So you like coffee? Great as do I, so come let’s chat over a cup or three. Yes I was like a lot of you, going through Starbucks drive thru and thinking I was enjoying a great cup of coffee. Don’t get me wrong I am no snob and I still drink Starbucks, but I know the difference now. I am really not sure when I was converted, but I am certain Sola Coffee Café has something to do with it. My cousin introduced me to this place; he was very good at keeping it a secret and for the right reasons. Sola is an oasis in the middle of chaos, it is like you are transformed to another place all together when you step in. The uniqueness of the place is apparent when you turn in the parking lot. You will see this beautiful building with bicycles hanging around, water bowl for our four legged friends, and a frame for puppy of the month award. The coffee shop is owned and operated by a couple who migrated to North Carolina from Maryland. I had the opportunity to sit with one this afternoon, John Luther. The first time I went to the café, this guy came over to me and asked me about my day and how everything was. I felt that was a bit strange but oddly comforting, and welcoming; I later found out that was John Luther, part owner of the shop. I had the opportunity to sit and have a conversation with him this afternoon and the passion about the place and coffee was just as uplifting as a cup of coffee.
You can see clearly written over the place, they believe in Fresh-Global-Social. Fresh – they like to keep the coffee and offerings fresh, Global – as they source their coffee globally and morally of course, and Social – because this is a People’s café and not coffee café. I asked John why does he say it is a people’s café, the answer was humbling. He said when a café is aimed towards good coffee; sometimes you tend to forget the people you are serving. Now we all have been to a certain coffee shop where you feel out of place and are frowned upon when you have no idea what half the terms on the board mean. That is what we call a coffee shop, when he says people’s shop the goal here is to delight the people. The reason why they decided to open was because they wanted to create a hub for people, to drink a cup, talk, write, laugh and just enjoy. John says if we concentrate on people and making them happy then we automatically want to serve them good coffee and food, because you never serve anything bad to the people you care about or love.
Sola prides in selling Counter Culture coffee. Now what is Counter Culture you ask? Great question, as I asked the same to John and he was more than happy to give me a detail explanation on it. See there was a time we had coffee out of a tin; (they do have tins of Maxwell House around which adds to the eclectic ambiance) I am sure a lot of us still prefer that and nothing wrong in it. That is what he referred to as the first wave of coffee. The second wave came, which I was a big part of and contributed greatly in making Starbucks rich. The third is where we are right now, where we prefer to know where our coffee comes from and to make sure that there is morality in every single cup. Morality you say? In a cup of coffee how? The whole idea of Counter Culture is these people go to the farms in the different regions to educate the farmers on how to better their growing conditions. So what is involved you ask in better condition? Coffee is a lot like wine, soil, altitude, and water matters. The right time and peak of when the cherry is harvested is important as well. When you read that the coffee served is Counter Culture, you can be sure that the cup you are drinking is certainly helping a farmer from that region. Region you say? Why does that matter? Well those who drink wine obviously know that the every region of wine has a different profile, and every time of the year has a different profile as well. John informed me that they are in the last few weeks of the Ethiopian region and since the weather is changing they are now moving on to the South American region. If you stop by the café and talk to him, he will be more than happy to tell you about the different flavor profiles that come from various regions. My favorite drink is cortado, as is John’s, and my favorite region is Ethiopia (rightfully so as that is where coffee originated).
Apart from the coffee, they offer breakfast, lunch, toast bar and dinner along with beer and wine. So you actually have no reason not to go to this place. I have been guilty of leaving work early once or twice to make it before 5:00 so I can have one of their toasts. It is just a perfect snack with your choice of beverage and I say pretty healthy as well. They try and keep the goodies locally sourced, the food is made there, and the muffins are picked up from great harvest. The sweet temptations you see there are baked by a local Turkish couple, the milk used in the coffee is from Homeland Creamery (yet another local sourced), and last but definitely not the least the bread for the toast bar comes from Yellow Bread Company. So just think about it when you drink coffee and eat here, how many people locally and globally you are helping out.
Let’s chat about the atmosphere that Sola offers, for me it motivates me to write and to be creative. You will see these old antique typewriters all over the place, some days I feel like I want to pick one of them up and just type away. The shelves look like a science lab with Chemex machines, French press, and mason jars filled with the right amount of coffee for every cup. When the coffee beans are delivered, the staff here takes the time to test out the perfect ration for every bean. As we talked about earlier John said that every bean is different, so we cannot have the same measurement for all. When you order your coffee, the jar is opened and beans are grinded for your drink, they go to the extent to even fill your cups with hot water to make sure they are warm when you get them for your coffee. I can go on and on about what this Café is about and why you should go here; but as many people say I can tell you what a strawberry tastes like but you will only know it when you actually eat it for yourself. So pay them a visit, talk to them because they certainly like to talk. They have comedy trivia nights first and third Thursdays, live music every Friday and Saturday. If you are interested in playing at the shop just shoot an email to them and they will gladly hear you out. Every second Saturday they host a pop-up market, you can find around 18-22 local designers and businesses selling their stuff. Keep an eye out on their website for upcoming coffee events as well; John said they are looking to hold another class around May 3rd. Want to host a little meeting they have a conference room available for rent as well. Is there anything this place doesn’t do? All of this and more can be found on their website. If you are really interested in knowing more and getting yourself certified as a barista, then you can attend the training center here locally in Durham. All the links for the coffee shop and training center will be at the end of this article.
Sola Coffee Café being a commonly loved place is why I get to see my brothers so often and catch up with them. This is a place I have met new people and made new friends; I certainly hope to see you guys there too. If you find a person with some sort of a cooking book or magazine with a cortado then it is most likely me. So stop and say hello, you can never have enough smiling faces in your life.