Q&A with Kara Lozano of Mile Square CoffeeNovember 13, 2018
Mile Square Coffee is tucked up on the Indy City Market's upper mezzanine seating level, waiting to serve up delicious locally roasted coffee, energizing espresso, baked goods from Circle City Sweets, and more. We talked with Mile Square Manager Kara Lozano about why you should see what they're all about!
Q: What is your personal background, where did you grow up, etc.? How did you get into coffee?
A: I grew up in Kosciusko and Fulton County in northern Indiana. My parents owned and operated a music store in downtown Warsaw, and when I turned 15 I got my first job as a barista located around the corner that I could walk to. Though I enjoyed the work, I really didn’t see coffee as a career opportunity. Eventually I moved into management and took on the project of sourcing a new roaster to purchase whole bean from for the shop, so I went to Coffee Fest in Chicago. To my amazement, I both discovered so many different coffees that tasted amazing black, (both filter and espresso) and met people who care about quality coffee, a breed of people that I had no idea existed. So I got bit by the coffee bug and over time figured out that my seemingly insignificant part-time first job was just the first stepping stone in learning the beverage trade. It’s extremely detailed, usually frustrating, and always something I look forward to every morning.
Q: How did you end up at Mile Square Coffee? Why do you love coffee?
A: After graduating from Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, I wanted to live somewhere bigger. Chicago seemed expensive; Indianapolis it was. Trace Yates, the original owner of Mile Square Coffee Roastery had posted an opening for a coffee truck. The truck ended up being delayed, so I went to work for another coffee shop and in the meantime we kept in touch. When he told me he was opening a location in the City Market, I decided I was ready to join him.
My reason for loving coffee isn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy. Most people will say they do it because they love community, and I do appreciate how coffee gives people a reason for coming together. For me, before coffee was a love, it was a necessity. Depression is a thing for many folks out there, myself included. Every morning after my first cup, I feel this moment of mental and emotional clarity and it’s just like “OK, now I can do today.” My absolute favorite part about working in coffee is that I get to help give a person that feeling, over and over again, usually without them even having to speak. My other favorite thing about coffee, which I can’t even fully express in a short paragraph, is the crazy deep world of flavor that there is to explore. Basically, if you met someone that loved the flavor of oxygen, that’s coffee for me.
Q: What is the history of Mile Square?
A: Mile Square started entirely as a roastery. What started as a personal interest for Trace [Yates], blossomed into a larger operation in Stadium Village. Trace and the rest of the team believed in highlighting a coffee’s best potential flavor. For this reason, coffees were roasted from a light to medium level, giving you the opportunity to taste the unique characteristics rather than solely tasting the results of Maillard reaction that you find in darker roasts. Mile Square then emerged in retail service, opening a coffee truck, and later the City Market location in 2015. Though Mile Square phased out roasting coffee in-house, the multi-roaster program that replaced it follows the same philosophy.
Q: What kinds of products do you offer? What is special about them?
A: For filter coffee, we feature coffees from craft roasters in Indiana and the greater Midwest. This rotating selection ensures that our customers always have something new to look forward to. We have the sweet stuff if you really want it, but our pride and glory is our traditional espresso menu, which features smaller crafted milk-based beverages and highlights the flavor of our espresso, which we taste and dial in all day long to ensure that you’re getting a sweet and balanced cup.
Q: Mile Square offers special pour-over coffees, what makes those different from auto-drip coffee?
A: They’re actually not very different at all, but this is a common question that we are asked all the time. Unfortunately, it’s common to go to a coffee shop and order a hand brewed coffee to avoid getting an auto-drip coffee that nobody pays attention to and gets pushed to the wayside. This is not the case at Mile Square. Our batch-brewed coffee is simply coffee that is made in a larger quantity so that it is ready to drink upon ordering. We take the same amount of care in tasting and dialing in our batch brew as we do for our single cup made-to-order brews. At Mile Square, the difference between ordering batch brew and a single cup pour over is being able to choose between a ready-made balanced blend, usually Tinker Coffee’s Conduit Blend, and a coffee from the curated rotating list of locally roasted coffees, which each have their own unique flavor notes.
Q: Mile Square recently joined the Circle City Soups/Sweets family, how has that changed the business and what you offer?
A: Cindy and Roger Hawkins have truly helped us take Mile Square to the next level by providing both the tools and the encouragement we need to make a better experience for our customers. Roger and Angela Osborn, our general manager, are both very experienced sauciers. Cindy is an amazing pastry chef. Prior to the new ownership, our program was mostly focused on extracting coffee to taste excellent on its own. The talent at Circle City Soups, Sweets, and Boulangerie have made it possible for us to bring a culinary element to our specialty menu.
Q: What are some of the craziest or most interesting things you offer at Mile Square?
A: One of the most interesting menu items is the coffee flight. Just like a beer flight, you can enjoy three pours of different coffees from our current roster. If you’re new to coffee, you can experience first-hand how different coffee producing countries, varietals, and processing methods affect the flavor, which is much more noticeable when you’re trying them back-to-back.
With the help of Circle City, we have had some limited run offerings such as an espresso shot in a Nutella-filled doughnut and a toasted chocolate chip cookie cream pie.
In the summer we featured a house-made sparkling lemonade and a hibiscus shrub. This fall we have a sparkling apple cider that we make a reduction for in house.
Q: To someone who has never stopped by before, why should they come to Mile Square?
A: We always do our best to make sure you have an awesome experience, whatever you want that experience to be. If you want to get in, get your coffee, and get out, we can sense that and you can trust that we’ll make you a quality cup without necessarily giving you fifty different details that you didn’t want or ask for. On the other end, if you want to know more about what you’re being served, our team is equipped with the knowledge to let you know what you’re paying craft prices for.
Q: What does the future hold for Mile Square? What’s next?
A: We’re always thinking about new places in Indianapolis that we can spread our coffee love, so we’re just waiting for the foot that fits this glass slipper.