In Pursuit of a Dream at Mind Coffee in Berkeley

Mind Coffee in Berkeley, Calif., is a new coffee shop on a mission to rewrite the mental health narrative.

BY EDDIE GOMEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

Cover photo by Greg Rosenke via Unsplash

In a bustling neighborhood near the campus of UC Berkeley, the realization of one young woman’s dream to open a space where specialty coffee meets mental health is fast approaching. Permitting delays with the city of Berkeley made refurbishing the storefront that will house Mind Coffee impossible for nearly a year. Having overcome that obstacle, Viviana Wang is focused on opening once the final construction phase wraps up. Viviana plans to open the café, located at 1816 Euclid Avenue in Berkeley, before 2023. 

The Space

Mind Coffee boasts a mentally stimulating ambiance that includes separate spaces for socializing and focusing. These comfortable options are sure to be a hit with the scores of students and community members who visit the shop searching for great coffee and a break from the frantic pace of modern life.

A rendering of the interior of the shop. One the ceiling are wavy build-outs that come down from the ceiling, which are similar to altitude drawings on maps. The counter space is in the back, with cafe tables and chairs lined up in front of a long bench built into the left side wall. Closer to the front, planters are recessed into the wall and feature tall pointy snake plants.
A rendering of the interior design at Mind Coffee, which was created to be a comfortable space for socializing or working and relaxing alone. Photo by Aaron Trimble.

Another inspiring element of the café, which sits a stone’s throw from UC Berkeley’s north entrance, is an eye-catching ceiling design. It features a series of curved lines that run the entire length of the coffee shop. The wave-like energy that radiates from the ceiling’s unique construction represents the many curves through which the mind has the potential to wander. Even the café’s color scheme supports positive vibes, which distinctly calls into mind its ambitions concerning mental health awareness.   

The Backstory

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed conversations about mental health to the forefront in communities all over the world, and Mind Coffee aims to be at the center of those conversations in the Bay Area. Recent events have brought attention to workers who toil long hours under adverse conditions that make them susceptible to stress and other mental health-related concerns. Mind Coffee plans to address the lack of awareness concerning access to mental health resources and practices that promote a healthy mindset. It has also become apparent that student life has changed, and so have the mental health needs of students. Mind Coffee will start filling those needs by offering great coffee, warm smiles, and a bevy of tools anyone can utilize. 

Viviana stands beneath an arch with her dog Mario, a brown curly-haired Golden Doodle, who is also a service animal. Next to them is Aaron, a manager at Mind Coffee.
Shop owner Viviana poses with Aaron Trimble and her Goldendoodle, Mario. Photo by Eddie P. Gomez.

Before the pandemic, Viviana found herself struggling mentally after the death of her father. Difficult life situations piled up, causing her to spiral into a negative mental space. The experience resulted in Viviana reassessing her life and future ambitions. She embarked on a journey of healing and personal discovery with the help of a therapist. Through this, she realized it was time to open the coffee shop she’d long dreamt of. It had been hard to get help with her mental health challenges, which heavily shaped her approach at Mind Coffee. 

Continuing a Legacy

Stemming from her family’s experience with coffee in Colombia, Viviana has envisioned opening a café since she was little. When her mother was pregnant with Viviana, she suffered from debilitating bouts of nausea. The only thing that soothed her was the smell of fresh grounds at the coffee bar where she worked. Her mom would even visit the coffee bar on her days off to get a daily dose of relief.

Owner Viviana holds a measuring tape up against a wall inside Mind Coffee. She wears white boots, army green pants, and an acid-washed loose denim jacket.
Viviana plans to open Mind Coffee in Berkeley before the end of the year.
Photo by Eddie P. Gomez.

Viviana has stayed busy planning for the shop opening. She traveled to Seattle to train as a barista, created a unique coffee menu after endless amounts of research, established a relationship with a green coffee buyer, and secured an agreement with a roasting collective to use their facility.

I recently spent the afternoon with Viviana and Aaron Trimble, who is part of the management team at Mind Coffee. Mario, a gorgeous Goldendoodle pulling double duty as a service dog and company mascot, also joined us. We toured the future site of the café, walked across the UC Berkeley campus, and settled in for lunch at Noodle Dynasty. There, Viviana candidly explained the circumstances that brought about the formation of Mind Coffee.

The Goal

Pursuing the dream to open Mind Coffee helps Viviana stay positive, despite the challenges that continue to pop up. Aaron also spelled out his hopes for the future and elaborated on the company’s mission statement. “We, in the simplest sense, are a coffee shop with a mission to rewrite the mental health narrative and help provide tools and exercises anyone can use to help strengthen their mental health. We want to spread the word that taking care of our mind is just as important for our mental health as taking care of our body is for physical health,” says Aaron. 

Workers in white safety suits and goggles work on building the Mind Coffee space. The wall studs are exposed, ladders lean against the walls, and assorted buckets and wood pallets are scattered inside.
Despite the challenges of opening a new café, Viviana believes the space can be a respite for students and others. Photo by Aaron Trimble.

Traveling and writing about coffee throughout the last year has introduced me to many café owners who, like Viviana, have stood at a crossroads. They decided to push back against uncertainty and finally take the leap of faith necessary to open a coffee business. Life moves forward through challenges that lead to personal growth. Specialty-coffee shops like Mind Coffee enable communities to thrive, and it is important to support their efforts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eddie P. Gomez (he/him) is a freelance writer based in Modesto, Calif. When he is not substitute teaching kindergarten classes, he wanders from city to city, perfecting the art of the food and coffee adventure.

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