Yesterday, Roaming Hunger joined Luciano, truck owner and barista, on board in Hollywood. Brasil Kiss is a fairly new Los Angeles-based coffee truck, opening its windows in Spring 2012. Though they’ve only been in business for a few months, they’ve made a big impact on the L.A. street food scene. During the interview, we discussed how Luciano has created a hybrid between Brazillian and Californian culture, what makes his competition different from the other trucks, and what it means to “KISS.” Check it out and fuel up with Brasil Kiss next time you need a caffeine boost.
Roaming Hunger: What inspired you to start a food truck?
Luciano: I’ve been a bartender for 11 years and it was killing me and my body. I had a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, and I made a lot of money, but going to bed every night at 3 o’clock at least…after a while it really affects your life. It affects the people you interact with, your health, everything really. So I tried to come up with something, you know, if I love to make drinks, if I love talking to people, how can I turn this into a day job? So why not coffee? It started from there and then I came up with the food truck idea, but I don’t want to pretend like I know about food that much. My thing was drinks, you know what I mean? So I made sure that I did something simple and very good quality. So that’s why I came up with the name Kiss. Kiss is not like a kiss, it’s “keep it super simple.”
RH: Why do you spell Brasil with and “s” instead of a “z?”
L: Because Brasil with an “s” is how they spell it in Portuguese. If you’ve been to Brazil, or you’re Brazilian or you’ve dated someone from Brazil you understand that Brazil is more than a country, kind of like the U.S. It’s a brand. People who’ve never been to Brazil wear Brazilian jerseys. For me, it was important to have that brand be authentic. If you know Brazil then you know in Portuguese it’s spelled with an “s,” so automatically you know it’s authentic.
RH: How have you executed that goal for authenticity in your service?
L: Music. Service. Taste. Music is always happy. My service, maybe I’m a little stupid, maybe I don’t know what’s happening on the planet, but I’m a happy person. That reflects with the customer base. People like that and they come back, so that’s a good representation of what Brazil is like. And taste. Brazilians love tasty things. We have a big influence from the Creole culture. However, we are lighter. So if you have a Brasil Kiss that has vanilla and caramel in it, it’s not super duper sweet and I make sure that even the vanilla bean that I get is natural because Brazil represents nature and organic foods. Every time people taste a smoothie they say, “Wow this is so good. It’s not as sweet as I thought.” So we keep the LA market place in mind. It’s a city that sells body image. The image is skinny. People don’t want heavy drinks. We’ll leave that to Starbucks.
RH: How has the competition been with L.A.’s longstanding food trucks?
L: I don’t think I have anybody doing what I’m doing. Of course there are a few, like PerKup and the other ones, but it’s a big massive city and there are just 4 or 5 of us. There is plenty of space for everybody. My biggest competitor is never a truck, it’s the Starbucks across the street. The good thing about being mobile is that you can move. I can come in front of your office, I can come to your party, so it’s very flexible.
RH: What do you think people like about ordering coffee from a truck?
L: The vibe, the music. It feels like you’re in a bar, but you’re ordering a coffee. That’s what I know how to do! I think people like that experience, so they come back. Plus, I sell the best coffee, Intelligentsia. It is really the best coffee out there. And I don’t buy what everybody else buys from Intelligentsia, the house blend. I go a little farther and buy the Black Cat, which is just a little stronger and is the super duper supreme blend of Intelligentsia. It’s Brazilian and Panamanian, but it’s roasted fresh in California, about two miles away from us. I just get enough for the week. I only sell fresh. It’s my bakery. I’m baking coffee.
RH: I know you sell coffee, but there are also some funky foods you have on the truck. Tell me about the Pan de Queijo.
L: Pan de Queijo is a Brazilian cheese puff. All the regular customers who come in the morning have one because they’re super addicting. It’s a Brazilian ritual to have a coffee with a Pan de Queijoin the morning. So it’s a very authentic Brazilian tradition, and people recognize that and they love it. We also have Doces, which is a Brazilian sweet. It’s super small, kind of like candy. I get my pastries from this very authentic Brazilian slash Latin bakery in Venice. They always tell me what’s the freshest and what isn’t. At the end of the day, if I have extras, I’ll give them away. I don’t keep my sweets for more than one day. Sometimes I lose a little bit of money.
RH: But you just eat ‘em!
L: (Pats his stomach) It’s making me fat!
RH: A lot of the L.A. food trucks have a cult following. Are you developing that, or do people usually discover the truck randomly?
L: I’m just starting, so it’s a double-edged sword. Now, I only go to places where they know I’ll be there. I know everybody’s name after two months somewhere. I think the difference between me and the other food trucks is that coffee is a morning ritual. You wake up, you wash your face, brush your teeth, and have coffee. So for me it’s important to be reliable at the same place. It has to be like that in order to create a cult following. In my heart I believe that that’s really the way to go and I have to trust myself.
RH: What is the most popular drink that comes from the truck?
L: One is the Latino Latte, which is really good. I have this guy at Deutsch. I’ll be featuring him on my website as the coolest customer of the month because he has at least two Latino Lattes on ice every morning. Secondly, it’s the Brasil Kiss. All my drinks are double espresso, because I want people be awake and have a good day at work. The Brasil Kiss uses vanilla bean from Sonoma, California. It’s so gourmet, it’s delicious. And Ghirardelli caramel. The Latino Latte is with sweet condensed milk. Because that’s Latino, you know, infidelity. And so both of them have vanilla, but the Kiss has the caramel.
Make sure to check back tomorrow to find out how to make a Brasil Kiss Latte at home!
Interview & Article by Sienna Mintz