What We Do

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Cocoa Cinnamon and 4th Dimension Coffee are locally and independently owned and operated by Leon and Areli Barrera de Grodski.

Cocoa Cinnamon/Cacao Canela is a three-location (semi-bilingual) coffee shop business in Durham, NC. Our roastery and coffee brand is called 4th Dimension Coffee. 4th Dimension Coffee has its own name to make sure it is clear what is in the bag when we begin to sell outside of our region.

For us, the three Cocoa Cinnamon shops aim to exude equal parts excellence in craft, warm and welcoming service and the feeling of wonder and discovery. The goal of this is to turn the daily habit of drinking coffee into a chance to create a simple beautiful experience of flavor and warmth.

Check out this slideshow to get a sense of our shops, all designed by David Solow art + design.

Each shop is a completely unique setting. 420 West Geer Street taps into the tobacco past of the Bull City while eliciting its current focus on research and invention. 2627 Hillsborough Road is a kind of imaginary reverse engineering of Areli’s DNA — Mexican, indigenous, Spanish, North African — and plays out the beauty, aesthetics and flavors of the ebb and flow of those connections. 2013 Chapel Hill Road explores most directly her Mexican roots in its aesthetic, taking on the classic style of a churreria with focus on coffee, chocolate and roasting, with allusions to Leon’s Sicilian roots.

Our menus use the histories of coffee and chocolate as starting points. Spices play a large role in our signature drinks because of the connection of the original spread of coffee and coffeehouses through the Islamic world and how they were tied so closely with the Muslim influenced spice routes.

The name of our business, Cocoa Cinnamon, came to Leon in a dream after a long fascination and reading of histories of the spices, human migration, adventurers and creators and how the search for spices, gold, land and power led to the world in which we now live. While the content of many of the stories are tragic, we see beauty in the mixing and ebb and flow of culture in the world of today.

We aim to infuse craft with story, drink with design in a way that is simple, layered and beautiful, a kind of open invitation to wonder as one would discover a foreign land, a new language.

We value a third wave approach in which our roast style features the unique qualities of single origin coffees sourced for their quality and sustainability. Our goal is not to blindly stick to a dogma of coffee, but to present a wide range of coffee tasting experiences. This includes the pleasure of 4th Dimension Coffee single origins and espresso blends with dynamic complexity.


Cocoa Cinnamon is our way of experiencing these amazing tastes and the stories that go with them.  It is also a way of making small decisions that undo longstanding patterns. And committing to working towards being part of a thriving community, city and world.  We believe that through commerce, we can be part of creating sustainable and pleasurable habits. We mean this in a direct way. Wherever possible we source all of the ingredients that go into what we make as locally and sustainably as we can. This is an ongoing process and we aim to get better as we grow.

We have a living wage guarantee for all crew members who have completed basic FOH training and aim to be a contributing and positive catalyst in our local community.  Non-tipped team members earn a minimum of $13.35 per hour.  Certified by the Durham Living Wage Program.

Cocoa Cinnamon uses part of its profits to support local organizations and efforts that align with our mission. Please see our blog for last year’s contribution stats and our donation page to make a request.


As a space we aim to be open, creating a kind a public house, where difference is a pleasure and no thinking or belief is assumed.

People from all walks of life, backgrounds, economic statuses, languages, beliefs and ideas are welcome and hoped for*…we have a sliding scale community coffee program for anyone who might not be able to afford a coffee, tea or chocolate drink.  Simply ask for a “community coffee” at the counter and we’ll ask you what you would like.

Thank you for taking part and enjoy.

Leon and Areli
Cocoa Cinnamon


Recognition/Select Press:

The News and Observer Best in class for Coffee Shop in Greg Cox’s Best Restaurants of the Triangle 2017 and 2018

Samsung Spot with Jessamyn Stanley 2018

The News and Observer – Snowboarder Chloe Kim got hungry and won the gold. This Durham coffee shop had the perfect response. 2018

Durham Magazine  – 2018 Sweet Sips

Bites of Bull City – Best Vegan Bites

Bites of Bull City – 2017 Best Bites in Durham for Coffee House as chose by Sarah Kreuger of WRAL and John Huisman, the Triangle Explorer

The Food Network – #2 in “50 States of Coffee”

Southern Living Magazine October 2016 – included in “The South’s Best Coffee Shops.”

Toronto Star October 2016 – included in “7 Reasons to Love Durham.”

Lonely Planet  – included in the USA guide as a pick for the NC Triangle and as top choice for coffee in Durham.

Alton Brown visit and tweet

Spoon University – included in 2016 “The Ultimate Eating Guide to Duke University.”

Spoon University April 2016 – “Why you should get to Cocoa Cinnamon II Immediately” referring to the Hillsborough Road location.

Sarah McLachlin to crowd at DPAC – 2015 “Best coffee and cocoa on tour.”

Buzzfeed – 2015 “Top 24 US Coffee Shops to Visit Before You Die.”

The New York Times — 2014 “A Corner of Durham N.C. Comes to Life”

Green Plus Program – 2014 Winner Sustainable Enterprise of the Year
Durham Magazine – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Winner Best Coffee Shop in Durham
Indy Week – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Best Coffee Shop in Durham County
Downtown Durham Inc. – 2013 Best Downtown Renovation
Congressman Butterfield – 2013 Congressional Record certificate for inclusion in Southern Living Magazine’s Tastiest Town in the South
Indy Week – 2013 Winner Best New Business and Finalist for Best Triangle Coffee Shop
Durham Magazine – 2013 Finalist Best Coffee Shop
Preservation Durham – 2013 Winner of the People’s Choice award for Best Adaptive Reuse