Bakersfield is a coffee town but not necessarily a basic one. That's why we're able to sustain so many coffee shops offering a variety of beverages. Into this local brew comes Umaga Coffee, which has literally been popping up downtown since May.
Husband and wife Jeremy and Jezreel Cruz are behind the business, which started as a way to bring high-quality coffee from the Philippines to Bakersfield. Both originally from the Philippines, the pair met in Bakersfield while working as nurses.
Jeremy Cruz said they've always wanted to own a business, with his wife's dream to open a cafe.
"I wanted a cafe to share Filipino flavors," Jezreel added. "This is our ideas together."
They started by selling coffee online early this year. After connecting with Richard-Abraham Rugnao, founder of the Idea Hive on 19th Street, the Cruzes started offering pop-ups for Umaga Coffee, first just coffee tastings, then adding pastries created by Jezreel using traditional Filipino ingredients in creative ways.
The baked goods, including brownies, doughnuts and more, incorporate traditional Filipino ingredients such as ube (purple yam), calamansi (Philippine lime), guava and mangga (Philippine mango) with more Americanized elements like caramel and chocolate.
"Pandesal is the most popular, the best seller," Jezreel said. "It’s Filipino bread and we add different flavors."
That blending of flavors is key for the baker, who said it helps their food stand out.
"I’m more into the fusion," she said. "There are several Filipino restaurants in Bakersfield that are doing traditional foods. I like the fusion, it's more appealing not only to Filipino but other cultures."
Eventually the couple wants to open their own shop and are in negotiations for a location that could open within the next six months.
For now, the pop-ups will continue with the next coming Saturday. This one will be a bigger affair than usual as Umaga partners with local Filipino-American businesses, brands, artists and creators. Branded the Filipino American History Month Collaboration, the event will be held in the alley space next to the Idea Hive to better allow for social distancing.
Umaga will have its Philippine coffee as well as Filipino-flavored doughnuts (including keto options), Milo brownies, pandesal, ube milk, ube lengua de gato (cookies shaped like a "cat's tongue"), ube cookie butter, ube jam, ube macaroons and ube pancake mix.
Additional food vendors include Manila Express Bakersfield, offering halo-halo, buko pandan, lychee lemonade, pancit, lumpia and T-shirts; Sweet Fix By JCJ, with assorted flavor macarons, ube crinkles, coco puffs and coco-pineapple cupcakes; and Baker Brown Loves You, serving vegan lumpia and vegan sisig, which is traditionally made with pork.
Other participants include dentist Noel T. Dorotheo, Joseph Cruz, author of "Somniphobia II: An Anthology"; Salamat Goods, with T-shirts and masks; Manila Oriental, with greeting ccards, “Mini-Kapwa” PPE Kits, banana ketchup eco-tote bags; JZL.LTTRSandCRFTS, which sells handcrafted home decor and signs; Paint Date With Laura Lee, with original paintings and prints and an art activity to take; real estate firm MV & Associates; health and beauty vendor Lifestyle with Joy Inc.; and Arlene Moreno Ilarde, selling face masks, Belo soap and men’s bags.
The Filipino American History Month Collaboration will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday outside the Idea Hive, 1910 19th St.