Café Los Sueños is a Washington, DC-based specialty coffee roastery with a social mission. Our inspiration comes from the life story of co-founder and roaster, Carlos Payes, who grew up working in the coffee fields near Santa Ana, El Salvador. We are dedicated to providing our customers with a unique connection to the source, and to sharing our success with the hard-working coffee communities who bring us our daily cup.
Born in the mountains of El Salvador, roaster Carlos Payes grew up working in the coffee fields. In November, when the coffee had ripened into bright red cherries, he joined hundreds of other harvesters from his area to pick the crop by hand. Once they have a full sack, harvesters hoist the 200-pound bags onto their shoulders and start hiking to the road where trucks await the crop. For a full day’s work, Carlos earned between $5-$6 for his labor.
Even as a child, Carlos’s primary obligation was to help his family survive. His family lived in a remote mountainous area, without access to electricity, running water or transportation. His family struggled to subsist on the crops they grew by hand, on 55 acres of land that they rented about an hour’s walk from home. The combination of the labor-intensive practices, the high cost of fertilizer and the devastating civil war of the 1980 and 90s presented grave economic challenges for his family. They often did not have enough food to eat; Carlos and his siblings went barefoot.
When he was in the second grade, Carlos left school to help grow food for the family. He didn’t return until he was 13 years old. After finishing elementary school, his family made the courageous choice to send him to high school, which was hours away by pick up truck. To earn the money for tuition, his father worked for other families for $3 a day and gave Carlos $2 a day for transportation, food and materials. Thanks to his family’s sacrifice, Carlos was the first member of his family to attend, and to graduate from, high school.
Since immigrating to the United States, Carlos has worked hard to overcome poverty, to help his family and to live his own American dream. He sent his nephew to high school. He built a house for his sister. He helped his brother start a snack stand. He also sent his youngest sister to school and gave her the money to open her own business.
At the same time, he has also invested in his own future. For as long as he can remember, Carlos always dreamed of having an ownership stake in the coffee industry. In 2009 he took the first steps toward that
dream, by purchasing a coffee farm in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador. He has also continued his education, first by learning English, earning his GED and then completing the Bridge to College Program at the Academy of Hope. Today, Carlos is pursuing a degree in Business Administration at the University of the District of Columbia Community College.
With the goal of becoming a specialty coffee roaster, Carlos then started pursuing his professional development with the same diligence as he used to advance his other dreams. He received his formal roasting training and certification through the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, and has also taken coffee classes courses at Counter Culture’s Education Center in DC.
In May 2014, Café Los Sueños formally launched at the Glover Park Farmer’s Market in Northwest Washington, DC. Today, you can also catch up with us at our weekend pop up shop at Showtime Lounge on Rhode Island Avenue in Bloomingdale. If you live in the area, or just want to say hello, come on by for some free samples of our fresh roasted coffee.