The new coffee culture

Published 11:33 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2011

LoriLynn and Drake Simms work together to create coffee-based drinks at Rosa’s Coffee Cantina, their coffee shop on Main Street.

It’s a scene that plays out daily in early-morning kitchens and mid-afternoon break rooms across the United States.

A person becomes so tired that all he wants to do is crawl into bed and go back to sleep. Instead, he brews a quick cup of Joe, giving himself an energy boost to survive the rest of the day.

But coffee isn’t just for waking up anymore. And Suffolk’s cafes offer more than coffee to help bolster the community.

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From local art to gourmet sandwiches and food to live entertainment, coffee shops are a place to gather as a community and relax.

“And above that, there’s the coffee. You can’t beat a good cup of coffee,” said Drake Simms, who, with his wife LoriLynn, owns Rosa’s Coffee Cantina on Main Street.

“People come in here without putting a lot of thought into the cup of coffee they want. I wanted the coffee to be special,” said LoriLynn, who always dreamed of opening a coffee shop/art gallery/studio space.

According to the, legend places the first appearance of coffee beans in Africa, when the berries were discovered to increase alertness. Migrating around the world, the beans became prized plants and evolved into the many forms we consume them as now.

The liquid in your morning cup of energy is first harvested, then roasted to create the classic “coffee” flavor, ground into a powder of varying texture and brewed into a flavorful pick-me-up popular the world over — with the exception of a few countries that adamantly prefer tea. The flavor of the basic brew is a function of how long the coffee is roasted, how fine the coffee is ground and which method is used to infuse the flavor in water.

And let’s not forget the multitude of milk, flavorings and foams that are the specialties of coffee shops.

From your basic cup of plain black coffee to your triple-venti-soy-double-pump-skinny-caramel-macchiato, there’s something for everyone when it comes to coffee. And that may be where its appeal lies. But there’s more to coffee than just its widespread appeal and energy-boosting properties.

“Some people think coffee is a relaxing drink; for others, it gives people energy to prepare for the rest of the day,” explained Monique Hemingway, store manager at Healing Time Café off Bridge Road. “Everyone needs that moment — to enjoy a cup of coffee or just take a load off.”

And that’s the basis for the burgeoning coffee culture in Suffolk.

“Coffee is about social gathering and camaraderie. Coffee shops offer a place to relax,” said LoriLynn about the importance of Rosa’s to the downtown community. “We want to give customers a place to unwind and get away from stresses. I want them to leave feeling good.”

Both Rosa’s and Healing Time have become fixtures in their communities. Having a place to go to unwind has created “regulars,” people who come through the coffee shops every day and help build the community in the shops.

“All the people are just so loyal. I didn’t even know them, and they are so supportive,” said Rosa. “I’m overwhelmed by the community.”

“It’s just a comfortable setting where you just exhale,” Hemingway said. “Once people find us, they find that they just love what we provide as far as atmosphere and our menu. It’s more intimate than a restaurant.”

Both shops have a multitude of featured coffees.

Rosa’s Coffee Cantina gets sustainable coffee beans through a Williamsburg-based roaster called Williamsburg Coffee & Tea Co., which buys beans from small farmers all over the world.

LoriLynn and Drake grind the beans on site and create “handcrafted” hot and cold drinks, including the Macchiato (espresso and a dollop of froth), Rosa’s Tango Frappe (blended iced espresso with half and half, caramel and vanilla) and a selection of brewed coffees. The café also offers smoothies, teas, pastries, cakes, light lunch items and the Rosa’s Kitchen Favorites menu, their Latin-inspired offerings that include carne asada tacos and quesadillas.

Healing Time Café gets its beans through North Carolina-based Buffalo & Springs Coffee. The café also features smoothies, pastries, sandwiches made with homemade bread and breakfast and lunch items.