A couple’s pandemic passion project has grown into a business.
Tasa Coffee Roasters opened Sept. 2 at 4136 W. North Ave. Neighbors can order food made by Jackie Marquez, including slow-roasted Cuban sandwiches and handmade empanadas. There’s also coffee with beans roasted in-house by her husband, Pierre Marquez, including the shop’s signature coconut-lavender iced latte topped with foam.
The sleek café with “latte color” walls had been a T-Mobile store that sat empty for over six years, Pierre Marquez said. The couple was able to resurrect it over the past two years thanks in part to $230,000 from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.
Pierre and Jackie Marquez were raised in Chicago by Mexican immigrants and grew up sitting around tables drinking coffee and making memories with family, they said. The cafe’s name, Tasa, is derived from “cup” in Spanish, and the shop is now one of the only local café and roasters in West Humboldt Park.
The couple hopes Tasa will give Latino communities on the West Side a spot for quality coffee, an investment more often seen in predominantly white and gentrified North Side neighborhoods.
“This neighborhood deserves its own nice coffee shop too,” Jackie Marquez said. “I’ve been dreaming about opening something like this since I was 13, sitting there watching the Food Network channel, thinking one day that’s gonna be me sharing my passion for food and coffee with my community.”
The cafe’s benches and tables were custom-made by Latino woodworkers, the architecture and design done by all-woman teams, and the shop plans to hire a Latina-led staff, Jackie Marquez said.
Jackie Marquez manages the kitchen, her sister, Jasmin Ortiz, makes drinks up front and Pierre Marquez “walks the fresh coffee to her from the back,” where he has a viewable room dedicated to professional roasting equipment, they said.
The business started when Pierre Marquez bought a $200 at-homer roaster during lockdown, passing time by “making coffee, sipping it and taking notes,” he said.
While Pierre Marquez studied up and his creations “went from burnt to a lot better,” Jackie Marquez was launching an at-home kitchen and catering business, she said.
Marquez has a background as a chef and had a kitchen job lined up in the Fulton Market District before the pandemic shut it down, she said. What started as an Instagram page for her home cooking turned into opportunities to do deliveries and small catering during the pandemic, and she’d bring packages of Pierre Marquez’s coffee to serve with meals.
“Everything we did to get here was totally organic,” Jackie Marquez said. “And everybody loved the coffee.”
Pierre smiled and took his wife’s hand.
“I knew a store would would work because her food is delicious, and coffee is just addictive,” Pierre Marquez said. “We got here because we made it happen as a team.”
Tasa has a pickup window for grab-and-go coffee, a delivery service and small tables where customers will have access to free wifi. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
There’s also a “community table,” with extra seats for people to dine together and do coffee tastings.
“We hope people will sit there together and drink coffee,” Jackie Marquez said. “Like what brought us closer with our families growing up.”