What’s Brewing In Kapa‘a

Anni Caporuscio at her shop’s new home. Amanda Gregg photo

Thanks to the hard work of loyal customers, Small Town Coffee is now settled in its new location at Kaua’i Products Fair in Kapa’a

Residents heading north through Kapa’a for a routine coffee fix and visit to what owner Anni Caporuscio describes as a “social institution” will have to go a few blocks farther. Entering its second month at its new digs, the East side staple Small Town Coffee moved Sept. 7 to a quaint little red house in the Kaua’i Products Fair in Kapa’a.

Hard-core regulars at the boutique coffeehouse already know that, since they lent a hand in the endeavor.

“When it was time to look for a new location and then build it, our customers were top-notch, positive, helpful just otherworldly,” Caporuscio says. “When we announced the first Small Town Coffee workday, 24 people showed up. From that day forward, there were people volunteering every day. It was magical and quite possibly the most community-building experience I’ve been a part of.”

Caporuscio, who shares the business with partner and fellow former Southern Californian Jeremy Hartsorn, says volunteers painted, spackled, swung hammers, deepcleaned, brought lunch and even scavenged materials, among other things.

“People would show up for an hour after work and wash the windows,” she recalls, adding they also cut driftwood and hauled it up from the beach to make a support beam for the porch.

“It was an old-fashioned barnraising.”

To be sure, the business Caporuscio has been running for six years has acquired quite a following.

Made up of a staff of 12 who serve up everything from chai and quiche to jokes and quite possibly the prettiest cappuccino foam designs imaginable, Small Town Coffee has caught the attention of national media such as Sunset magazine (which lauded it for the “best lattes in the world”) as well as politicians, including Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., who held a campaign Q&A there, and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, who hosted a coffee talk recently.

“I’ve seen people come out for a church or a political rally,” Caporuscio says, adding that seeing people come in routinely is heartening. “People are fantastic. I can’t thank our customers enough. I’ve wanted to tell the story of people who don’t know each other coming together to be a part of something. It’s sweet.”

Perhaps it’s not just the camaraderie shared by the regulars that gives the shop that homey feel, but also a business philosophy full of inspired wit, including the idea that “a good waffle must be sweet-talked into perfection” and that a cup of coffee should be “delicious and beautiful.”

Caporuscio says her shop is already getting additional foot traffic thanks to Kaua’i Products Fair, and she expresses her gratitude for now having an actual parking lot.

“Yes, we have parking now!” Caporuscio says, adding that additional new offerings include longer hours, an airier building and an outdoor garden setting. Other than that, “it’s the same great coffee, same great food, same great service, same wacky sense of humor,” she says.

Small Town Coffee still plays host to open mic poetry slams, and designated tango and knitting nights (Tuesdays and Wednesdays, respectively).

Noting that she and Hartsorn believe in the coffee shop culture and what it can do for a community, Caporuscio says a great cup of coffee can draw people together.

“It can do wonderful things for the soul,” she says.

Caporuscio has a profound appreciation for the brewed concoctions she tops with a seemingly about-to-spill steamed milk masterpiece.

“When someone walks into the coffee shop and asks something like, ‘what’s good here?’ I almost always steer them toward a latte. You’ve got to try it,” she says. “The first sip is always the best, no sugar, no lid. It’s like drinking a cloud.”

Caporuscio, who is to coffee what a sommelier is to wine (but more than a barista), adds that if customers choose a cold beverage, her inclination is to recommend a toddy or iced coffee.

“This is a cold-brewed coffee, left to steep for 20 hours,” she says. “The processing method removes the acidity from the coffee and leaves you with a fullbodied cold brew.”

The only thing to inspire her more than organic, fair trade artisan roasted coffee and espresso is the people she credits with making the coffeehouse a success.

“It’s always the people,” she says. “The regular customers who make Small Town a part of their routine, our staff who end up being just like family members to us, the occasional customer who we get to greet and reminisce with, and the visitor we can meet. Small Town is about people and community.”

Small Town Coffee, 4-1613 Kuhio Hwy. inside Kaua’i Products Fair in Kapa’a, is open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more, go to smalltowncoffee.com.