Barista business: Java Java adds feng shui to coffee scene

What do free-trade coffee, gluten-free pastries, Arts and Crafts design, and a Darden graduate degree have in common? Hint: It's on the way to Ivy and is the perfect place to chat or chill with a hot cuppa joe.

Give up? These are just a few of the key ingredients in Charlottesville's latest café concoction, Java Java, soon to open in the Townside East Shopping Center on Ivy Road (two doors down from Zazus).

Come spring, west-of-towners will find another option joining the espresso bars at the Bellair Market (Mudhouse) and Foods of All Nations (Mermaid Express).

If you have some time on your hands and a load on your feet, this full-service coffeehouse– with comfy chairs, booths, work- and surf-friendly wireless and DSL Internet connections– might be the place to pick.

Java Java is the brainchild– or, more accurately, the labor of love– of com school professor John Leschke. But what's a tenured professor with a Darden doctorate doing moonlighting as a milk-frothing, bean-grinding barista?

"The job of professor simply stopped being fun for me. I enjoyed the face-to-face interaction with my students, but that's about it," Leschke says.

Which is why he has just decided to take the bold step of leaving academia to devote himself entirely to his new venture. Why a café?

"I was looking for a rhythm, and I've always enjoyed coffee-shop culture, especially here in Charlottesville," he says.

What makes Java Java stand out from the crowd? For one thing, it's the only café we know of specializing in gluten-free pastries. As research (much of which happens at UVA) on gluten intolerance– aka celiac's disease– advances, more and more people are looking for alternatives to traditional scones and biscuits.

Since he knows more about business than about baking, Leschke asked local pastry chef Sheila Cervelloni to help develop Java Java's pastry selection. Cervelloni, who has worked at such acclaimed restaurants as Pinons in Aspen and One Market in San Francisco, started her own company, Starbake, here last April. She says she was up for the challenge of transforming her wheat-flour based repertoire into a selection of equally delicious gluten-free delights.

"I use rice flour, potato starch, or tapioca starch instead of all-purpose flour and add a little xanthum gum as a binder," she explains.

The results?

"Oh my God" is Leschke's opinion-­ and when we spoke, he had tasted only her muffins!

Java Java's pastry case will also contain gluten-free scones, cookies, and cakes in myriad flavors. For those of us who can digest the pervasive protein (and our numbers are fewer than you'd expect), Cervelloni's cinnamon buns and white chocolate cream cheese carrot cake will be ready to tempt.

Another unique aspect of the café is the coffee itself: All coffee products are "Certified Fair Trade." When you walk in the door, Leschke himself, assisted during the morning rush by his wife, artist Susan Leschke, will be there to greet you and take your coffee or tea order.

Beans from Equal Exchange in Boston (original source of free-trade coffee in the U.S.) will also be available for bulk sale behind the curving soapstone counter.

Java Java may also be the only café in town designed with the help of a feng swhui consultant. "Everything about the design is intended to lower your pulse rate, to be warm and welcoming," Leschke says, pulling out samples of reclaimed heart pine floorboards and sumptuous fabrics for us to touch. "We've used all local vendors, artists, and suppliers, and everything is organic."

Even in its pre-natal phase, the place exudes a sense of well-crafted calm. Activity flows through three different seating zones, which become more and more intimate and artsy as you move back through the space. The heart and hearth of Java Java will be its cozy, semi-enclosed sitting area (stained glass, oak wainscoting, inglenook wrap-around benches) inspired by Arts and Crafts designers William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Talk about putting the "house" back into "coffeehouse."

"This I love. This is fun," Leschke says of the design-construction phase, usually the cause of massive headaches. We can only imagine how happy he'll be when real live customers walk through the door.

When will that be? "We're aiming for April 1.." No fooling? "I haven't heard a 'no' yet."


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