New Shop Updates!

Hi Everyone!

Our landlord and co-tenant Linton Architects ( have completed their building renovation!  That means that we have free reign to get the shop fitted up.  Coby Linton has been super gracious with us and we’ve got a jump start.

We were out in the neighborhood for West Fest this past weekend and everyone we spoke to was curious about our timeline.  As you probably know from following us, we put a lot into the detail of the shop, working with David Solow art & design and a series of amazing local artists to make Cocoa Cinnamon a unique place that supports gathering together, discourse, and all sorts of activities and people.



Maryah coming up with the red dye for the counter tops really set the stage for so much of what has played out. Beautiful work and thanks to David for chipping in!


The short answer is that we are working at full speed and believe that we’ll finish building some time in December.  In full version, we’ll be open up to more than 100 hours a week, which is quite a large undertaking…so as we finish the building part, transfer into the crew acclamation mode and opening prep.  So we’ve been thinking that opening right at the holidays might not be fair to the crew, who will want to be thinking of their families and friends.  So, we imagine that we’ll have our full opening in early January.  In the meantime, if we are ready, and leading up to a full opening, we are thinking we may open in Beta mode, the way we did with the first location, a bit like a software launch.  It’s more true to us, starting with a heart, testing it and adding on menu items and hours in a testing then building kind of way.  The folks at West Fest liked the idea, which felt good to us.  When there is a chance to come into the shop, you and the neighborhood (many of you are both) will be the first to know.

As you can imagine, we’re super excited to be seeing the details of the shop coming to life.  We are incredibly grateful to David Solow who has supported us as a friend, artist and designer starting in 2001.  Yet again he is down for the count with us on this project and his design, composition and leading of artists is so beautiful.

David Solow art & design works with us to build a kind of living art installation that is the shop.  He works closely with local artists to elicit the best in them, while connecting them to the whole.  In Cocoa Cinnamon – Hillsborough Road David has connected the works, some spilling into the next or playing from and among the others.

Areli had the chance to visit with Duke Association for Business Oriented Women on Tuesday and loved hearing all the passion and entrepreneurial ideas!

Leon gave a talk tonight at The Frontier RTP. Some folks came up and asked about a word I used.  In case you were one of them, here’s some detail: min 33.50.

Entbergen – to allow to unconceal, to let grow while saving its essence, to „let be.“ For the shop this is super important, but we usually only use it as a tool behind the scenes, in training and interviews — for the way we approach finding espresso and coffee sweet spots, for our approach to menu and history, for our desire to invite all of our community, in our way to invite discourse.

From Christoph Schmitz-Scholemann (part in German, part English – full English below).

  • “bergen” ist ein sehr altes germanisches wort und meint to store und to save (retten). Man sollte verletzte personen (unfallopfer=accident victims) “bergen”. the word is a little bit old fashioned in contemporary german, Das Wort ist nicht mehr so oft in Gebrauch, es klingt etwas altertümlich im deutschen.
  • “verbergen” heißt “verstecken” (to hide something).
  • “entbergen” is, as far as i know, heidegger’s invention.  das wort ist in der alltagssprache und auch in der gehobenen sprache de facto nicht vorhanden. it doesnt exist, nobody says “entbergen” and if somebody would say it, nobody would understand, what it means, except people who love heidegger. i dont know really and exactly what heidegger means with “entbergen” but i think it should be quite banal – it’s the opposite to “ver-bergen” that is : to “de-hide”, may be “de-store” , to set free.“

English translation:

  • “bergen” is a very old German word and means to store and to save (retten).  One should save “bergen” a person who is injured (accident victims). The word is a little bit old fashioned in contemporary German.  The word is no longer so often in use; it sounds somewhat outdated in German.
  • “verbergen” means to hide something.
  • “entbergen” is, as far as i know, heidegger’s invention. The word is in colloquial and also in sophisticated speech de facto not available. It doesnt exist; nobody says “entbergen” and if somebody would say it, nobody would understand what it means, except people who love Heidegger. I dont know really and exactly what Heidegger means with “entbergen” but I think it should be quite banal – it’s the opposite to “ver-bergen” that is : to “de-hide”, may be “de-store” , to set free.“


Some images and descriptions of the new shop:


Elijah Leed laid in brass lines to connect to the portolan chart on David Solow’s bar front and Heather Gordon’s history of the travel of coffee upper cabinet painting. Soon to come will be Luzene Hill’s beeswax figures above.


William Lum grew up a few houses behind the shop. He also helped us with our first shop…so we’re super excited he and his crew are making these beautiful pallet benches…as well as a series of hard wood turned stools.


Steve, Pete, David, Brandon and Bryce (not pictured) came out to help Al install the upright railroad tracks for the upright bike rack/privacy wall/sculpture.

history of cacao mural going in cupping room

Areli worked with Cornelio Campos to develop images for his history of cacao mural in our cupping room.

pocketdoor (bottom wood smells like tobacco) glass going in top

Matt of Thompson Joinery built this beautiful door frame, using wood dye that plays off of Maryah Smith-Overman’s red dyed bar tops, uses wood from a downtown tobacco factory (that still smells of tobacco). Soon a piece of frosted glass will be inserted in the top with a pattern that comes from the tile in Areli’s granparents’ house in Tepuzhuacan, Nayarit, Mexico.

We always and are currently taking applications.  Here’s what we look for; if it sounds like you or someone you know, please put one in:

Can’t wait to have you out at the new shop!

Leon, Areli and the Cocoa Cinnamon crew


For the latest pictures of our progress, please check out our instagram feed:

Select press:
News and Observer –
Conscious Company Magazine –
UNC TV – NC Weekend –

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Get early invites and info on Cocoa Cinnamon’s second location by being a Squareholder in our Community Sourced Capital Campaign

Sketchup Model of bar (rear view) with place where bar will be built in background.

Sketchup Model of bar (rear view) with place where bar will be built in background.


Wow! Thank you so much for taking part! Together, the ‪#‎BullCity‬ & friends so rocked it! We surpassed the total number of ‪#‎Squareholders‬ by 84 & the most money raised EVER! This place really is like no other, once again showing that it really is Durham, NC – Where Great Things Happen.

So grateful to be in it with you.

Leon, Areli and the CC Crew


A key part of crowdfunding is getting your involvement. We love every single square & really want every person who loves CC to be part of opening the second shop.

We are incredibly grateful for our SuperSquareholders as well. We have 4 folks, individuals and other local businesses, who’ve contributed $1000 each. We really appreciate all of y’all! We are now at 338 Squareholders and $43,800 with a few hours left.

I know we can get there Durham. And it would be amazing to hit 350 to really say something about the Bull City…how it supports small independent business and getting behind living wage jobs and careers! We can do it!

Will you get one square today (i.e. a $50 loan)? and help us blow past the top number ever?

We are going farther will do three important things –
1) Get more of you involved in a direct way with the CC project (which includes early invites and info like below).  This really does matter to us; crowdfunding is only partly about money. The tangible connection it leads to is at least as important.

Neighbors and Squareholders get early visit.

Neighbors and Squareholders get early visit.

2) Tell the whole US that Durham gets behind local projects like nowhere else – jettisoning the #CommunitySourcedCapital model in our city and region and creating more opportunity for deft entrepreneurs to keep our city one of a kind.

The beginnings of bringing our corner of Hillsborough Rd. and Trent Drive to life.

The beginnings of bringing our corner of Hillsborough Rd. and Trent Drive to life.

3) Help us do more with the unique art and design that we are developing to make the space one of a kind. Think of the front room floor in our current space….Let’s just say our CSC will help fund similar awesome aesthetic elements in our second shop.

The collaborative design for the upper cabinet at the new shop is more exciting than we can tell -- the history of coffee geo-mapped and designed by @heatgord in collaborative with @ryaolive & #CharlieEvergreen and shop designer @david_solow.

The collaborative design for the upper cabinet at the new shop is more exciting than we can tell — the history of coffee geo-mapped and designed by @heatgord in collaborative with @ryaolive & #CharlieEvergreen and shop designer @david_solow.

If you have been thinking about it, every Square matters.  So even if we go over, will you become a Squareholder?

We’d love to have you in on it! Here’s the link –

Leon and Areli

Love the inner workings and to be able to involve you with some of it.

Love the inner workings and to be able to involve you with some of it.

Recent Press:

“What’s Your Story,” by Ben Putano in Coffee Talk Magazine

“Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham Tests New Crowdfunding Option,” by Virginia Bridges, News and Observer

“A Mother’s Bonding Adventure in America’s Foodiest Small Town,” by Alyssa Schwartz, Canada National Post

“Look for the Orange Logo,” by Elizabeth Poindexter, The Durham News

“A Walk Through Durham Central Park, Before the Condos Arrive,” by Elizabeth Van Brocklin, News and Observer

“Into Durham’s Waiting Arms,” by Sophia Durhand, Duke Chronicle



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2014 Giving, Spending Patterns, Buzzfeed & Living Wage Update!

Here are some stats for 2014 and some recent news – including 2014 giving and local spending stats, artist meets/new shop development and sustainability efforts.

Giving Stats

2014 Total – 6,564.81

Financial contribution total – 5,641.81


In Durham – 4937.81

Towards building a more equitable city – 3626.06

Within 1.5 miles of shop – 3728.50

Arts – 2128

Indie Business – 801

In Kind – 923 (missing a handful- we’re improving record keeping on this in 2015!)


Percentages of total expenditures going to Local and Independent Business for 2014.

92.09% of our total spent on businesses and indviduals was based in North Carolina

84.78% in the Triangle

78.30% in Durham

70.55%  to Indie Businesses and Local Payroll (i.e. non chain or governmental)


Cocoa Cinnamon was featured on BuzzFeed as one of 24 U.S. Coffee Shops to Visit Before You Die, which got us a bunch of attention and a couple features on WRAL and WNCN.

We, with the direction of David Solow Art + Design & and our landlord Linton Architects, have started working with a good handful of artists to create the design in the new shop.  A lot of you have mentioned seeing changes in the building.  Linton is doing the renovation that you see and we will get in to add our design, bar and equipment sometime around June.  Everyone likes to ask when it will be done.  It’s hard to say exactly, but sometime it’s looking like some time in Fall.





Sustainability and the Durham Living Wage Program –  

Leon and Susie have been participating in the volunteer work group to help get the Durham Living Wage program started.  We’re super psyched one of the first 20 Founding certified Living Wage Businesses in Durham.

Can’t wait for the launch of the kickstarter startup campaign.  Check out the program website for details –

Since our inception we have continued to strive to make Cocoa Cinnamon a great place to work and be. At the suggestion of Ronnie Angerer, we’ve started reading Maverick, by Ricardo Semler as a catalyst towards continuing to engage in a deeper crew-wide conversation and take it a step further.

We were recognized as the 2014 Green Plus Sustainable Enterprise of the year.  We were honored to receive the award for our efforts so far and know that we are just at the beginning of reaching our goals.


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News and Observer Video

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Cocoa Cinnamon Update Part 2


Linton Architects’ visualization of the space that we will be sharing with them for our second location at the corner of Hillsborough Road and Trent Drive. We hope to be open some time fall 2015.

We’re excited to have Linton Architects as the landlord for our second location!  They will be renovating the building over the next 6 to 8 months at the corner of Trent Dr. and Hillsborough Road. David Solow Art + Design be our designer and we will all work with Linton and a group of local artists to create a unique space.  Thanks to Brandon Hoe of ClearSketch for suggesting the location.  Check out the Indy Week article here.


We spend lots of time behind the scenes working on our craft and challenging ourselves to be at the top of our game.  Many of the crew can be pretty shy; we’re lovers of the everyday of the bar, not huge on the spotlight.  That being said, Megan, Kala, Ravyne and Esar ventured over to the Triangle Thursday Night Latte Art Throwdown, which was held this past week at Yellow Dog Bread Company in Raleigh, intending to watch the friendly competition.  Megan signed Ravyne up to compete without her really being signed on herself.  She didn’t have too much time to protest as she was called up first. And all of our crew knows that Ravyne rocks the latte art, so they weren’t having any of Ravyne’s protests anyway.  In her first time ever competing, Ravyne took first place!  We’re super proud of her and knew she could do it!  Those cool skilled hands should come in quite handy when she attends med school next year.  Ravyne’s performance means a lot to us as she has honed her craft over this past year and 1/2, working systematically, getting better and better every day, never quite being satisfied and always humble about her skills! Well deserved!


Everyone at Cocoa Cinnamon really appreciates you voting us the best coffee shop in Durham County 2014 in Indy Week Best of….  We aim to serve you everyday, dedicating to craft and service.  Your support means so much to all of us.


Kristen and Emily-Kate with our Indy Week best of plaque.


We’re pretty excited you voted us Best Coffee Shop in Durham County and Best Place for a Blind Date in the Indy Week Best of… 2014! Thank you for your kind support!



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Since we opened, we have pulled all of our shots triple ristretto.  We have been dedicated to pulling the best possible shots and unfolding the most pleasurable and diverse tasting experience.  To do this we create a specific profile that makes each coffee shine.  When we were pulling espresso only “ristretto” style, we used between 21 and 23 grams of coffee in the portafilter. The resulting volume was normally about 2 ounces.  Most double espresso extractions use 14 to 16 grams of coffee to get 2 oz of liquid.

The change we are making pertains to our approach to pulling the espresso in a way that brings out each and every note to the fullest. To do this, we are opening up the range of total grams and the weight of the coffee coming out to communicate more directly to each coffee and roast.  We are putting more power into the hands of our baristas to determine what works best for each coffee on that particular day  – depending on roast date, grams of coffee used, taste profile, and even the weather. Many roasters are changing their approach to the way they roast for blends and single origins.  We are communicating and staying in tune with that while remaining true to our love of terroir and the tasting experience.

At the top of our game each barista pairs coffees with ingredients and makes micro-changes in extraction to suit all of the above factors, with an awareness of flavor, grams in and out in an ongoing attention to taste.


Composed by Jess with Leon and Areli chipping in.

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CC Update part 1!

Hi Everyone!

A lot has happened in our first 478 days as a brick and mortar.  Here are some of the highlights in pictures, ideas and stats.

It’s been quite a while since we’ve written an update.  As some of you know we update on social media bunches… Did you know all of our Facebook updates pop up on our web page about half way down on the left.  Psst, while you’re there, join our email list if you haven’t already…we only send important updates.

Pictures first!

This is not a comprehensive photo gallery…that’s on FB:


Some news:

We have made a small change to our approach to espresso that we’d like to communicate –

We are about to change the words “triple ristretto” on our menu to “espresso!”  We’ve always used more than a double espresso (i.e. 14 to 16 grams in the portafilter) in your drinks and we still do.  Through most of our existence we have pulled all espresso as triple ristrettos.  Many still are, but we are changing the name to espresso! because we develop each profile to suit each coffee.   Through testing we let each coffee reveal its best character and use that as a base profile. We don’t assume in advance.  Though we can say we’ll always use more than what would be considered a normal double dose to get the dose and extraction just right for each coffee, we put the discernment and profile creation even more in the leadership and barista’s hands.  Behind the scenes we talk about this relationship to our coffee and equipment as the Socratic Barista…excellence in a kind of asking and attending to what each coffee and drink wants to be then guiding it to come out just right.

Through our first 1 year 3 months and 23 days we’ve worked at unfolding and striving towards our root goals (if you hit the link, go 2/3 down the page to the What Cocoa Cinnamon is About section).

Being in coffee, chocolate and tea, we focus on bringing together some very sophisticated skills and interests in our craft with a down to Earth and engaged connection to our community.

What’s interesting to me is that the word we use a lot behind the scenes, “terroir,” though it can sound sophisticated, is very much like our interest in being part of our community. Like all of our ingredients, they are not just down to Earth, they are from the Earth, defined by the Earth and the environment in which they are grown.  As we are a product of Durham, we aim and work every day to be more and more a catalyst towards a healthy city, one of a thriving, bustling diversity of people – ethnic, language, creed, idea, income.  We hire with that in mind and reach out to develop ties to a wide cross section of our city. At CC all are not just welcome but desired as participants.

We get into a lot of discussions about this.  For us it’s not just a snap the fingers kind of effort.  It’s about small daily decisions that culminate in continued impact.

Everyday we aim to–

  • explore through stories and conversation
  • serve delicious hand crafted drinks and locally sourced desserts
  • bring out smiles
  • create new jobs, develop careers
  • unfold company goals through our giving program
  • continue to strive towards excellence in what we make and down to earth service
  • stimulate varied thinking
  • use the model of how we got into business as a way to grow as part of the community

We think a lot about the concept of Entbergen.  I’ll leave it at that (you can ask the crew for a fun and serious conversation – I think I went into it in a wee hour one crew meeting not too long ago).


Some achievements and stats from year one:

–initiated a space for first loves, dissertation defenses, book deals, chance meetings, friends old and new…as everday.

–created 22 jobs — 8 full time, 8 part time and 6 occasional

–implemented a living wage program for every crew member once they pass our initial training program

–implemented a community coffee program where everyone can have a drink to stay regardless of how much money they have

–tightened our behind the scenes organization and production and developed a well structured training program

–given crew members leadership roles that let them be creative and shine in ways that they excel

–added more benefits and made advances towards making CC a great place to work (the way we dream it will be)


Here are our 2013 community giving stats (not including in kind donations):

Total Giving: 5660.22

– 5315

– 5045.22

Targeted specifically toward creating a more equal city – 1944

Neighborhood/within 1.5 miles –  3980.22

– 1549.76

Supporting Local Independent Business – 1495

Next year we’ll keep better track of our In Kind donations; we know it was over $1000 from the letters we unearthed just after we finished our taxes.  oops.


This is all made possible by you.


Our next step is to strengthen our dedicated crew by supporting what we do as a profession.

Details coming soon in Update part 2!


We still have some Kickstarter pictures we’ll be contacting some of you about in the next month or so…so please read your Kickstarter email update if you get one from us!  We might have taken a while with those, but we haven’t forgotten.  :)

We love serving you and benefit from all of your kindness, patronage and dedication.

With fun, work and love!

Leon, Areli and all the Cocoa Cinnamon Crew




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Aziz Ansari tickets Cocoa Cinnamon Photo Contest!!! – results announced

Love to Laugh? Love Cocoa Cinnamon? Want Aziz Ansari tickets?

Now’s your chance to capture what Cocoa Cinnamon means to you in a photo AND win tickets to see Aziz Ansari at The Carolina Theatre of Durham! Our Judges will select the winner from the 10 most liked (or retweeted) pictures! Though we think you shouldn’t worry too much about getting likes or retweets – great pictures tend to get shared a lot if paired with a great caption!

Whether it be of coffee loving folks, the fibers of our building or community, we can’t wait to see your soulful images!


Contest Rules:

  • Picture implies love and captures something essential about Cocoa Cinnamon
  • Can be on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.
  • tags Cocoa Cinnamon (in a way that is visible to us – if you get a lot of likes/retweets send us a message to be sure we see it)
  • Must be posted between now through the end of February.
  • Tickets awarded at the sole discretion of Cocoa Cinnamon
  • Second and third place will receive a $25 and $10 gift card respectively for use Cocoa Cinnamon.
  • You must be 16 or older to take part (sorry) and not be a member of our crew or a family member who has a tendency to bribe

Important Note:  Many times when people tag Cocoa Cinnamon we can’t see it.  To be sure to be considered in our contest, check if your post showed up on our page.  If not, direct message us a link if you think you are in the running.

On twitter it’s simple, just include @cocoacinnamon in the post.  You can do the same on Instagram, but it would be cool if you could add the location too!

Background: There are stories within stories at Cocoa Cinnamon.  Whether it be what is embedded in the design and art concepts in the building, to the varied and storied nature of our menu, to our crew, customers and community.  It’s easy to see just another hip coffee shop.  We challenge you to look deeper and explore with us!

You may, during the month of February, see us sharing some of what we have been thinking as we’ve built out the space and developed the shop!  We hope it’s fun to see some of the connections between the space, the community and the menu.  I know when we interview prospective crew and when it comes up in conversations with employees, people are usually surprised in seeing the space, community and menu come to life.  We’re hoping your photos will do the same!

When developing the shop here are some of the things that played a role for us: tesla, energy exchange at the bar, exploration and discovery, an open field of ideas, space, poetry, the essential, histories of our products, the space and drinks as a medium of exchange, dwelling…


PHOTO CONTEST RESULTS – we named them to help us remember and talk about them, also a note about some of what we liked about it.  Copy and paste links into your browser to view.  

Winner – Corey Anthony Keller 

This one won because we love how Julie used the shop as a living entity, a place to engage, create and in this case stage. The shop in that sense is a vessel to use.   And within the scope of the culture of the shop, we love that!

$25 Gift Certificate – John Huisman


Here the kind of place is implied.  John beautifully captures the potential for being at ease or in conversation over the pleasure of a carefully made drink.


$10 Gift Certificate – David Robertson


Though this could be a mac commercial we loved all the different faces in the shot and the implication of mixing and bustle of being among people.


Some of the other images that resonated with the crew –










CHILD DANCING VIDEO – not a photo, but we loved it.





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First Fall

Hey Everyone!

Our first fall is here!  After a great summer, we’re getting busier and busier.

We’ve taken our beta launch signs down. We’ve made some major headway in establishing great foundations and are bolstering them.   Though for us Cocoa Cinnamon is a never ending creative project.

As we keep getting busier and busier we are adding new crew!  And training new crew.

We are figuring how to keep some warmth outside.  You can imagine, the first time around takes a bit longer.

We are also working on some specific things like tightening/speeding our Saturday/Sunday busy times.  We may add a 4th person, though with how small the bar is, it only works when it’s so good we work almost non-verbally.

We’ve had some internet issues, and are about to get Carl Frega to upgrade our entire network, because whatever the internet companies are doing – yes we’ve had them come many many times – isn’t working.  Carl has full confidence he can get it right once and for all.  He recently opened Undead Electronics.  You should check them out!

We’re super happy that you, the citizens of the City of Durham voted for us as best new business in the Indy this year and more recently as the Preservation Durham best adaptive re-use project!!  Thanks to you and our designer David Solow and all the amazing artists who made that possible!


We’re working hard, having a blast and are happy that you are all part of the process!

Leon and Areli



p.s. we’re super happy to hear about all the creative projects people work on in the space and all the unanticipated and planned meetups that y’all have!

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Artvsm Afterglow.

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