With Café Corazón, Miel Castagna-Herrera brings Latin coffee culture to Kansas City

Photography by Natalea Bonjour

When Café Corazón opened a second location in the Crossroads in February, co-owner Miel Castagna-Herrera could hardly believe she’d pulled it off. After all, the first shop almost didn’t happen. 

“We had a lot of trouble getting a lease,” she says. “No one would rent to us. They’d hear ‘Latin coffee shop’ and not call us back.” At last, she and partner Curtis Herrera found a space located at the corner of Westport and State Line roads and opened it in September 2019—just six months before lockdown. 

The pandemic changed many things, but fortunately, it didn’t curb anyone’s enthusiasm for coffee. Café Corazón, which emphasizes beans sourced from Latin America and offers traditional Argentinean yerba mate tea, has given Kansas City’s caffeine enthusiasts much to buzz about. 

Café Corazón has an extensive coffee menu peppered with Latin ingredients like horchata and atole (corn). Why introduce yerba mate? To me, it was important to bring that in because my dad was Argentinean, and there was a gourd and a bombilla (straw) in my house to drink it from. It was part of our culture, and we want to teach people about it. Yerba mate is about friends: You sit in a circle, take the gourd, fill it and pass it down. Covid complicated that, and now most people get their own, but it’s a fun ritual and it’s so good for you. It’s full of antioxidants and vitamins and almost as much caffeine as coffee, and it’s an anti-inflammatory. It’s a wormhole, for sure, but people love it, and soon we’ll be offering yerba mate workshops. 

Your Crossroads location has a breakfast and lunch menu. What’s on it? We pull from our culture and from the Latinx experience. There are twenty-two countries in the world that speak Spanish, and there is not one way to be Latin. We don’t all share the same customs or food, so we try to draw from the ones we know the best. Curtis’ parents are Mescalero Apache from New Mexico and from Guadalajara. I was born in Taos to an immigrant father who came here from Buenos Aires. So we share an interesting mix. We have Argentinean choripán, which is chorizo and pan [bread], so we do sausage with chimichurri, garlic aioli and pickled onions. There’s local wild rice and bison, a recipe developed by a friend who works at the Kansas City Indian Center. And the smothered breakfast burrito is exactly what you’d get in Taos. We use hatch chiles, beans, corn and squash—all very New Mexican.  

Castagna-Herrera’s Favorite Spots in KC

Latte Love “I love the way Hi Hat Coffee mixes flavors together. They have amazing lattes with almond and great flavor combinations, and I appreciate that thoughtfulness.”

Pollo or Pasta? “For dinner, I love El Pollo Rey in KCK—the pollo asada is divine. But I also love Bella Napoli. I can’t help it: Argentina has Italian roots, and we like pasta.”

Midnight SnackPan Caliente KC makes our baked goods and empanadas, and I would like nothing better than to take home a box of her empanadas and dulce de leche treats.”

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