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Building Community and Bridging Cultures with a Cup of Coffee

Drink in the story of how coffee bridges cultures and creates community at Una Taza, an independent coffee shop in Dayton, Kentucky serving up shared humanity.

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“Coffee is that one drink, no matter where in the world, you’re always looking for that space where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and have a conversation.” —David Gaines, Owner of La Terza Coffee Roasters.

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Alejandra Flores, owner of Una Taza in Dayton, Kentucky.

In downtown Dayton, Kentucky, Alejandra Flores opened a coffee shop, a bold move for someone who bootstrapped the first and only coffeehouse in this community. Alejandra, also known as Ale, named it Una Taza fueled by her passion for coffee and the people who cultivate it in her native Honduras. 

Karen LeBlanc, aka The Design Tourist, and Alejandra Flores, owner of Una Taza, share a cup of Honduran sourced coffee in Alejandra’s coffee shop.

Una Taza serves up coffee as a catalyst for building community and bridging cultures. She has created a “third place” for locals in Northern Kentucky while fostering a shared vision of socially conscious coffee cultivation and consumption.

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Una Taza honey wash/processed coffee from Katia Duke’s Honduran coffee farm, San Isidro.

Ale sources Una Taza’s coffee from her native Honduras, working with Katia Duke, a fourth generation coffee farmer and owner of San Isidro coffee plantation in Copan Ruinas. Located in Western Honduras near the border with Guatemala, San Isidro is elevating the bean from a commodity to specialty coffee under Katia’s direction. The agricultural engineer uses best farming practices for sustainable coffee cultivation and pays its workers fair wages throughout the year.

In Alejandra’s coffee shop, Una Taza, a sign on the wall reads One Vision (una vision) “What you are sipping is the culmination of two women’s dreams, one small farm, one local coffee shop—all swirled together in one cup.”

As part of her mission to empower women coffee workers and producers, Katia built a school on her coffee farm with an aftercare program for workers’ families and has plans for a new coffee processing facility equipped with a sample roaster and cellular tablet. Coffee producers can get immediate feedback on the taste and flavor profiles of beans they sample roast at the facility. This real-time knowledge helps coffee producers improve the quality of their beans and provides cupping notes to help market their coffee to roasters, attracting higher premiums.

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La Terza Artisan Coffee Roasterie, Cincinnati, Ohio.

San Isidro uses a honey process to produce specialty coffee, noted for its clean taste and flavor profile. Workers de-pulp the fresh coffee cherries and dry them without washing them in water. As the sticky pulp dries, it turns brown, giving the full-bodied bean a medium acidity, clean taste, and honey-like color and smell. Una Taza has built a passionate base of coffee patrons who visit daily to sip and savor Katia’s Honduran, honey-processed coffee with a social conscience.

Cups of Honduran grown, honey washed/processed coffee served at Una Taza coffee house in Dayton, Kentucky.

In the United States, Ale brews coffee as a catalyst for social change. She also serves as a defacto cultural ambassador in Dayton. “People come daily to Una Taza to have their cup of joe, talk to each other, get to know each other, and build community,” says Ben Baker, Mayor of Dayton. “Ale hosts salsa nights, Spanish lessons, and many other events to bring her culture to our community.”

Karen LeBlanc, aka The Design Tourist, chats with Dayton Kentucky Mayor Ben Baker at Una Taza.

Una Taza’s loyal customer base of patrons is passionate about the Honduran honey wash coffee Ale serves and sells. The clean coffee beans also caught the attention and admiration of World Champion Master Roaster Robert Gatesi, head coffee roaster at La Terza, an artisan coffee roaster out of Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Robert Gatesi, Master Coffee Roaster at La Terza.

“Robert has competed on the global stage in espresso championships, and we are so honored to have this skill set. He’s very hard to impress. When he roasted Ale’s coffee sample, he was excited about the flavor profile because the beans are so clean, enabling us to extract certain coffee notes.  For coffee to be considered a specialty roast, it must score a grade above 80.  Most specialty roasters we grade, rank between 82 and 85. Anything over a score of 90 is very expensive, about $50 per pound. San Isidro’s coffee is scoring high marks at  85 and 86, so Katia is already at the top of her game,” says David Gaines, primary owner and chief visionary of La Terza.  David authored the book, “Radical Business: The Root of Your Work and How It Can Change the World” and he co-hosts the podcast Third Place.

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Karen LeBlanc, aka The Design Tourist, chats with David Gaines, primary owner and chief visionary of La Terza, at the roaster’s coffee bar.

The roaster’s namesake is an homage to Italy, the birthplace of good coffee. La Terza references the idea of a coffee shop as a  “third place.”  “I got involved with coffee because of the social impact the beverage can have,” says David, who previously worked with nonprofits.

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“A single cup of coffee can represent over 100 hands – producers from multiple countries, importers, roasters, baristas, and you, embracing this cup in the palm of your hand. When you catch up with a dear friend, or are meeting someone for the very first time, a cup of coffee creates a space for this emotional connection. To drink a cup of coffee is to participate in the human collective experience, and THAT is beautiful and sacred.” — La Terza Coffee Roasters.

“Our mission is to supply and empower “third places” with fresh, meticulously roasted beans that are ethically and sustainably sourced.” La Terza has launched a fundraiser to support the new coffee processing facility, donating $10 for each bag of Honduran coffee sold to fund the sample roaster at San Isidro.

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Coffee farm in Honduras

Coffee as a catalyst for social change is a mission La Terza shares with Una Taza and Katia’s coffee plantation. “We know where every bean comes from, and we ensure that the coffee we source is just as ethical as it is tasty,” David says. “Our job as roasters is to honor everyone throughout the whole supply chain of coffee production.”  

San Isidro coffee worker sorting beans by hand while earning a fair wage.
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World Champion Master Roaster Robert Gatesi, head coffee roaster at La Terza.

Mindful consumption is the shared mission of this trio—the Honduran coffee plantation, Cincinnati coffee roaster, and Dayton coffee house. Together, they urge consumers to savor each sip. As I think about the humanity that goes into each cup of coffee, David shares with me a factoid that puts it in perspective—one coffee tree produces one roasted pound per year.  I do the math: If I consume one 12-ounce bag of coffee per week, I’m consuming the beans of 39 trees a year.  

Karen LeBlanc, aka The Design Tourist, savoring a cup of Honduran coffee ethically sourced from San Isidro coffee farm.

“The conversation needs to be how to savor what we consume with mindful consumption,” David says. He points out our power as consumers to buy based on our beliefs and support social causes such as fair trade. “If you care deeply about a greener planet, about the better treatment of people, or closing the gender gap, then buy based on your beliefs. Companies and corporations respond to our buying power, preferences, and priorities.” 

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Employee of La Terza coffee roasters hand packaging coffee beans.

Once a year, Ale organizes trips to her native Honduras to experience the coffee bean at its source.  “I believe it’s important for people to see the origin of coffee so they can appreciate all of the work it takes to make a cup of coffee,” says Ale.“Coffee is grown in countries close to the equator in an area known as “The Coffee Belt. In Honduras, we have the perfect climate and altitude. I have so much respect for the farmers because they have to deal with so many challenges from Mother Nature.”

Alejandra Flores, owner of Una Taza coffee house in Dayton Kentucky with Karen LeBlanc, aka The Design Tourist.

As a passionate coffee lover, when I travel, I seek out authentic coffee shops to connect with local culture. Coffee speaks a common language; it bridges cultures and builds connections. Ale, a legalized immigrant from Honduras, created a third place using the power of a coffee shop to build human connections that open hearts and minds to a larger world. 

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“What Ale has done in Northern Kentucky, and Dayton specifically, is brought Honduran culture to a group of people who would not normally experience that culture.  I think she made a political statement because there are many people in that community who don’t support immigration. Ale did go through a legal process, and she is now a U.S. citizen. Locals saw firsthand the value that she brings to the community,” David says. 

The Art in Public Spaces Intiative in Dayton, Ketuncky helps fund projects such as this mural in downtown Dayton.

Coffee creates common ground for conversation, camaraderie, and cultural understanding. Dayton, Kentucky, is one of the many places in the world celebrating this caffeinated bean in all its possibilities. For me, coffee is comfort in a cup, my creative muse, and a way to connect with others. As a mindful consumer, each cup is a catalyst for social change.

Picture of Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a freelance writer living in Orlando, Florida with many published bylines in magazines, newspapers, and multimedia sites. As a professional lifestyle writer, Karen specializes in art, architecture, design, home interiors and personality profiles. Karen is the writer, producer and host of the streaming series, The Design Tourist ( that brings viewers a global dose of design inspiration with episodes featuring the latest looks and trends from the world’s premiere design events and shows. She also publishes a quarterly magazine on design travel that you can read by clicking the link: Her journalism background includes seven years on-air experience as a TV news reporter and anchor covering a range of issues from education to politics. Her educational credentials include a Master of Arts in Mass Communications from Northeast Louisiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Louisiana State University. Throughout her career, Karen has written and produced dozens of documentaries and videos for educational, commercial, corporate, and governmental clients and appeared in many TV and video productions as a professional host.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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