Denver’s first bilingual Guatemalan café serves coffee with a side of heritage

Denver’s first bilingual Guatemalan café serves coffee with a side of heritage

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DENVER — In northwest Denver, you can order a cup of coffee served up alongside culture. At Convivio Café, two women — one from Guatemala, the other a Colorado native — share a taste of Guatemalan heritage and hospitality.

“Convivio is a gathering where you get together and you share around the table. You share time, you share food, you share energy with your friends, neighbors, family and where everybody’s welcome,” said Vivi Lemus, who runs the cafe with her long-time friend Kristin Lacy.

They opened two years ago as Denver’s first woman-owned, bilingual Guatemalan coffee shop.

“We both come from different cultures,” Lemus said.

But Lemus and Lacy share values around bringing community together, respecting farmers and honoring tradition. Eight years ago, they started dreaming up Convivio.

“We were looking at how our community has very few touch points where both cultures, like Guatemalan or immigrant community, and then people that have roots here in the United States in different places can come and merge,” Lemus said.

Convivio Cafe storefront

Ethan Carlson

Convivio Café serves coffee, tea and food in northwest Denver

To merge the cultures, Lemus and Lacy serve coffee from Guatemala and farm-fresh produce from nearby.

“We wanted to honor where does the coffee come from. Who are the hands that touched it and cared for it for years before it got to our cup? But also, we want to do that with food. And part of our roots are in Colorado, and we have so many amazing veggies and fruits,” Lacy said.

Unlike most coffee shops serving beans roasted in the United States, Convivio serves coffee roasted by farmers in Guatemala.

“That keeps more of the supply chain, more of the profits, more of the value in the country of origin for coffee,” Lacy said. “We just have really direct relationships with our producers. They do all the work, they have the craft and the art of creating this wonderful coffee. So, we just get the pleasure of sharing that with our community here in Denver.”

Those coffee producers are mostly smallholder farmers, and Lacy said “most of the coffee in the world, especially in Guatemala, is actually women-grown. They just don’t get their name on it a lot of times.”

But at Convivio, farmers get that recognition. As do the Guatemalan artisans who weave tunics known as huipiles, which Lemus proudly wears and showcases around the cafe.

Convivio Cafe textiles

Ethan Carlson

A huipil and other Guatemalan textiles adorn the walls of Convivio Café.

“It’s a beautiful way to represent our Mayan culture. And the ones that we have around the shop are even more meaningful because they have been heirlooms passed on from friends of ours in Guatemala,” Lemus said.

On September 15, the start to National Hispanic Heritage Month and Guatemala’s Independence Day, Convivio Café is celebrating what makes Guatemalan culture unique from the rest of the region.

“All of us have our own different identities,” Lemus said. “Think about the food from Tennessee versus the food from Pennsylvania, and the slang that you use. Even though you speak English, and you know, we all speak Spanish, we’re very different in our cultural identities.”

Although Guatemala is a small country, Lemus said “it has a huge diversity in different cultures and languages rooted in the Mayan civilization.”

To honor that diversity, Convivio serves traditional Guatemalan dishes like tostadas, frijoles and crispy champurrada cookies for dipping into the cafe del dia. They also serve delicacies from across Latin America, including Argentinian alfajores and scones infused with the flavors of Mexican ponche.

With so many diverse offerings, Convivio aims to attract a diverse community.

“No matter where you come from, or where your roots are, you are invited to our convivio,” Lemus said.

Convivio cafe cookies

Ethan Carlson

Convivio Café sells traditional Guatemalan delicacies and snacks from across Latin America.

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