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Meet Izzy Arechiga-Arias: Mystic Mocha’s New Owner

Longstanding coffeeshop gets a refresh with vegan and vegetarian breakfast options, an expanded craft beer menu, and more
courtesy of Mystic Mocha
Mystic Mocha - Pastry and Coffee

Coffee and a pastry at Mystic Mocha in University Heights

courtesy of Mystic Mocha

Meticuloso: The Spanish word means meticulous, considered, intentional. It’s the word Mystic Mocha’s new owner, Izzy Arechiga-Arias uses to describe the local craft beers on rotation—suds from Pariah nearby, Harland Brewing, plus ciders and seltzers—at the University Heights coffee shop and breakfast spot. 

The word also fits the environment he created at Mystic Mocha. It’s a snug spot wedged in the middle of the neighborhood and wrapped in bright yellow paint. Outside are a handful of shaded picnic tables. We sit at one of them on a Wednesday when the kitchen is closed so he can take care of administrative stuff, or “las cosas que no quiero hacer,” Arechiga-Arias says. Translated as “the things I don’t want to do,” he mentions that to a young customer before we say hello.

The easy-going 28-year-old is originally from Tijuana and moved to Chula Vista in middle school. Arechiga-Arias worked his way through various restaurant positions in high school, where he gained an appreciation and love for hospitality. 

“That’s always been my favorite thing, getting to serve someone and have them be excited about the food they’re about to get,” he says. Then, during a six-year stint in Portland (the original plan was to stay just two years to finish college), Arechiga-Arias worked in beer merchandising for Big and independent beer companies. He admired the sense of community in Portland’s hospitality scene, which he admits wasn’t something he felt existed while growing up in Chula Vista. 

A domino effect of fateful events would lead him back home to San Diego. Before the pandemic changed everything, Arechiga-Arias almost opened a vegan Mexican food truck in Portland until, at the last minute, the food truck he quit his beer job for sold to another buyer. His lease was also expiring. And, as the youngest of three siblings, he didn’t want to be the absent brother. 

“This is where my roots are, this is where my family is, it’s close to Mexico,” Arechiga-Arias says. He adds that he’s excited to see local Chula Vista spots like Three Punk Ales and Bar Sin Nombre thriving since his homecoming. “Everyone always went to the big places like The Cheesecake Factory,” he remembers.

Mystic Mocha - interior

The interior of Mystic Mocha features books and records from owner Izzy Arechiga-Arias’ personal collection

courtesy of Mystic Mocha

Back in California, Arechiga-Arias spent his pandemic remodeling his Mom’s backyard and kitchen while searching for a viable business to call his own. First, he considered buying a taproom on El Cajon Boulevard but passed when the terms stipulated the concept needed to remain intact. Then, his realtor tipped him off to an available coffee shop in University Heights: Its current owners wanted to retire and were thinking of selling. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect was that its new owner would have the freedom to transform the place.

He repainted Mystic Mocha (readers may recall its previous iteration, “Purple, sparkly stuff, tiki heads,” Arechiga-Arias says), tiled the serving counter, and brought back some of its former employees, and used his personal records and book collection as décor. He had the paperwork required to change the coffee shop’s name but decided to keep it after meeting its original owners, who popped their heads into the shop while he was painting one evening.

“The records are a good conversation starter because people will come in and ask if they’re for sale,” Arechiga-Arias says. They’re not, but one can order lattes named after movie characters, like the Scuba Steve—a coconut macadamia nut latte a regular helped create. 

Mystic Mocha - Breakfast sandwich

One of the breakfast sandwiches on the menu at Mystic Mocha

Courtesy of Mystic Mocha

Its breakfast menu includes various dietary needs and preferences, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. He was inspired by how difficult it was during his vegan days to find a restaurant meal that wasn’t an afterthought—a complete vegan meal, not just a bunch of sides cobbled together. For example, burritos are stuffed with veggies, soyrizo, or bacon. There are also jackfruit tamales with red or green sauce. Chilaquiles come the way Arechigas-Arias’ family makes them, with ancho chiles (dried poblanos) for a smokier flavor profile. 

“What happened to the vegan thing?” I interrupt him in the middle of the menu rundown. “So, I went to Argentina…” he says, trailing off, referring to the land of the animal-meat-centric Asado. 

“Whether you want to have a full breakfast with mimosas or you just want to come work on your laptop…we can make that happen for you,” Arechigas-Arias says. Breakfast is served from Thursday to Tuesday, and Happy Hour begins at 3:30 p.m.

By Ligaya Malones

Ligaya Malones grew up in Kaua’i, Hawai’i and is a San Diego-based writer covering the intersection of food, travel, and culture. Her work has appeared in publications including Food52, Condé Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, and Salt & Wind Travel.

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