But coffee shops can also serve another purpose as community centers, a place to meet friends and relax. A place to come together and share quality time, and escape from that same bustle of everyday life.
And a Latin American coffee shop in the North Hills exudes that energy all the way down to its name, Tú y Yo Café, which means “you and I” in Spanish.
“We wanted to open a place for everyone. ‘You and I,’ so we can sit down and share,” says cafe owner Grace Betancourt-Jones. “It's about having a cup of coffee and sitting down and sharing.”
Betancourt-Jones opened Tú y Yo in 2019 on Harts Run Road in a small Indiana Township strip mall. Originally from Venezuela, she has lived in the Pittsburgh region for over 40 years, and says starting a coffee shop was inspired by how her and her daughter have enjoyed cafes when visiting Latin America.
“When we go to a coffee shop in Latin America, it is really to relax and to spend time together,” she says. “It is a designated place to relax and be with family and friends.”
Betancourt-Jones says that Tú y Yo showcases the flavors of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Cuba, and plans to keep expanding the flavors of other Latin American countries. The cafe offers arepas, empanadas, Cubanos, and Latin American-style coffee, as well as typical coffee shop staples like lattes, drip coffees, and Americanos. Tú y Yo sources coffee from Pittsburgh’s La Prima, as well as some Guatemalan and Colombia offerings.
The cortadito is a Latin American specialty that Betancourt-Jones says is Spanish inspired. It's one part espresso and one part steamed milk, and sweetened well with sugar. There is also Toddy, a Venezualan hot chocolate drink for non-coffee drinkers.
As for snacks, Betancourt-Jones says the Arepa Sifrina is the most popular, and her family’s favorite. It’s a cornmeal baked bun filled with shredded chicken, gouda cheese, spices, and avocado. There are also empanadas, which Betancourt-Jones says are a bit different than the traditional kind, featuring dough made with flour instead of cornmeal. But the filling is a classic South American combo of salty and sweet with ground beef, capers, olives, and raisins.
There are also homemade sweets, with a focus on another Latin American staple: guava. Sweet pastries are filled with guava paste and mild cheese. A subtle sweet-salty combo.
“We eat guava, we eat it for everything,” says Betancourt-Jones. “We eat it with salty cheese, we drink it, we eat by the tablespoon. Our fruit, for us, is very important.”
Tú y Yo also sells some specialty Latin American products with a focus on fair trade, women-owned businesses. Betancourt-Jones says the cafe is about bringing cultures and people together, so that they can share experiences.
“Besides the fact that we are working to continue showcasing other countries from South America, it is a coffee shop for you and I to meet,” says Betancourt-Jones. “That is our slogan, we believe that, for you and I to share.”
Betancourt-Jones adds, “Pittsburgh is my home, I have been here 40 years. I get the opportunity to share about my native country. Pittsburgh is really getting there and is opening up the doors to different countries and cultures. It takes all of us to learn about everyone's different countries, and where they come from.”