Inside Cocoa Cinnamon, Durham’s newest coffee, chocolate, spice and tea lounge, everything has a story. Each drink was inspired by something—a person, a place, a piece of history. The bright tile floor was done by local artist Heather Gordon. The color of the lampshades was chosen to look like paprika. The tables, which used to be shutters, were handmade.
The care and thought put into Cocoa Cinnamon isn’t surprising to those familiar with its owners, Areli Barrera de Grodski and Leon Grodski de Barrera. The pair first got to know Durham through bikeCOFFEE, their mobile coffee shop that frequents places like Fullsteam and Motorco.
After spending about a year in the community, they used Kickstarter to help fund their brick-and-mortar dream in a whitewashed brick building on West Geer Street. The original goal was to raise $20,000, but more than 600 hundred people donated for a total of $32,325.
“We had so many backers from the community that I felt like this became a community house before we even opened it,” Areli says. "It’s really hard to describe what it is. It’s more than a coffeehouse.”
The eight-ounce cappuccino I ordered was delicious—bold and flavorful, but not bitter, with the perfect amount of froth. By the time I finished, I was wishing I’d sprung for the 12-ounce option.
Cocoa Cinnamon has been in a beta testing stage, where it opens for shorter hours and serves a limited menu to friends and family. Starting Monday, January 28, the lounge will operate on its regular schedule and begin rolling out its complete menu, which includes tea, sipping chocolate, wine and, of course, coffee.
“We want people to be here for whatever reason they want to be here, but we want this to be a democratic place where everyone is welcome, but any hatred is not,” Areli says.
At Cocoa Cinnamon, you come for the drinks, but you stay for the people, the atmosphere and the feeling that, like Areli says, this has always been about more than just serving coffee.