Café Integral: A Dose of Nicaraguan Hospitality

Located in the quiet depths of Elizabeth Street and Kenmare Street sits a brand new storefront, Cafe Integral. On Thursday, August 25th, the new opening had a celebration filled with snacks, drinking and music. The small cafe was boasting of warm hugs and sips of fruity cocktails with music rolling in the background.

The mission of the cafe was obvious at their first opening, beside their location within American Two Shot on Grand Street: build a community. But this was a final piece of that puzzle that has been in the works for awhile.

The brainchild of César Martin Vega, a graduate of New York University, the idea of this cafe started in between all nighters and early morning lectures.

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“It was a pretty steep descent,” he started about Cafe Integral. “I was at NYU and I was drinking a lot of bad coffee- bodega coffee, deli coffee.”

But his journey with coffee was a bumpy one.

“I stopped drinking coffee all together and started getting into Japanese tea. I did that for awhile and I wanted to get back into coffee, but I wanted to do it the right way. I started drinking espresso at Everyman and Ninth Street espresso,” said Caesar of his past. “Through this process, I started to realize Nicaragua has great coffee. But there was no representation.”

A Nicaraguan himself, Cesar’s main goal became to represent his home in a positive way through the only source he knew: coffee.

“Here’s the idea. Let’s get 500 pounds of coffee and we’ll sell it. At the end of it, we’ll have 500 people who are thinking about nicareuan coffee in a positive way. To me, it was just a positive vibe thing- we can do good things. So i went to Nicaragua and came back with 3,000 pounds of green coffee.”

What started out as an expedition to source green coffee expanded when an opportunity to open up on Grand Street in American Two Shot, a retail store.

“I just jumped at it and that was really the beginning of it as it is today,” he said of Two Shot.

After opening inside of Two Shot, the longterm goal constantly evolved and expanded, all while remaining on serving people good coffee and creating a community.

“At first, all we wanted to do was sell green coffee to other roasters, that was the mission. Make quality happen, that being the vibe. We still do all of it, but I think when we opened Grand street, we thought our core business was to sell green coffee. And then the mentality changed a little bit,” he said. “It has evolved in the sense that it has transitioned from a company rooted in green coffee to a marquee idea of a vertical company that produces coffee with producers, growers and farmers, work with cafes directly, etc. and finally serves coffee- and we’re very serious about the way we serve coffee.”

Cafe Integral is vertically integrated. They work closely with producers, roast in Brooklyn and then from there goes to wholesale and their stores.

Besides being unique in having coffee from a single origin and being a vertical company, what’s unique about Cafe Integral goes way beyond the actual coffee.

Caesar’s main focus is bringing the hospitality focus to the business. The inside of the new Cafe Integral resembles a home kitchen, and that was completely intentional.

“We want to create a community where you can come and enjoy these very high quality coffee without feeling alienated,” said Elliot Foos. “There are a lot of people in the industry that are snarky, you think detached and apathetic people who think they are better than everyone. We try to go against that.”

With Cafe Integral, a regular coffee drinker can be introduced to speciality coffee without feeling those barriers that are usually apparent.

“The number one impediment is the idea of choice. You are being asked about decisions that you don’t know,” said Caesar. “The hardest thing about speciality coffee is the approachability about it and simultaneously the accessibility of information.”

Cafe Integral gives off a classic, but welcoming and open warm vibe. It’s a forward facing company, from inside and out. The menu offers classic espresso, while also playing on the new matcha trend and creating in-house alternative milks. You can be a dedicated coffee drinker or just trying to expand your horizons. Either way, stop into Cafe Integral for a great shot of espresso, a dose of Nicaraguan hospitality and some great conversation.