420 W. Geer Street
Central Park District
M – Th, 7:30 am – 10:00 pm
Fri – Sat, 7:30 am – Midnight
Sun, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
I’ve been to Cocoa Cinnamon twice now, and I already wish I lived closer so I could watch as their amazing, thoughtful drink lists of coffees, chocolates, and teas expand and evolve. Cocoa Cinnamon started out as a bike-based coffee service and opened their storefront with the support of the community through Kickstarter, more proof that Durham is a city that celebrates hard-working folks with a passion for quality ingredients and the know-how to help us appreciate them.
The space is divided into a front room with computer bars for those more inclined toward work than socialization—
— a cozy, talk-provoking lounge area also likely to be packed with the laptop-wielding masses—
–and a brand-spanking-new canvas-covered patio full of benches for the outdoors experience.
You can tell that Cocoa Cinnamon’s building is evolving along with its drink list if you compare that picture with the first one on the page taken back in March. Their late hours thrill me. Experimental jazz played one afternoon, and modern sitar was on during the other.
On my first visit, I opted for the al mokha from the chocolate drinking list, which had six choices at the time, all fairly traded and bearing tasting notes to craft your cup. The owners steered me toward an al mokha because I wanted chocolate with my coffee rather than coffee with my chocolate.
All Cocoa Cinnamon’s espresso drinks use triple shots extracted ristretto style, which means a shorter shot pull that results in less volume and caffeine but a richer, bolder flavor. Thus a triple is comparable to a regular double in volume and caffeine. The al mokha’s dark Gran Saman chocolate seduced me with its bitterness and nutty flavors. The mocha was only slightly sweet, which is perfect for me, and a dash of cinnamon helped it all go down. It was on the lukewarm side, but I am not one to complain about that. My tongue has been burned too many times.
On my next trip, I had a Middle Eastern iced coffee, which is made with moka java coffee slow-brewed with rose, cardamom, and vanilla.
It was delicious. The rose swims right in to your taste buds, but the cardamom’s bite stops it from being overwhelmingly floral.
After a few hours working on my fantasy novel, it was time for another boost. I chose the Dr. Durham cappuccino for my second drink.
Dr. Durham is only its nickname. The drink’s actual name is so long customers are provided with a nickname for it, which was handy for me as I did not record that long-ass title. It’s a cappuccino with house-made vanilla syrup, maca powder, ginger, and black lava salt. There is too much milk for my cappuccino preferences, but the occasional hint of salt was fun and the vanilla tasty. I’m not sure I tasted any ginger, but I think the maca powder added some pleasant texture to the drink.
Should you want some substance with your drink, Cocoa Cinnamon offers a variety of baked goods from a variety of local vendors including International Delights and Zen Cat Bakery.
Cocoa Cinnamon is proof of the evolution of the barista as a craftsman, but it doesn’t lose sight of a coffee shop’s primary purpose of being a place to relax and feel welcome and part of a community. I have no doubt they’ll be making this corner of Geer St. their own for a long time to come.
Reviewed in 15 Mar and 3 May 2013.by