A proverb declares “to drink is human, to drink coffee is divine.”
Local barista Kaia Hartsfield is distilling divinity on Higgs Beach. From her turquoise Kaia’s Coffee cart, Hartsfield hand-grinds beans she sources from Death Wish Coffee Co. “The blend is higher in caffeine and everything’s fair trade and organic. They do a really thorough quality check to make sure the beans are never burned,” she said.
Coffee and espressos are available hot or iced, with the option to add organic Holy Kakow flavored syrups and oat or soy milk. Quality ingredients and sustainability are of the utmost importance to Hartsfield. “I really care for the human body and for the environment. What you put into your body shows how much you love yourself. For me, clean ingredients, high-quality coffee and environmentally friendly supplies bring me joy that I’m able to give to other people.”
Hartsfield is also a purist in terms of process. Her hand-built cart uses no electricity. Filtered water is boiled on a propane-fueled triple burner. In pursuit of superior taste she uses a pair of glass, pour-over Chemex coffeemakers to brew her coffee. “It makes for really smooth, aromatic coffee. It’s just a different level; it’s freaking awesome.” Espresso is measured, weighed and extracted using serious arm strength and a manual Espresso Robot. For Hartsfield, the practice is both ritual and reward. “There’s the moment when I pour the water slowly and I look down and get to relax and just be mindful. It’s meditation. I want to be at peace and give out love.”
Love is indeed the sacred additive in all of Hartsfield’s offerings, but she’s known to honor other requests. “The other day I asked this guy, do you need anything else? Some sugar? He was like, ‘How about some healing energy?’ I really focused on giving him that. I like doing Reiki and working with energy. He made my morning.”
Harstfield grew up drinking instant coffee in her native Czech Republic. She’s come a long way. Having come to the States as an au pair seven years ago, Hartsfield has traveled extensively, living in Oregon, Maryland and Missouri, where she was initiated into the art of coffee making. She’s been in Key West for a little over two years and credits the island with giving her the support and inspiration to bring her dream to life. “I love it here. I feel like Key West is so special. Weird is normal and it’s really taught me how to chill even more. I feel like anything is possible here.”
The possibility of Kaia’s Coffee Cart began steeping last fall and came to fruition this past March. Hartsfield experimented with a few downtown locations before settling into her current beach spot. “It’s perfect. I get to look at the ocean every morning, and people come here for the sunrise.” Customers often gather as Hartsfield opens her cart and prepares for the day. “People walk on the pier or relax by the ocean. They’re in Key West, so there’s no rush.”
The cup is clearly worth the wait, as Hartsfield has gained a strong following among locals and tourists. Fans can be seen around town in her signature logo tank tops, which Hartsfield designed herself. Folks who wear them get a dollar off their coffee.