Art gallery-café concept percolates in Oakland

Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto
Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto

Many cafés portray themselves as a community gathering space for the neighborhood, and there’s little doubt the laptop-toting technorati will make a beeline to the new modern Tertulia Coffee in Uptown Oakland.

But they’ll have to share the space with artists of all types. The large café at the corner of 20th Street and Telegraph Avenue is also a commercial gallery — the Sanchez Contemporary.

Tertulia has been in soft opening mode since the gallery opened two weeks ago, but it had its official grand opening July 2.

Tim and Maria Sanchez, owners of Tertulia Coffee/Sanchez Contemporary. Photo: Benjamin Seto
Tim and Maria Sanchez, owners of Tertulia Coffee/Sanchez Contemporary. Photo: Benjamin Seto

The café and adjacent gallery are the brainchildren of husband-and-wife team Tim and Maria Sanchez, who have long dreamed of combining their passion for art and coffee. (She’s an artist and he’s a self-described coffee geek.)


Many cafés put up art, said Tim Sanchez, but the art often ends up being a part of the café’s decor and not a successful source of income. Sanchez worked with noted San Francisco architecture firm Lincoln Lighthill, which designed Blue Bottle’s café in the W.C. Morse building, to create a space where the café flows into a distinct gallery space.

Maria Sanchez curates the art at Sanchez Contemporary, and said she hopes to highlight Latino artists and other artists of color. “A lot of under-represented artists don’t normally get gallery shows,” she said. “We want to give their art the respect that it deserves.”

The Sanchez Contemporary art space blends into the cafe. Photo: Benjamin Seto
The Sanchez Contemporary art space blends into the cafe. Photo: Benjamin Seto

As for Tertulia Coffee, the contemporary and sleek café serves pastries from the nearby Firebrand Artisan Breads and uses coffee beans from Stumptown Coffee of Portland, Ore.

“We could have gone with a local third-wave roaster because they’re all great,” said Tim Sanchez. “But from a business standpoint, we thought, ‘Why not go with a brand outside the area that people are familiar with but don’t have access to on a regular basis?’”

The Sanchezes expect the café side of the business to help pay the bills, but they’re also hoping the gallery will be a success both financially and as a support network for the local artist community.


Take a look at Tertulia Coffee in the photos below.

Espresso machine at Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto
Espresso machine at Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto
Cappuccino from Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto
A latte from Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto
The grand opening party at Tertulia Coffee/Sanchez Contemporary. Photo: Benjamin Seto
The grand opening party at Tertulia Coffee/Sanchez Contemporary. Photo: Benjamin Seto
Stump town Coffee beans at Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto
Stumptown Coffee beans at Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto
Firebrand pastries at Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto
Firebrand pastries at Tertulia Coffee. Photo: Benjamin Seto

Tertulia Coffee/Sanchez Contemporary is at 1951 Telegraph Ave. (at 20th Street), Oakland. Open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Connect with the café on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Benjamin Seto is the voice behind Focus:Snap:Eat, where he dishes on food at restaurants and shops in the Bay Area, in his kitchen, and from his culinary adventures.

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