Preaching To The Choir

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Lucky Rodrigues owner of Insight coffee in Sacramento

Lucky Rodrigues, the affable coffee guru behind Insight Coffee (now with three cafe locations and a fourth in the works), shares the story of how coffee captured his imagination, why partnering with beer brewers and others gives him a thrill, and where he’ll take Insight from here.—Catherine Warmerdam 

ON HIS COFFEE CONVERSION. “I got into art and music in my teenage years, so coffee and coffeehouses initially were my creative hub. I did a lot of writing and conceptualizing and just figuring out who I was as a human being in coffeehouses. As I got more into the making of coffee later in life, it was something that captured a lot of who I was as a person: working with my hands, the arts, the human interaction and the interpretive components of food science and working in that foodie world. It drew me in.” 

ON THE COFFEE LEARNING CURVE. “The thing that’s kept me going is that it’s a never-ending industry. The further you get, you realize you could spend years and years in any category—being an importer or a barista or a roaster or even an agronomist. You could spend a lifetime learning what there is to know about it. I’ve been in the industry for about 15 years, and I feel like I still don’t know a whole lot yet.” 

ON EMBRACING COFFEE GROWERS. “I was never a businessman, but I was a relationship person. There is something ultimately important to me about the people that you do business with. When I started to build relationships with the farmers, I really wanted to understand who these people were—not just their names, but what kind of lifestyle do they lead? What are their personal challenges? What is their family history? This is kind of why I’m in it. These people, to me they make the world go round.” 

ON THE THRILL OF COLLABORATING. “I love to work with people. It’s been a number of years that I’ve been working with beer brewers, people who do infusions, food pairings. When you get people who are passionate about what they do and pair them with people who are equally passionate, then magic happens every time. There’s something about that energy level that’s intoxicating to me.” 

ON PREACHING THE COFFEE GOSPEL. “Our perspective is to be passionate and allow customers to ask you for more. We want to provide education without forcing it. We want to be highly approachable and welcoming to everybody. If you don’t want to know anything, we still give you a fatty smile and serve you the best damn coffee we can.” 

ON EXPANDING THE BUSINESS. “Our goal is to grow for sure. We’ll grow however big is right as long as we don’t ever compromise our core mission. Oftentimes, quick growth is associated with compromising quality, but my whole approach is that I want to share this with as many people as I can.” 

ON FINDING CONTENTMENT IN COFFEE. “I’m one of those guys who’s a little bit obsessed with the challenge of it all. The fact that we serve thousands of people every week, I stand back in awe of that sometimes.”