Liquid Fascination In Kapa‘aTen months ago, Small Town Coffee moved from the big blue building in Old Town Kapa’a to the Kaua’i Crafts Fair, about three blocks away. Sitar-like sounds float in the cool morning air as I walk up the brick-red stairs and into the shop. Darby Slick, author of the song Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane and brother-in-law of vocalist Grace Slick, is playing a double-neck guitar on the lanai.
“He called this morning and asked if he could come and play,” says Anni Caporuscio. “Of course I said yes. We always have music here. We do lots of things, like host book and CD release parties, and politicians speak here.”
Caporuscio, who owns Small Town Coffee with partners Jeremy and Julie Hartshorn, has had a liquid fascination since childhood. At the age of 3, she made pretty designs in her glass of milk. Today, the award-winning barista makes latte art.
“You know how people say they’re foodies?” Caporuscio asks. “I’m a liquid person. But there’s really no way to say that – I’m liquidic?”Sunset magazine is impressed with her fluid flair, and in the spring 2011 issue declared that she had “quite possibly the best lattes in the world.” Caporuscio won Big Island barista competitions in 2006 and 2007, but now modestly brushes aside the honor. “It was a long time ago, so it’s kind of old news. To win, you have to do it quickly, cleanly and it has to taste good. You have to talk while you do it, and make it pretty with latte art.”
Even though she is no longer competing, Caporuscio is still serious about coffee. The daily brew is made from a custom blend by Kaua’i Roastery. Located in Waimea, the roastery is a locally owned company specializing in 100 percent Hawaiian-grown coffee and sources from farms that meet sustainable agronomic practices.
“Richard Loero roasts it the way I want,” says Caporuscio of the blend that contains 30 percent Ka’u coffee from the Big Island. The remaining 70 percent is a blend of Peruvian and Nicaraguan beans. “I like mildly roasted coffees. Many roasters of Hawaiian coffee roast it too darkly, so you’re not getting the intricacies of what Hawaii beans are.
“Hawaii beans are lighter, nuttier (and make a) thinner-bodied coffee. It’s brighter. It’s more on the top of your mouth. The American palate likes earthier, thick, strong coffees, and that’s not Hawaiian coffee. So we will typically over-roast it, and I think that ruins it.”
Award-winning fair-trade beans from Barefoot Coffee Roasters in California are freshly ground for the espresso. “As soon as you grind it, it starts to lose its flavor and hutzpah,” Caporuscio says. “All the flavors and aromas seep into the air. So you want to grind it and hit it with water and use it immediately so that you get the full flavor.”
I try the Maple Cinnamon Cappuccino ($4) and it tastes like coffee smells. It’s rich, smooth, full of flavor and not too sweet. It’s also powerful and I feel it waking my body and mind after two sips.
Sarah Maurer, a former vegan who turned vegetarian “except for bacon,” bakes pastries every morning at 4:30. A variety of scones, muffins and quiches are made with regular, gluten-free and vegan ingredients.Coffee syrups and salad dressings are made in house, and breakfast includes egg and bagel sandwiches. A thick omelet laced with fresh cilantro and chives is in the center of the Eggstra-Terrestrial ($7.25). Layers of cream cheese, crisp lettuce, tomato and Cheddar cheese flank the fluffy eggs, and it’s sandwiched between a toasted sesame seed bagel.
In the back of the coffee shop is a bookstore that also serves as Caporuscio’s office. Customers browse for books and talk story while she works.
“Coffee shops are a social institution,” she says. “It’s a home away from home where people meet people. They bring their family here; it’s a part of their day. I’m genuinely interested in my community. I think that shows, and so people are genuinely interested back.”
Small Town Coffee 821-1604 smalltowncoffee.com Catch Felix Sonny Boy and Red Brick June 15 at 7 p.m.