Rising Star Roaster Benji Aguilar of Xela Coffee Roasters - Biography

Houston, TX

November 2019

From their untraditional coffee labels designed in-house to selling cold brew in cough syrup bottles, Coffee Roasters Benji Aguilar and Kaitlin O’Brien are making waves in Houston. XELA (pronounced Shey-Lah), is short for a city in Guatemala—where Aguilar’s parents are from—and was founded by Aguilar and O’Brien in 2014 in a small roastery/retail space with a walk-up window in Houston’s largely residential Second Ward neighborhood. 

Dallas-born Aguilar began his coffee career frothing pumpkin spice lattes and whipping up frappuccinos at Starbucks before transitioning to Houston’s Katz Coffee where he learned all about roasting. An injury kept him from physically roasting beans, but nevertheless, he landed a job as a quality grader at Farmer Brothers Coffee and continued to hone his skills and develop his palate. While Aguilar was mastering all things coffee, O’Brien was on a very different path.