By Laurissa Senecal
“We’re all trying to do the same thing and that is make a quality cup of coffee without conforming to the Starbucks way.”
Quality is an attribute which Cafe Moka’s employees pride themselves on. Andrea Gonzales, shift manager, said every single drink, even a simple cup of black coffee, is carefully assembled with precisely measured ingredients and calculated ratios by hand.
That precision certainly seems to have paid off. Cafe Moka was recently listed as the number one coffee shop in Virginia by a travel agency called FLIPKEY, which offers advice to people traveling to different locations in the United States.
“We like to represent local pastries and shops. That’s a big part of our mission.”
Josh Goodman, manager of Cafe Moka, said his shop strives to represent small local businesses since Cafe Moke itself is a small business. While the employees at Café Moka focus all their time on hand crafting specialty coffees and teas, they give local bakeries extra business.
A wide variety of cookies, muffins, and scones from different shops sit in the display box located at the front counter.
Unity with other small businesses in Hampton Roads is a vision which all of Café Moka’s employees share.
Café Moka is more than just a coffee shop. The baristas said they strive to produce a comfortable atmosphere for all of their customers. One way they achieve this is through the homey but creative environment.
“Café Moka gave me a place to be really artistic and express myself,” Gonzales said.
Brian Miller, a college student who regularly attends Café Moka, points to the unique décor as a big appeal.
“Roark Basham (owner) has done a really good job of making it warmer in here. Like on the front with all the wood and everything,” Miller said.
The variety of seating also contributes to this warm environment. There are comfy chairs upholstered with grain sacks in the corners and white tables for studying in the middle of the store. The atmosphere is relaxed, welcoming and there’s a wide variety of people.
“My job is to make you feel comfortable,” Goodman said. The shop’s aims is to make all of its customers feel comfortable by selling, in addition to coffee drinks, a plethora of teas, smoothies and bottled drinks. Every drink offered is delicious from the sweet Winter Tea Lattes to the simple bottles of coca cola.
In many ways, Cafe Moka is an ideal space for college students. In addition to the appeal of complimentary WiFi, the vibe of the place makes a great study or hangout environment.
“We have a very comfortable vibe. You can come in here, chat with your friends or do homework,” Goodman said. Like Goodman, Miller also said he feels that Café Moka’s relaxed vibe is a huge attractor.
“I’ve become a regular,” Miller said.
What is unique about Café Moka compared to other shops is what Goodman describes as “a passion for black coffee.” Most coffee shops feature fancy drinks with creams and sugars in them while under emphasizing black coffee. Many shops also keep a pot of brewed coffee to sell to customers who simply want a plain cup of coffee. The drawback here is the coffee sits around all day and goes stale. Moka makes each cup of coffee individually in what is called a pour-over, thus guaranteeing that every cup will be fresh.
The result of the high quality service and comfortable atmosphere that Café Moka provides is that they are a growing business. Many of Café Moka’s customers are students from Regent University. In order to accommodate these students, owner Roark Basham is training up a group of baristas to open up a shop on Regent’s campus. Goodman said he hopes that more shops will be opened at other campuses.
One of the advantages of Virginia Wesleyan’s location is that it is in an area surrounded by dozens of small restaurants and cafes that boast comfortable study environments. Unfortunately, many of these places are in the center of Norfolk, which can be a challenging place to navigate during rush hour traffic.
Fortunately, there are other options for those days when navigating Norfolk’s complex city streets seems particularly daunting. Cafe Moka is only about fifteen minutes from Virginia Wesleyan’s campus without traffic. It is also conveniently located about ten minutes from the Greenbrier Mall on the corner of the Lynnhaven parkway and the Centerville turnpike.
The baristas at Café Moka said they love their customers. Whether serving drinks or engaging in conversation, Café Moka baristas works hard to make their community happy.