In a world that shuffles under our feet, sometimes the only solace to a day would be to enjoy a good cup of coffee. And just like its many flavors, the rituals are almost as colorful – I’ve seen people rush past in the wee hours of the morning with coffee-on-the-go and furiously checking their phones for the next tram connection, people in coffee shops debating over the daily news, people looking aimlessly at ivy patterns with music on their ears and steaming coffee on the table in front, restless people looking to calm their veins with coffee – perhaps if coffee mugs could pen down human idiosyncrasies, we would have great stories at its wake.
Roger and Jackie, a couple up in Ohio could tell as much, running a cozy little retreat that goes by the name of Kala Coffeehouse. And as with all great coffee shops, the hosts are a delightful bunch of people, brewing coffee and whipping up good food for their fast-growing clientele.
Kala Coffeehouse is relatively new to the scene, having been set up a little over four months before in a partnership with Axis church. “We are located at the backside of the church and in the space the church built out to reach the community,” says Roger. “The church tried to get a local coffee company to run the shop, but when that didn’t happen, we decided to take on the challenge because of our desire to give back to the community and our interest in coffee.”
The couple is retired – Roger was an FBI agent and Jackie, a speech pathologist. “We had no background in running a coffee shop before, we just loved drinking coffee and going to coffeehouses,” laughs Jackie. But what seems to click with their patrons though, is their happy demeanor and a familial setting to the coffee shop.
Kala Coffeehouse gets its coffee beans from Coffee Emporium, a company in downtown Cincinnati known to direct source its beans from Guatemala and several other countries. The store has been in the business for over 24 years, roasting close to 100,000 pounds of coffee beans a year. Jackie believes that the quality of the beans is one of the reasons why people love Kala.
Being a coffeehouse, Roger and Jackie witness hundreds of people come in through their doors – people from different cultures, ethnicities, and age groups. “At this point, we have catered to over 1500 people since we started – we have moms with babies in strollers, families that are on vacation and want to get away from the usual crowd, high school students who come in after school with their friends – it has been amazing,” beams Jackie.
People who come in have different stories of how they found the place. Some would have heard from their friends and family, some through social media, and some more while driving past the Kala Coffeehouse sign or by seeing the stand-up balloons that Jackie put up outside the store.
Apart from serving delectable food and coffee, the couple really cares about their customers. “We work hard to learn people’s names, and they are very kind when we keep asking their names over and over again,” says Jackie. “But we have learned a lot of their names, and they keep coming back, and when they come back, we get a little bit more of their story every time.”
Jackie works at one end of the counter, making her sandwiches and toasts, while Roger makes espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes at the other end. In the words of Jackie, people literally “move from ordering from one end to the other, just to chat with us.”
The coffee shop banter comes in plenty and in different shades. “They tell us family stories – the good, bad and the great stories. We’ve got a couple of people who’ve gotten to know us so well, and they are about to move. And we are all kinda teary-eyed and all this when we’ve been only open for a little over four months,” explains Jackie.
The crowd favorite on the menu is undoubtedly Jackie’s avocado toast, which comes with three different toppings. “We have one day a week called the Waffle Wednesday, when we only serve waffles. We have people come in every Wednesday and ask for an avocado toast, and I’d have to say there is no avocado today,” smiles Jackie.
Roger whips up quite a lot of coffee variants that people love. “They love just even our espressos or cappuccinos. Roger really knows what he is doing and has trained the other baristas so that we brew something that is very consistent and people seem to appreciate that,” says Jackie.
One of the best compliments for the coffee came from a lady who uses the shop as a place to tutor students. She said she was looking for a shop that served a good cup of coffee. “We gave her a cup, and she went and drank it. When she came back, she said: “You are wrong, it is not a good cup of coffee, it’ a great cup of coffee!” We have a lot of people tell us how much they like our coffee,” grins Jackie. “We have people drive off the highway, back around the building where our coffee shop is, get out of their car, come in and just get a cup of coffee – day after day.”
All the ingredients and produce that Kala Coffeehouse uses come from a nearby farm and bakery. The couple gets their bread from Blue Oven Bakery, a wood-fired bakery on a small family farm located on the banks of the Little Miami River in Williamsburg, Ohio. The sausage is sourced from TS Farms in New Vienna, Ohio where a family operates the farm, raising their livestock on open pastures – devoid of hormone injections and fattening steroids.
“When we travel, we want to see the local culture for restaurants, and we have for years gone to coffee shops. We did a vacation where we did all the coffee shops in an area. I think a lot of people do that, I think they just come into an area, and want to find something they like,” says Jackie.
The couple believes that people are willing to go the extra mile trying to find good coffeehouses. At Kala, they witness a lot of people coming in and tell them how hard it was to find the coffeehouse, to which they respond with “but you did find us.” Succinctly put, that explains that good coffee is worth the quest and with Kala, people seem to have no qualms to put in the search.