A cup of coffee is only as good as how it's roasted, right? Well, on that front, Shenandoah Joe Coffee knows exactly what it's doing when it comes to churning out perfectly roasted beans and quality coffee products.
With locations in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, Va., Shenandoah Joe Coffee has expanded from a small roastery into a local favorite with a menu that boasts specialty espresso drinks and coffee.
The store's first retail shop opened in 2007 after spending 14 years roasting coffee in small batches. Now there are three locations in Charlottesville. Each morning, owner Dave Fafara wakes early and personally roasts the beans that will be used in the shops, while other batches are packaged for selling to his wholesale and retail clients—of which there are many. More than 50 stores, restaurants, and other coffee shops in the Charlottesville area sell his coffee.
“Everything we do is handcrafted. The beans that you are drinking were probably roasted that morning. When people walk in the door, our focus is all about giving people a great cup of coffee,” says Jon Robison, retail operations manager at Shenandoah Joe.
Shenandoah Joe tries to sell only the freshest coffee possible, which is why Fafara uses a top of the line San Franciscan, 25-pound roaster. Roasting beans in small batches ensures there is never an abundance of roasted beans waiting to be used.
“Dave Fafara deals directly with the co-ops and farmers we buy from. He has a relationship with the farmers and visits the farmers directly," says Michelle Jackson, roastery manager at Shenandoah Joe.
“A lot of the coffee we get is from micro-lots that have a very limited amount of coffee available during the year. Dave gets the first choice because he has a good relationship with the farmers.”
Shenandoah Joe offers several variations of espresso—its main location on Preston Avenue typically has four types on hand every day—so if double shots and cappuccinos are your thing, this coffee shop is your place. “We have a lot of fun espresso names like 'A Dark Horse Espresso' and 'Long Frog.' My personal favorite is Gurly man. A medium roast espresso, and yes, it’s called Gurly Man.”
Robison adds, “We always have multiple espressos available for customers to choose from for their espresso drinks. Giving customers the option of having a more traditional, darker espresso, to a blend of dark with a medium single origin, to a rotating medium roast always keeps the customer coming back. It's nice having these options for more traditional folks, while also being appealing to the more third wave coffee geeks. We try to have something for everyone and not be pretentious while also showcasing our dedication and love of specialty coffee.”
If you like straight coffee, Shenandoah Joe offers that too, plus pastries and other delicious treats. “Paradox Pastry, a local bakery, uses our coffee to make an espresso brownie. Using our Dark Horse espresso provides a smokiness with a blueberry finish,” explains Robison. "It’s a very good brownie."
Shenandoah Joe has a local, neighborhood coffee shop feel to it. Everything is done by hand, from roasting and packaging, to brewing and pulling espresso shots.“Our customers know each other. They are coming in and meeting each other. They end up sitting and chatting with each other. There is a lot of camaraderie among the patrons,” says Michelle Jackson.
As it accurately states on their site, Shenandoah Joe is "Not you Average Joe." It's an extraordinary addition to the coffee culture scene in Charlottesville, and one that doesn't appear to be going anywhere for a long time to come.