Mario Smith-Mena

Roaster/Creative Director

I was born in Costa Rica, a country where coffee is king, in 1990 to an American Lawyer and a Costa Rican Nurse. Too young to consciously take note, my mind had already begun to learn, study, and memorize the beautiful aroma of fresh, amazing, Costa Rican Coffee that surrounded my daily adventures. At the age of 5, I moved to the United States with my Father and began, unbeknownst to me at the time, a rather grueling academic career in Virginia Beach, VA.

In 2012 I graduated from The United States Naval Academy with a B.s. in Ocean Engineering and was sent to my first ship USS WHIDBEY ISLAND (LSD 41) as the Engineering Division Officer out of Little Creek, Virginia. It was during this time, that I was, rudely, reacquainted with coffee. Before every 0200 to 0700 morning watch, I would go down to the wardroom, and pour a cup of coffee. I’ll never forget my first time tasting that coffee. Having been on the pot for….at least 6 or 7 hours, there was no coffee to taste. These burnt remnants of coffee, tasted exactly how you would imagine a rubber tree tasting, with a dash of charred wood, and a sprinkle of sugar (of course). My immediate thought was “Well this does not taste anything like the coffee I had growing up.”

I went on to my second ship, USS CHANCELORSVILLE (CG 62) out of Yokosuka, Japan and found the missions to be interesting, the culture of Japan fascinating, but, of course, the coffee still terrible. It wasn’t until I finished sea duty when I realized that I too, could make coffee taste as good as I remembered it as a kid. I started with a simple French Press, scale, and quickly upgraded to a Burr Grinder. What I thought would be a simply a dip into coffee quickly turned into a hobby, and finally into passion. I was reading anything I could get my hands on about coffee. From brewing, roasting, farming technique, even the chemical components and how they differ among different varieties of coffee. I had become full fledged coffee geek.

In 2018, after having separated from the US Navy, I decided to take this passion for coffee and get to work. In January I moved to San Jose, Costa Rica with my wife, and began work as a Cafe Manager. It was there, under the guidance of a Costa Rica Barista Champion and World Wide Competitor that I was able to hone my skills as a barista, as a manager, but most importantly as a Roaster. I had seen the great level of care, that true Baristas, Roasters, and Farmers put into their coffee and how passion can truly change the taste of coffee first hand.

Now, back in Tokyo, I would like to pour that same passion into my coffee and into my roasts, so that you too, can taste the difference between good coffee and great coffee.