Fans of the locally-roasted coffees offered by Natalie Granatelli’s Branelli Coffee Co., who observed a period of mourning when they learned of her imminent departure from the area, can again rejoice: A young, college-bound entrepreneur has stepped up to take Granatelli’s place.
Elaine Oyama is the owner of one of Del Rio’s newest businesses, Hikari Coffee Co.
Oyama, a Del Rio native, has lived here all her life with the exception of a two-year stint spent in New York when her family moved there. She graduated from Early College High School and will be attending The University of Texas at San Antonio, where she plans to major in medical humanities with pre-med.
Oyama explained her major “deals with the psychology and sociology of how to care for people the right way.”
“I’ve always been torn between becoming a doctor and becoming a lawyer, so it’s kind of like the mid-point between the two,” Oyama said.
Oyama said she hopes to settle in Texas after she has completed her schooling, and her parents, Daniel and Veronica Oyama, live in Del Rio.
Oyama said she became aware of the coffee roasting business when she worked as a babysitter for Granatelli’s daughter.
“I went to one of her yard sales with my mom, and she (Natalie) told me mom, ‘Hey, I’ve been looking for someone to buy my business,’ and I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I’m going to college, to a place where everyone needs caffeine to stay awake. I called my dad and talked to him about it, and he said, ‘Go crazy,’” Oyama said.
Granatelli also mentored Oyama for about a month in the fine points of roasting coffee beans.
“I’m still a little nervous, but my dad has been helping me a lot with the roasting,” Oyama said.
Her Hikari Coffee Co. will be offering many of the same beans as Granatelli: Colombian, Brazilian, Ethiopian, Guatemalan and Sumatran.
“I want to also try the Costa Rican and the Peruvian decaf and anytime specialty coffees come up, I will try to get those,” Oyama said.
She said she will grind and deliver coffees free for customers in Del Rio.
Oyama came up with a twist on her first name to christen her new company.
“So, ‘Elaine’ in Greek means light, and I’m Japanese, so I wanted to find a Japanese word to fit, so ‘light’ in Japanese is ‘hikari,’” Oyama said.
The mountains in her company logo are a nod to her surname: Oyama in Japanese means mountain.
“I want to encourage people not to be scared of a new business. Natalie had this great reputation, and I want people not to be afraid to try my products,” Oyama said.
If you would like to try some of Oyama’s coffees, email her at email@example.com or visit her Facebook page, Hikari Coffee Co.