Interview with VoyageLA

I haven’t accepted interviews these past few years because I don’t want to brag or get any more publicity on what I do. Lately, I decided shouldn’t do that anymore.

Apologies to anyone I’ve denied an interview. It’s not that you’re not important It’s just that I can be shy and reserved at times. Anyways, here’s my interview with VoyageLA.

Click here to read the full interview. Today we’d like to introduce you to Robert Zapata.

Hi Robert, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story. In my early 20’s I switched jobs a lot. I was a waiter, a lifeguard, did a little background acting and modeling, traveled Europe, and worked as a mechanic at SpaceX and Delta airlines. I enjoyed every second of those times but I didn’t get to be innovative or creative in my own way.

During my time at SpaceX, I was drinking a lot of coffee during night shift which was awesome but tiring. I was hooked on cappuccinos from a previous study abroad trip to Spain. On a side note, I tried coffee from 8 different European countries so I got a really good coffee education while I was there. During my time at SpaceX, I was living in Lincoln Heights and saw how homelessness is on every corner. Every night when I got home, I would pass a couple of camps on my walk to the doorstep. If you live or have lived in LA, then you know parking is rough. I’ve always had a heart for those in need so I began roasting coffee in a pan and started selling to coworkers. I was trying to use my coffee as a way to fund a homeless outreach as well as gain freedom by working toward my own goals. I eventually organized haircuts and helped with donations to a few local organizations in Azusa, CA.

That’s how I got started with my coffee for a cause campaign. Then the BLM and Kids in Cages movements happened and I felt frustrated and angry. I wanted to give back by providing POC scholarships. To this day, I’ve released four scholarships which were privately funded with the help of my supporters and through my own personal funds. I also made a “Chicanos for Black Lives” shirt that I was selling for the rallies. I wanted to spark some passion in the people and a lot of that money went to the scholarship recipients.

I got the scholarship idea from my great uncle from Coyoacan, Mexico City. He would go to the local school and ask for their poorest but smartest kid and basically pay their way through their education. When he died, his funeral was full of doctors, lawyers, politicians and other influential figures during his time. He helped to build the people when they otherwise would have been doomed to their fate. He also had a free medical practice for the locals to get care. He is a huge inspiration for me.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road? Definitely not. But like all roads that lead somewhere, it’s worth every step of the journey. A brother of mine tells me all the time, “the road to enlightenment is the enlightenment”.

During my coffee journey, there many obstacles including family divorce, financial issues and just drama that wears down the mind. Then the struggles of owning a business which includes staying consistent, organized, and disciplined. One day you get 50 orders the next, you’re lucky to get one. But if you have faith and believe it will work out, I think god will take of the rest for you. It’s really important to stay positive through it all.

My challenges will always motivate me to help others.

As you know, we’re big fans of Zapata’s Coffee. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand? Zapata’s Coffee is Chicano-owned and operated. I started my business in 2018 out of my brother’s house in Lincoln Heights, CA. I specialize in roasting Fair Trade Organic coffee from Ethiopia, Colombia and Guatemala. There is a Swiss water processed blend on the menu as well.

I’m most known for my Ethiopian Coffee but the other regions are very popular and delicious! I roast all of my coffee in super tiny micro batches. 2 pounds of coffee go in my roaster and 2 pounds come out. I use compostable packaging and try to stay close to zero waste by composting all roasting biproducts. I offer retail and wholesale coffee. I’m proud of my brand which uses Emiliano Zapata as the face because he has been an inspiration for me since I was a kid. “No justice for the people, no rest for the government” – Zapata. Ultimately, I sell coffee to give back to the people.

All of my coffee is made fresh to order and is mailed right to your doorstep. I will have new regions in the near future so stay tuned!

Aside from coffee, I create art and music. I have some paintings on my website. They’re all oil on canvas. Painting is extremely therapeutic so I love doing it and don’t mind doing it for the rest of my life. Eventually, I would like to sell my art in galleries or art shows. The Chicano population is plagued by a lot of mental health issues. I hope that I’m able to inspire others to share their art and be bold in their lives by trying to do the things they dream to do. A lot of them are extremely talented but don’t share their art or open up. I hope my story helps them to open up and grow.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up? Growing up, education was my last priority. Surviving was more important than my education. I grew up Chicano, with a single mom trying to do it all herself. I had very little guidance or positive role models. Most of my role models were not the best role models. I want to be a positive role model for those with no guidance. I want to help others that can’t focus on their education and are too busy surviving.

Elementary me was quiet. I was getting into a lot of fights for no reason. I felt angry and mad all the time. I was mean and made people feel bad for being themselves. I didn’t know what I was saying or doing. I think I was secretly a frustrated artist.

Aside from that, I was very structured. I used to wake up between 3-4 am to the sound of my grandma grinding her coffee. I thought coffee made people act crazy but I really loved the smell of it. I was eating breakfast before school and had to make my bed and clean my room before I left home. My grandparents made me set my clothes out the night before school and tuck my shirt in the morning. I pulled my shirt out when they drove away. After school, I was either playing video games or playing outside with my friends.

I was a little rebellious and was known for ditching class. As I got older, I was usually one of the first ones to school because my mom started work early. That doesn’t mean I loved school because eventually it was almost impossible for her to get me there. During high school, I had to do community service and went to court for missing too much school.

I was very randomly quirky and loved history. I used to talk to people about the most abstract thoughts that seemed deep then but are probably nothing now. I won most unique in high school if that fills in the gaps. I was known for walking around the campus during class talking to people in the halls. Eventually, I wasn’t allowed to leave the class without an escort. I would sit around my room reading books on roman, Greek, Native American, and Japanese history. Ironically, I didn’t really dive into chicano culture/history during those times. It wasn’t a huge emphasis in school or my high school culture. I had to ask others for history and seek answers.

I also loved sports. I played football any chance I got and ran track until I got kicked out in High School. I was brought up to the HS track team during my eighth grade year to practice with them. I was very athletic. I once ran around 5 miles in 30 minutes with my brother. I was only about 12 years old at the time but I think that’s pretty impressive and I just recently realized how hard that is to do.

I was pretty emotional. I experienced a lot of anxiety and depression at an early age. There were a lot of toxic people growing up. It’s not easy being surrounded by narcissism, suicidal people, manic depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc, a lot of issues which plague the Chicano population. Many people go undiagnosed and wander the world untreated suffering from mental health issues. I went through a heavy emo/scene phase in my early teens which is when I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Ironically, I really didn’t like my culture growing up. What other people glorified I despised so I tried to be very different. They watched too many movies and didn’t have any idea what it was like with these people behind the scenes. All the people I know that we’re raised around that environment are opposite to their upbringing. Working and trying everything they can to do better. But no ones is perfect.

These mental health issues led me to focus on people and try to motivate them the best I can. I hope to reach other Chicanos and help motivate them to do better for themselves. A huge focus around my coffee is to reach others that I can help.

I didn’t value my education because, aside from surviving, my time wasn’t spent learning about the topics I enjoyed or needed to learn. Now I’m older and I have accomplished things I never thought were possible and I realize that education is crucial in every journey. I know now that the education must apply to your interests and needs. My struggles in school have led me to this scholarship program because I know what it’s like to struggle and I want to be there to help others through their education.

This is how my upbringing has influenced my company. I sell coffee to give back to the people.


  • Organic Ethiopian Coffee $18

  • FTO Colombian $16

  • FTO Guatemala $16

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