Las Vegas is known for many things. Drinking, gambling, weddings and having a good time are chief among them, but visitors should consider adding high-quality coffee to that list too. Artisanal coffee shop Sambalatte — a local chain with two other shops — has found a new home on The Strip at Monte Carlo.
The spot opened in June of 2014, and I loved how this small shop felt like a cozy retreat from the glitz of The Strip despite being inside a bustling Strip hotel. Yes, you can see slot machines from inside, but it still feels peaceful with soft lighting, warm brown walls, and even windows in the back let patrons watch coffee beans as they’re roasted. If you’re searching for a reprieve from the glitter of The Strip, consider retreating to Sambalatte. It’s well-lit and guests can sit outside when the weather’s nice. It honestly reminded me of some of the coffee shops I’ve visited in the Pacific Northwest.
I loved how smooth and sweet, but not cloying, the company’s signature Nutella latte tasted. And yes, baristas here include latte art in all drinks, a la coffee titans Stumptown Coffee and Blue Bottle. After a tour of the small roasting room, the barista made me tasty, and really, really strong black coffee using the Steampunk.
Sambalatte’s founder and owner, Luiz Claudio Oliveira, brings a vibrant hospitality background to his business. Oliveira has worked as a hotel food and beverage executive for more than 28 years. For the past 10 years, he has been visiting coffee farms and attending coffee symposiums in South America, Europe, and the United States to better understand the trends in the industry. The Brazilian native — he added the Nutella latte to Sambalatte’s menu after seeing how popular they were in Sao Paulo — spoke with The Daily Meal via email about his dream of opening a coffee shop, Vegas residents’ growing love of high-end coffee, and creating a warm, friendly environment in the heart of The Strip.
Photo Credit: Teresa Tobat
What do you do differently from the other coffee chains? Sambalatte is a lifetime project that brewed for many years with research, traveling and attending symposiums prior to us launching the brand concept. Serving good coffee should be a ritual. We wanted to brew coffee in such a way that it extracts the best flavors from all the beans. We create an experience while focusing on consistency, and we want your coffee to taste exactly as expected to taste every single time. It is more than just a business to us; it truly is a passion for this industry.
Why did you decide to start this business? My great grandfather had a coffee farm in Minas Gerais [a state in Brazil] back in the 1920s until the 1950s. My mother grew up on that farm and had great stories to tell about her time there. As a result, my family was connected to coffee, so I grew up drinking it since I was seven years old. This is how I began my love for a good cup. When I was living in Puerto Rico in 1999, I noticed that there weren’t any nice coffee shops near my home, and I started to dream about one day opening my own shop. Living in Las Vegas in 2009, with its affordable real estate, I was finally able to make this dream a reality and create a coffee culture in the city.
Why did you decide to open a location in the Monte Carlo? Vegas is a gourmet city and needed a good coffee bar on The Strip. The new plaza [part of a massive renovation] at Monte Carlo was the perfect place to create an indoor/outdoor environment where guests could take advantage of the beautiful Las Vegas weather while enjoying a great cup of coffee. We wanted to create a sensory experience for the Las Vegas traveler that appreciates good coffee. I believe that creating a sensory space, one that fulfills one’s body with sensory stimulation, the smell of the coffee, the chitter chatter of people in the café, and watching people pass by on the boulevard would create this experience.
Is third wave coffee — or what you're offering — something you find that Las Vegas residents are starting to care about more? If so, why do you think that is? Yes, I find that Las Vegas residents are increasingly more interested in the third wave coffee scene. When we first opened our Boca Park location, there was some resistance from guests who didn’t want to wait for their coffee. Since we grind our coffee fresh, pull the shots and steam milk for each cup individually, this takes a little more time. After they tried our coffee and could taste the difference, they began to understand that the result is worth the wait. Consumers now are more developed and appreciate what we have to offer.
What kind of experiences would you like to give your guests? I know you offer live music. Is there anything else? We cater our programming to meet the needs of our guests at each location. One unique element in our Monte Carlo location is the coffee lab that allows guests to watch and smell the amazing aromas as our master roaster roasts the coffee beans on-site. We also offer free Wi-Fi, which is great for our convention guests.
What does Vegas have to offer the entire third wave coffee scene? At Sambalatte, I’m grateful in having the opportunity to train my staff by some of the best in the business. For example a Master Roaster/Q Grader/Green Buyer from Brazil just came to Las Vegas for one week to train our Master Roaster on some new roasting techniques and the trends of the industry. This dedication to continuing the staff’s education is something that sets us apart. We have some of the most highly trained baristas that hold such passion for coffee. We all love what we do and strive for continuous improvement… There are of course other great cities in America for coffee such as Portland, New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and many others. I think we can all continue to learn from each other to raise the bar and continue to succeed.
Anything you'd like to add? Be the best of best! There is always opportunity to raise the bar in our industry. And, simply live your dreams.