When Adriana and her husband moved to Lakeland, she knew she wanted to start her own business. After all, she has a masters degree in marketing, has worked for both small business and large corporations, including several years in the coffee/food industry so opening her own business was just the next natural step.
After a couple months, she knew Lakeland was a good fit: “We liked how business-orientated it was. There are so many businesses, both local businesses but also large shops and large corporations. It was a good mix,” says Adriana.”
At first, she thought she would open a traditional cafe, but after months at the drawing board, she couldn’t find a location that suited her. Picking one location felt like she would miss out on so many potential customers.
That’s when a friend suggested she go mobile, and she realized a food truck was perfect. Of course, it meant new challenges: designing the truck, planning the route, learning the regulations, and finding people willing to let her stop at their property. But Adriana was up to the task, and with the help of consultants from SCORE and the SBDC, on March 22, 2013, Drica’s Favorites officially hit the road.
So what is Drica’s Favorites? A better question is “What are Drica’s Favorites?” because everything Adriana serves is something she loves. The model is simple: Freshly roasted coffee and yummy treats that perfectly complement each other.
Adriana’s passion for what she does is shown on her face and her beautiful smile is infectious to all her patrons that see her throughout the day. “It’s amazing what coffee does,” Adriana exclaims. “Artists write books drinking coffee, lifetime friendships are celebrated and business deals are made over a cup of coffee. For centuries, coffee has shown to be inspiring. A cup of good coffee and something very delicious makes wonders.”
She says that growing up in Brazil, coffee and hospitality went hand-in-hand. “I clearly remember when I was little when someone came to visit, it was a given, the first thing we would offer is a cup of coffee and a pastry.”
Not surprisingly, those were her first words to me when I stepped aboard. There is a reason she has regular customers – people who not only see her whenever she’s in their area but who seek her out at her other stops and who introduce friends that will eventually become regulars themselves. If there’s one thing Adriana loves more than coffee, it’s people.
Adriana takes great care in choosing her coffee. After two full days at a Coffee Fest, a trade show in New York City, she finally found a roaster that met her expectations. She orders from a small-roaster, whom as she, takes a lot of pride in what they do: They build relationships with small farmers, buying “Direct Trade” coffee, which means, they travel to the farms, buying directly from them, allowing the farmers to receive a better price for their coffee. Drica’s coffee is roasted the day she orders, in small batches and each coffee is roasted according to the beans profile and country of origin. This means the coffee is always at its best peak. Of course, she samples everything before she starts selling it. Most of the time, she prefers roasts that are bold but not overpowering.
As a purist she wants to keep the coffee simple, not adding lots of syrups, milk and sugar to “take the flavor of the coffee away,” but she understands everyone likes their cup of coffee different. Her cappuccino is a prime example. It has the velvety, light foam creamy milk, of course, but it doesn’t need anything else. Drica’s espresso roast is the “Flying Monkey,” her roaster’s signature blend. It is a medium/dark roast coffee with a deep cocoa aroma with a well rounded and balanced body, leaving you a rich and sweet taste. She uses an Italian espresso machine and each shot of espresso is manually tamped and timed, which makes the espresso a rich, creamy and dense coffee with a chocolaty and caramel flavor that keeps you coming back for the next sip. And the next. Even a simple black coffee is a wonderful experience, but for those who do like milk and sugar, her most popular drinks have been an iced mocha for the hot summer days, a simple latte or the café con leche for the cooler mornings.
Drica’s offers a different kind of brewed coffee every week or every two weeks, depending on her customers demand. “If a coffee is very popular like Gizmo or Sumatra, I will offer it for an extra week” and she makes a point to remind us that it has been roasted less than a week from the day she brews. She brews a fresh batch at every stop and it only last 30min. “After that the coffee loses its fresh tastes”. She is constantly educating her customers about coffee.
It is a pleasure to watch her work. She knows everyone by first name and their orders. People come out of their way for Brazilian gluten free cheese bread and an iced coffee or a guava cookie and cappuccino. The gluten-free yuca cake is new, but people are already raving. The alfajores look like macaroons, but the buttery cookies, held together by creamy dulce de leche, are light and flaky. They, like all of Adriana’s treats, are her grandmother’s recipe and were chosen because they go well with coffee. Drica’s offers an “every day” of six items and every week she surprises her customers with a special treat!
For non-coffee drinkers, Adriana does serve hot chocolate – made the same way as her mocha but without the espresso – chai lattes and green tea or Earl Gray. She may add apple cider as it gets colder, and she plans to introduce an amazing chocolate cake. But the coffee won’t be changing much.
After all, coffee is hospitality, coffee brings people together, and coffee has made Drica’s Favorites a Lakeland favorite as well.