s reality, I feel that it is my responsibility to contribute positively to Colombia in everything I do. I love architecture and there are several times when I miss the work I did in Mexico and Colombia. But I constantly apply architecture in Yipao Coffee and I still dream about doing it again. For now, my biggest desire is to show the world our Colombian culture through coffee, which is what I am very passionate and motivates me every day. Therefore, the mix between creativity, architecture, my culture, jeeps, my Father’s hard and honest work and the love for my home country, have a great influence on our brand, Yipao Coffee, founded two years ago. I have always loved coffee, even then before I knew it.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Our story and origin set Yipao apart from others because we are the first only coffee roaster in San Diego dedicated exclusively to promoting Colombian specialty coffee. Additionally, we are the first Colombian coffee business in San Diego founded by Colombians. We pride ourselves in our knowledge of our country, the origin of our coffee, the quality. We are very proud to showcase in our Yipao Coffee brand the joy, kindness, and the color that best represents our country. I’m very proud of all the work done so far. I looked back now and I can remember the fear of not having enough capital for a large investment, but luckily we have been able to manage our business growth step by step. I am also very proud of how little by little we have earned a place in the heart of our University Heights community. We recently launched our latest addition to our Yipao merch, University Heights T-shirts available in all sizes including kids and we’re very excited to see the great responses from our loyal customers aka #YipaoLovers! We’ve been able to grow and build our Yipao Coffee brand through our hardworking team. We are glad and honored to have a high-qualified team of baristas always commited to give the best customer experience. Yipao coffee aims to bring the best of both worlds, where California meets Colombian specialty coffee. I’m proud to be where I am because although it has been a path with many obstacles, we have been able to manage them and learn from every lesson. I am proud to represent our country in the best way with dignity. I am proud because I know that my father is proud to see what we’ve accomplished so far. It wasn’t easy at first, but I was able to overcome it because we have been persistent and we are driven by our passion and love for coffee. The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is to value and recognize the great effort made by any entrepreneur, in any field. Being a business owner is not easy, in addition to a lot of hard work, it requires patience, persistence, strength and a lot of humility. After all these 2 years, we want the world to know about us and Yipao Coffee and how proud we are of our origins. We are fully committed to bringing the best Colombian experience with our specialty coffee, grown and processed by our coffee farmers in Colombia, and roasted by our Yipao Team with love and commitment here in San Diego.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a big supporter of local businesses, I’d like to shoutout some of my favorite businesses in the restaurant industry such as Lola 55 for their delicious gourmet quesadillas, personally hands down one of the best ones I have ever tried. I definitely recommend the Oxaquena quesadilla. Another favorite Mexican restaurant located in Imperial Beach is Baja Oyster Bar offering delicious Baja-style seafood dishes. Additionally, shoutout to our brand partners, Kairoa Brewing Company, a New Zealand inspired brewery where we share our Yipao’s Coffee bar located in the heart of University Heights. Our team is proud to closely work with Kairoa’s co-founder and head brewer, Joe Peach, who has brewed locally going on for over ten years! We love the view from Kairoa’s upstairs bar area and an outdoor patio facing the University Heights sign and amazing city landscape. Kairoa offers delicious food and tasteful craft beers, we recently had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with Kairoa in their Sauzalito Capuccino Stout launch, made with Yipao’s Sauzalito coffee. Another favorite San Diego business and Yipao’s vendor is SPLIT Bakehouse, bringing the best vegan and traditional pastries. You can find the best vegan chocolate croissants at Yipao Coffee Bar and our customers can attest too when we are sold out! Last but not least, shoutout to FEMX Quarter, a modern co-working space, creative studio, and event venue, where we had the pleasure of collaborating as vendors.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to shoutout my father, Marcos Bahamon because of him and his example as an entrepreneur I have the desire to work in my own business. The entrepreneurial spirit I have today is inherited from my father, thanks to his honesty and responsibility I have been able to achieve some of my life’s greatest accomplishments. I would like to also shoutout Yipao Coffe’s co-founder, Jairo, my partner and an important team player in this project! He believed in Yipao Coffee since the beginning and has dedicated long hours of administrative and logistical efforts. Thanks to his amazing work and commitment, we have been able to maintain Yipao Coffee despite the difficulties and challenges, such as the different transitions we faced amidst the pandemic. Last but not least, I’d like to shoutout our Yipao team of baristas and most importantly a special thanks to our Colombian coffee farmers, who play a great role in our purpose of doing what we do today. We have immense respect and admiration for our farmers, without them we would not be telling our Yipao Coffee story today.
Photo Credits to Israel Palacio via https://unsplash.com/@othentikisra