In my last post I talked about the difference buying your coffee locally makes. This time I want to share two stories as personal examples. The first is my story about making the switch from big-chain coffee to a local cafe called Cafe Bella. The second is a guest post by Danielle Pajak.

Going local for coffee at Cafe Bella Coffee

At some point in my coffee-drinking journey I found myself unimpressed by the national chain cafes that I would always frequent. It had the comfort of consistency and the convenience of locations, but there was just something missing. The experience was very rushed and the people in line seemed to be there for their fix more than the atmosphere and people. Sure, there were couches and tables to kick back and relax on and mood-setting music, but the atmosphere didn’t really invite me to stay for a while.

So I set off on my journey to find a local coffee shop instead. I searched in the Albuquerque Alibi and found Cafe Bella Coffee in Rio Rancho, NM.

CafeBellaFrontFor several weeks I made a very simple change. It didn’t require dramatic overhaul, simply changing where I bought my coffee. My coffee drinking was going local.

CafeBellaFirstViewThe first thing I noticed when I walked into Cafe Bella was the unique decor of local artist works, community bulletins, and even cool classic bicycles hanging on the walls. The couches and booths to relax on and socialize were the central part of the cafe, and I could hear the chatter of locals enjoying food and coffee.

CafeBellaBarThe barista greeted me like an old friend and was excited to tell me about their lunch and coffee specials. This wasn’t just continental food shipped in on a truck. There were breakfast danishes and pastries made in Santa Fe. Their tea selection was from a local tea shop – New Mexico Tea Company. Best of all, their menu had REAL food prepared fresh when ordered.

CafeBellaDisplayI decided to go with the panini of the day and an iced coffee and took a seat with a view of the cafe. Cafe Bella didn’t feel at all like the national chain I would previously frequent. Instead it was warm, friendly, and I wanted to kick back and stay for a while. The baristas behind the counter seemed passionate about their creations and were very genuine.

CafeBellaChandelierMy food came out, and I was amazed. The panini was carefully made with fresh flavorful ingredients and hot-pressed on the grill! I immediately fell in love as I took a bite, and knew that I would have to share this discovery with my friends and family. The coffee was fantastic and much more smooth and flavorful than I was used to.

CafeBellaPaniniThat was only the first time I visited this local coffee shop, but I have returned almost weekly ever since. My initial plan of trying to go local became preferring to go local. The difference was very apparent, and I only wish more people in Rio Rancho knew about this fantastic cafe!

Talking to the owner, Michael Gonzales, I can tell that he is passionate about Cafe Bella’s food and coffee and serving the Rio Rancho community. He explains to me that the coffee tastes so much better because it is a lighter roast and is locally roasted. He was happy to share with me his knowledge about the importance of starting with the best quality coffee beans.

CafeBellaRoastingGuideI’ve tasted the big-name coffees and the coffee at Cafe Bella. Cafe Bella’s coffee is much more smooth and flavorful without the charred-bitter flavor of the large chains. My stomach didn’t churn in regret, and my breath didn’t have that bitter aftertaste.

What makes Cafe Bella great is their involvement in the community. They have a community bulletin section for locals to leave their business cards and fliers. Their artwork promotes local artists and photographers. They also have weekly events such as their Open Mic nights and poetry slams, as well as a weekend Car Show event.

CafeBellaEventsI truly believe that local businesses have so much to offer, and have seen this reflected at Cafe Bella Coffee. I don’t think I can ever go back to my previous coffee chain, and as Cafe Bella’s t-shirts say: “Life is too short to drink bad coffee.”

CafeBellaCoffeeTableCheck out Cafe Bella online at
And if you’re in the Rio Rancho, NM area visit their two locations at:

2115 Golf Course Rd. SE #102 Rio Rancho, NM 87124
9121 Eagle Ranch Rd NW Albuquerque, NM. 87120

Danielle’s Local Coffee Shop – Cup O’Karma

CupOKarmaDanielle is a talented freelance artist, and her work is incredible! In fact, she is the person that designed our Rusted Compass website logo. Here is her story about a local coffee shop that she frequents in the Mesa, AZ area.

“As part-time employee at my local community college, and a full time freelance artist, I am a very busy person, and like all busy people, you always need to have your caffeine of choice, mine being tea. I am obsessed with tea and drink it routinely!

In the not-to-exciting city of Mesa, Arizona it can be rather difficult to find some good places that offer good quality and a variety of teas. Every once in awhile, though, you’ll come on a little place tucked away in some unsuspecting corner of the city, and Cup O’Karma is such a place.

Recommended to me by a family member, I decided to check them out one day before I went to work. (Conveniently, Cup O’Karma is located right across from where I work!) Low and behold, I discovered that they were selling Harney and Sons tea! Harney and Sons being an excellent and prestigious brand of tea based in New York (only the best!). I was very excited, to say the least, and ordered a cup!

Apart from the tea, though, I was instantly drawn in by the pleasant and comfortable atmosphere. Locally owned and nonprofit, the employees were laid back, welcoming, and very friendly. I am a shy person by nature, but I found myself striking easy conversations with the baristas, much to my surprises, as they seemed genuinely interested in me, and didn’t see me as just another customer.

This open and personal service is what makes this place really enjoyable to visit. They also even have some comfy couches for you to lounge on as you study or enjoy your drink! I find myself going there at least once a week now, if not more, and I especially love to bring my sketching materials and get a little art done while I am there! It is a very conducive atmosphere, and my tea is always excellent (of course).

Cup O’Karma certainly beats Starbucks in every area, and I love that I am supporting a local business. Afterall, it is only the best of the best places that serves Harney and Sons!”

Their website:

Their Facebook:

Be sure to check out Danielle’s artwork on her Illustrations Blog and her SquareUp Store.

I hope you found these stories informative, and that you’ll try out a local coffee shop in your area. If you do, share the results!