Mocha Latte

Guest Post: Diesel and Bloc 11 Cafe Owner, Jennifer Park, On Personal and Professional Change

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  A few months ago, I received an email that made me smile from ear to ear.

I was invited to do some work with the managers of Diesel and Bloc 11 cafe in Somerville, MA. I've been a customer there for five years, ever since moving to Somerville in 2009, and have hosted many client sessions in the booths and tables of these fine establishments.

Pictures of their mochas and egg & cheese sandwiches probably make up 90% of my instagram photos.

Below is a post that Jennifer Park, one of the owners of Diesel and Bloc, posted on the Diesel Cafe blog. It was published while I was traveling during the July 4th holiday weekend and took me by surprise, and I admit I may have shed a tear or two.

Working with this crew has been effortless and deeply gratifying for me since we first began. I am deeply grateful for the chance to support them and I think you will find Jen's post about her personal and professional transformation to be profoundly inspiring.


This week’s blog post is brought to you by one of our amazing co-owners, Jen Park. Jen spends her days setting up her mobile office at our three locations, is the creative force behind our locally driven menus, focusing on customer service & employee growth, and 15 years later remains one of our best in-house baristas.

What makes Diesel unique in the most basic way is the people who work behind the counters to make your food and coffee. And it is hard to describe in any succinct way what makes working at Diesel a special experience. Yesterday, I was having my weekly meeting with our general manager, Connor Pittari, and he said, “I want people who work here to look back 10 years from now and say, that was the best fucking job I ever had, because it is.”

Being a manager at Diesel is hard. We don’t have defined roles of dishwashers or bussers or register robots. Everyone does everything. Staff are encouraged and expected to self-manage heavily, which makes a manager’s job harder. They have to have eyes on everything at all times.

When I begin talking to someone who may be applying for a managerial position, one of the questions I ask is: what do you think a manager does here at Diesel? Often times, the answer focuses heavily on task based skills like opening and closing the store, or managing the money, or ordering. Rarely, do people say: oh, yeah, have difficult conversations with people.

Being a part of the Diesel staff demands that you are open to feedback from your managers. As a new hire, you are bombarded with tons of new information and tons of feedback. Probably erring more on the side of constructive rather than positive, hang in there! And until recently, in our 15 year history of being in business and training dozens of managers, we offered little training on the most important managerial skill of all: how to talk to people.

A few months ago, we started—as Connor likes to call it—family therapy. Personally, I prefer professional development with Dillan DiGiovanni. Dillan has been a devout regular for about 5 years and has built his own business as a health coach. The team of managers has committed to a 6 series workshop with Dillan totaling 12 hours. We are halfway in and from where I sit, things are shifting and changing. Not that anything was broken or wrong or bad to begin with, but I see people looking around, looking inward and generally being a little more self-aware: including myself.


Tucker, my business partner and best friend for 19 years has, over the years, told me that I am not a very good listener. I have scoffed at this statement because so much of what I do at work is listen to people and I was constantly listening to everything that was going on around me. How could I possibly be a not-great listener? While I thought that I was listening intently, I also realized that the part of me that is constantly thinking of a million different things and needs to move and can’t sit still was getting in the way of my really listening. And that what actually mattered more to me in this relationship was not whether I was really listening, but whether Tucker felt like I was listening.

Managing people, to me, is the hardest part of the job. It is constantly changing and very demanding. It requires so much more communication and effective communication than an ubër-introvert like me is often prepared for. Working with Dillan has certainly helped our team to think a little more thoughtfully about ways that we can be more effective leaders.

you can read Jen's original post and see more pictures from the brewblog HERE.

Mighty-fine Homemade Mocha

Ok. I'm going to let you in on a little secret here: I love mochas. I like cooking. I like running. I like reading.

I LOVE mochas.

Something about the coffee and chocolate combo just makes me happy all over. It's my one vice in a life filled with mindful eating and lifestyle habits.

Lately, however, I've run into some issues with my mocha love-affair.

1) the cost of buying them from local cafes

2) limited options of the milk used at said cafes

3) negative side-effects from the caffeine in the espresso (it's ES-presso, friends. Not EX-presso.)

4) inconsistent quality/finished product

Knowing that I am never limited to what meets my eye, I decided to step outside the box (as I do in other aspects of my life) and make my own homemade kick-ass mocha. I have to say that experience makes the experimentation process easier--practice may not make perfect but it makes better. I began this experiment with the Healthier Hot Chocolate I developed two years ago when I started my health coaching practice. To that recipe, I added some Dandy Blend* for coffee flavor. Yeah.

DISCLAIMER: Upon drinking this beverage, you may find yourself unable to stop. Please use caution when preparing this incredible alterna-mocha and limit the portions you use. Or don't. LIVE IT UP!!!!



2 tsp Dandy-Blend Instant Herbal Beverage with Dandelion

2 tsp raw Cacao powder

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup almond milk

sweetener of choice: stevia (vanilla flavor), raw honey or maple syrup


1) Boil water in a tea kettle or hot pot. I avoid using microwaves whenever possible.

2) add the powdered Dandy Blend and raw cacao powder to your favorite mug

3) add the boiling water

4) add almond milk

5) add sweetener

6) stir

7) sit down in an incredibly comfortable chair, sip and pat yourself on the back for creating something that is not only delicious BUT incredibly healthy and GOOD for you--without the negative side-effects of caffeine, refined cane sugar or processed soy milk.

Why these ingredients?

1) *Dandy-Blend is a granulated coffee alternative. It is made from extracts of roasted barley, rye, chicory root and dandelion root and beetroot. Dandelion helps tonify (strengthen) and detoxify your liver. Chicory has so many amazing benefits, I'll just let you read them by clicking here.

2) I prefer almond milk to soy or rice for a couple of reasons. Rice milk, while good for people with nut allergies, is really high in sugar and not so high in nutrients. If you don't have an allergy, choose almond milk. Soy milk isn't ideal for me because it gives me gas (soybeans are REALLY hard to digest for some people) and I'm not a fan of having too much soy in my diet because it's being linked to some health concerns due to the phytoestrogen properties inherent in the bean.

3) raw cacao powder. Cacao is a superfood, packed with lots of powerful antioxidants to offset free radical cell damage in my body. Awesome. Jury's out on whether adding boiling water affects the potency of the superfood properties, but here's something I DO know: it's not crap cocoa processed by a megacompany using less-than-optimal ingredients. The product I buy is from Navitas naturals and here is their mission statement: 

Our food philosophy is simple: Nutrient rich whole foods are best produced using organic agricultural methods with minimal processing. Focusing on both food safety and nutrition, we handle our premium superfoods with care. This includes third party testing for all our products. Our facility is Organic, Kosher and GMP/HACCP Certified. In addition, we utilize methods such as freeze-drying and low temperature processing to ensure maximum nutrition and safety.

The cost of all these ingredients together comes in WAY under the cost of buying a mocha a day. 

This works for me because I know as the weather cools, I'll be wanting them pretty frequently and my wallet can't really justify buying them out all the time. When I DO, however, it will only be from Diesel cafe in Davis Square. Hands-down, time after time, delivering a high-quality product with exceptional customer service and their queer-friendly/welcoming atmosphere brings LGBTQ and savvy hetero fans from near and far. Visit my friends there---and tell them I sent you.