It's raining cafes: Are we the Seattle of the Southeast?
As people in cities like Seattle and Eugene know all too well, a good cup of coffee helps keep the rainy day blues at bay– at least as long as the buzz lasts.
With all the precipitation that's been pounding Charlottesville lately, we could definitely use a little java jolt ourselves. Salvation is on the way. Actually, it's here. And this time we're not just referring to the end-of-June opening of The Grounds Café in Seminole Square, which we reported on last week. Spring showers are also bringing us the much-anticipated opening of Java Java in the Townside Shopping Center on Ivy Road, in Zazus-land.
Business prof-turned-barista John Leschke has been teasing us for a few months with a Bodo-inspired sign on the window of his café reading "The coffee is coming..." Well, on June 16, he says, that promise will be honored. Leschke will open the doors of his artful coffee and dessert house and start espressing our blues away.
Is this some sort of positive side-effect of all the showers, this pleasing proliferation of coffeehouses? Is Charlottesville slow-roasting into the Seattle of the Southeast? Could be a stretch, especially considering Espresso Royale's closure on The Corner a few months ago. But let's give thanks for what the spring did manage to create in the coffee department.
And we're talkin' Create with a capital C. Java Java is one café that doesn't cut corners. In fact, each corner has been precisely measured by master cabinetmaker Rod Temmink out of quarter-sawn oak in the Arts and Crafts style (booths, cabinets, semi-enclosed upper deck) or by master stone craftsman David Geminy out of rich black soapstone (counters). As for the glasswork, get ready to admire the stained glass windows in hues of green and gold created by McGuffey artist Vee Osvald or the hanging pendant lights made of blown Murano glass.
"Instead of trying to do everything, we chose to do a few things very well." says Leschke, who contracted all the artisans himself, making sure sustainable principles were followed wherever possible "We've done everything we can to set ourselves up to succeed, both in terms of the decor and the equipment."
All we had to do was lay our eyes on the shiny stainless steel Nuova Simonelli four-head espresso machine, which gleams from atop the counter like a holy tabernacle, to be convinced. This new breed of Italian coffee machinery is as sleek and speedy as a Ferrari. (Leave it to the Italians to wed design with performance.) But it takes more than a driver's license to make it to Formula One.
Could this be too much machinery for an American to handle? Leschke says he's more than ready for the challenge. Not only has he done his homework, he's also a great believer in the practice-makes-perfect, trial-and-error method. "We bought 1,000 shots-worth of practice espresso," Leschke told Dish a few weeks ago. A stopwatch will help assure that the switch is cut off a nanosecond before the bitter oils are expressed, assuring a smoother, sweeter coffee concoction.
As for the beans, Java Java's coffee will come exclusively from Equal Exchange, a fair trade gourmet coffee distributor in Massachusetts. In 1991, this worker-owned co-op became the first U.S. company to officially adopt European fair trade standards, meaning that their trading partners are not mega-corporations, but small businesses owned and governed directly by the farmers themselves. Equal Exchange's coffees are also certified organic, which means that beans are grown by farmers who manage the soil in a sustainable agricultural system (i..e. promoting natural cycles over chemical pesticides).
Leschke says he considered going with local roasters Shenandoah Joe (they'll be roasting for The Grounds), but in the end decided to stay true to his commitment to fair trade. As an added bonus, Equal Exchange's coffees are both stronger than most (being organic) and at the same time smoother and more caramel-like. Just one more reason Java Java might give Starbucks a run for its money. Rain or shine.