[dropcap size=big]E[/dropcap]y foo you a rocker? Do you like coffee? If you answered yes to both, you have to stop by the new coffee pop-up in East L.A., Mystyx Kafe.
If you live in or frequent Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, you know the streets are packed with the nation’s best street food. You can find anything between tamales, pupusas, empanadas, esquites, and the city’s best churros on any given corner on Cesar Chavez or Whittier Boulevards.
But on the corner of Rowan Avenue and Cesar Chavez, Julian “Filth” first popped up to sell coffee with a goth aesthetic, from a wooden lemonade stand decorated with hanging bats, lights, and figurines of Attitude Era WWE wrestling stars like Kane and the Undertaker. After a couple of weeks, he moved some blocks down to Cesar Chavez Avenue, between Gage and Record Streets, in front of a motorcycle shop institution in the area, Mototecnica, which is where he hopes to stay for now.
Though there are a few coffee shops in the surrounding area, Julian works to set himself apart by providing a different vibe to customers. “When I walk around different cities, I feel like all coffee shops are the same,” he says as he brews some coffee under the East Los sun. “They give the same ‘vanilla’ vibe. I wanted to start something different, connected to goth subculture.”
Julian was born and raised in East Los Angeles. He attended Garfield High School, but after getting into a fight his freshman year, he transferred to Roosevelt—the rival campus. It was in high school that Julian developed an interest in black metal and goth subculture. After graduating, he worked in several coffee shops from Tierra Mia to Kreation Cafe, Urth Cafe, and Starbucks. “Working at these coffee shops, I would always get into my zone and listen to music while I made drinks. I was in a black metal band and did a solo project, too.”
[His customers] are the mothers of the old friends he once had, and it feels good to serve them some coffee.
As the pop-up stand owner, Julian wants to connect his interests and provide them to the community. Having the experience of being a musician, he shares that making drinks gives him the same rush and joy that making music once did. For Julian, creating and naming a drink is similar to writing and naming songs. When asked about his specific aesthetic, Julian shares, “I chose the name Mystyx Kafe because I love all things spooky, I wanted the name to be different and obscure, which connects to the names of my drinks, too.”
Though small, the menu is excellent and ranges fromhis straightforward black iced coffee named “Black Magic” to his take on the ubiquitous horchata iced coffee, called “White Magic.” He runs daily specials strawberry matcha lemonades and a secret menu item that is only available if you ask nicely. “It’s all magical; the way it works out! It’s so cool to see my coffee and the dark side colliding.” He clarifies that he isn’t satanic or anything, but he is inspired by bands like Cradle of Filth, London After Midnight, director Tim Burton and horror movies like TheEvil Dead.
Providing coffee to the East L.A. community means more than financial gain to Julian. He also hopes to show other people of color that they can make their dreams and ideas come true. “While I worked at all of the mainstream coffee shops, I was never promoted to cashier, I was never given a raise, but look, I gave myself the promotion.”
Inspiring and giving back to the community is what matters. As he vends throughout the week, he shares that the local señoras who stop by and visit end up recognizing him. They’re the mothers of the old friends he once had, and it feels good to serve them some coffee. In a culture where instant coffee is the norm, it is not an easy task to convert señoras into spending a couple of bucks on higher-quality coffee.
These streets are the routes I’ve always taken to school and through life. I am the last of my friends who still live here. I want to bring something to this community...I was born here, and I want to serve people here. I want to give everyone that one cup of coffee that they need for their day.”
When asked why he chose his location, he shared, “The point is I’m still on Cesar Chavez. These streets are the routes I’ve always taken to school and through life. I am the last of my friends who still live here. I want to bring something to this community...I was born here, and I want to serve people here. I want to give everyone that one cup of coffee that they need for their day.”
Aside from community, Julian shares that his girlfriend, Sol, is his biggest support system. This small goth coffee shop is a two-person show, and without her support, he doesn’t think he’d be able to make it happen. Sol shares “I told him, ‘You’re an artist, you make good drinks, and that counts.’”
By combining goth subculture with his passion, coffee, and making drinks, he’s been able to turn it into something that you don’t see in a café. She shares that watching him do what he loves feels like they both engage in mystic rituals. It’s coffee brewing with spooky spiritual energy. Though it has just been only eight weeks of hustling, Julian shares his biggest challenge has been the demand. He went from ordering one pound of coffee to prepare for the community, and now he has expanded to ordering 50 to 100 pounds that he brews daily. He wants to keep up with the demand but admits it’s gotten a bit difficult with the increasing support. Julian sources his coffee from Mexico, Ethiopia, and Guatemala. He uses mostly light and medium roasts.
“This pop-up exists for the sake of coffee, to show the community that Raza can do it too, and for the love of goth subculture.”
In the future, Julian hopes to expand his menu to include smoothies, refreshers, acai bowls, avocado toast, and more. He currently serves churro cheesecake that he sources from a family friend. Who wouldn’t love the cinnamon intensity between a churro cheesecake and a tasty horchata iced coffee? Though many coffee shops exist on the streets of Los Angeles, its few and far between that you find one that runs on passion, all things spooky, heavy metal, and love for the community.
Julian says, “I’m just a Mexican that lives in the ‘hood in East L.A. In the future when I am able to have my own coffee shop, I want Marilyn Manson to pass me the throne, I want to be the next prince of darkness. The Goth subculture is dying, and we want to bring it back to life. This pop-up exists for the sake of coffee, to show the community that Raza can do it too, and for the love of goth subculture.”
Mystyx Kafe usually is open from 7 AM to 2 PM and then from 5 to 11 PM from Monday to Saturday. However, check their Instagram to confirm first since it is only a two-person operation.
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