People are eagerly anticipating the next week’s opening of Cafe Moka in South Charlotte’s Waverly development. I am a first-hand witness to this eagerness, as I got a first look at the coffee shop while watching people excitedly pull on the locked doors before they realized it wasn’t open yet.
Owner Roark Basham and his two brothers started Cafe Moka in 2010 in Virginia Beach.
Before Cafe Moka, Basham started out in the coffee business as a Starbucks barista and worked his way up to becoming a district manager. With some time as a district manager, Basham realized he loved what he was doing, but was missing out on the people aspect.
“At that point the people element is pretty much gone, and not to disparage anyone who does that job, but it just wasn’t for me,” Basham said.
With his passion for people, coffee and creativity, Basham was inspired to start up his own coffee shop.
The name Cafe Moka comes from the Port of Moka in Yemen. The Port of Moka has been the point of transporting coffee from that region into the world since the 16th century. According to Roark, Yemen coffee was the first coffee in which he truly tasted flavor notes, and understood the nuances of coffee.
The original shop opened by the Basham brothers quickly became a hot spot for Virginians and especially for Regent University students, Basham said.
One of Basham’s acquaintances, who worked at the nearby Christian university, asked him to open an on-campus shop. That became his second location.
When his older brother Rowman moved to Weddington, NC, and told him about the Waverly development, Basham thought it would be the perfect place to bring Cafe Moka. He kept his Regent spot (it’s still open to the public), shut down his Virginia Beach location and headed down to Charlotte.
Basham himself designed the logo, the artwork on the walls and even some of the furniture that you’ll find in the Waverly shop.
As someone who is not the biggest coffee drinker, but has an absolute love for coffeeshops (go ahead and judge me), I was excited to see the wide variety of drinks on the menu. The menu includes espresso, frozen lattes, creamy smoothies, pure fruit smoothies, teas and hot cocoas.
Beverage prices range from $2.40 to $5.90.
I recommend their Peach Rose summer tea, which was fruity and refreshing and even served in a cute mason jar with a striped straw.
Whether you are a brave, black coffee drinker or a coffee wimp like me who drinks her lattes with so much cream you can’t even taste the coffee, Basham’s menu has something for everyone.
As a multi-roaster shop, Cafe Moka will have coffee available from different roasters for customers to choose from, that will rotate regularly. They are currently using Red Rooster Coffee Roasters, Cirque Coffee, Barista Parlor, Dillanos and Hex Coffee.
“We do all pour over, so basically you can come in, pick a roaster and which coffee you want, and we will hand brew it on demand,” Basham said.
The menu features an espresso intensity scale so customers can choose from beverages based on their milk level (no milk, some milk and more milk).
They will also carry pastry items from a locally owned bakery in the Charlotte area called Whisk + Wood.
I am not going to lie, when Basham told me what their must-try item is, I thought I misheard him. According to him, their blackberry coffee lemonade took many of his Virginia customers by surprise, but after explaining to them that it is similar to the concept of an Arnold Palmer (half tea/ half lemonade), it wasn’t long before it became a fan favorite.
“Coffee is actually fruity if its brewed properly,” Basham said. “The idea here is for you to taste the coffee and not the roast.”
So, eager folks, the wait is almost over and soon you can enjoy the summertime sun by sipping on an iced coffee lemonade. Keep an eye on Cafe Moka’s Facebook page for updates.
Images by Deanna Drogan