Photo: Gabriel Guillory

For many across the Bull City, that first sip of coffee opens our eyes to the wide world around us. It awakens us to the present with a warm plume of tastes and smells. Coffee is an experience, and the sturdiest fleet to adventure in Durham is Cocoa Cinnamon. Get out your map and compass.

Owners Leon and Areli Barrera de Grodski bring the experience of a cultural melting pot to Durham, with drinks inspired by Mexican, North African, Asian, Spanish, Sicilian, Italian, and indigenous flavors and spices. According to Cocoa Cinnamon’s official website, Leon and Areli “infuse craft with story, drink with design in a way that is simple, layered and beautiful, a kind of open invitation to wonder as one would discover a foreign land, a new language.” Also known as Cacao Canela, Cocoa Cinnamon’s semi-bilingual baristas and leaders take pride in building relationships through language and culture.

It is in this spirit of expansion and love that Cocoa Cinnamon has branched out from their original 420 West Geer Street location to two more site-specific locations at 2627 Hillsborough Road and 2013 Chapel Hill Road.

Why Are There Three Cocoa Cinnamon Locations?

Forget everything you know about franchise coffee shops – Cocoa Cinnamon has three unique locations throughout the Bull City, each with their own powerful blend of architecture, history and drink options.

Personalized Menu Options: At each location, you’ll find slightly different menus offering coffee, espressos, teas and infusions, pourovers, drinking chocolates and more. With pourover names like En La Lucha, Strait of Hormuz, and Rumi, and espressos like the Dr. Durham, Al Mokha, and See-Line Woman – it’s easy to chart a new caffeine destination at every visit.

4th Dimension Coffee is Cocoa Cinnamon’s official house brand and is roasted each week at their 2013 Chapel Hill Road location. Ask for your favorite single origin or blend of 4th Dimension Coffee at any Cocoa Cinnamon.

Photo: Gabriel Guillory

One-of-a Kind Architecture: Like the spice trading markets between historical civilizations in Asia, Northeast Africa and Europe, Cocoa Cinnamon takes you far but keeps you close to home by building lasting relationships with Durham’s best local artists. Starting with the help of David Solow art + design, the style of each location is as rich as its signature drinks. David’s guidance can be seen on every nook and corner of Cocoa Cinnamon. Everything from repurposed tables and benches to navigation-inspired designs to murals and wall art by your favorite Durham artists like Candy Carver can be found in a measured sprawl both inside and out.

Cocoa Cinnamon is a recurring Indy Week award winner, and a Bull City staple with nationwide accolades. Even before their three-way outpouring, in 2015 the original Cocoa Cinnamon ranked #7 on Buzzfeed’s “Top 24 US Coffee Shops to Visit Before You Die.” Pick a destination and navigate your surroundings.

Listed below are some of the features unique to each shop.

Which Cocoa Cinnamon Location Will Be Your Favorite?

420 W Geer Street

Photo: Gabriel Guillory

The original Cocoa Cinnamon is located in the heart of downtown Durham’s Tobacco District. You’ll find it at the cross-section of W Geer Street and Foster Street, only a block away from Motorco and Fullsteam Brewery. Fuel up on your favorite espresso, and then get moving at the Living Arts Collective next door or swing by the famous King’s Sandwich Shop for lunch.

Look for Heather Gordon’s inspirational front room floor mural, reflecting ideas of travel, cultural difference, love, explosion, and dialog with colorful binary strings of 1’s and 0’s. There’s plenty of upcycled site and tobacco factory materials showcasing a theme centered on research and invention. Sit at your choice of picnic tables and covered outdoor seating, or small tables, comfy couches and computer nooks inside with free Wi-Fi. This is hands down the best place to work on your blog in Durham.

2627 Hillsborough Road

Photo: Gabriel Guillory

Located in Old West Durham, this Cocoa Cinnamon is within walking distance from historic 9th Street.

Pair your choice of pourover coffees, espresso drinks, signature blends and more with espresso-topped affogatos, made with vanilla ice cream from The Parlour. Or pick out your favorite cookie, brownie or pastry from the display.

Every design feature is playfully constructed Where’s Waldo style throughout this location. The architecture expertly blends historical design inspired by Mexico, Spain and North Africa.

There’s a dense mix of literary, anthropological, and navigational references at the Hillsborough Road location. My favorite is the “Fifteen Daughters of Lucy” figurines suspended throughout this location, all made from natural beeswax , plus cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric and paprika for pigments, designed by Eastern Band Cherokee artist Luzene Hill.

2013 Chapel Hill Road

Photo: Gabriel Guillory

The newest Cocoa Cinnamon is located near the Lakewood Neighborhood and County Fare, the Triangle’s first Food Truck Focused Venue.

Order your favorite coffees, espressos, affogatos and drinking chocolates. You’ll notice there is no baked goods display case – instead, treat yourself to made-to-order authentic Mexican churros. Dip your churros in cinnamon, cardamom or orange sugar, and don’t skimp on the dipping chocolate. There are even seasonal ice cream churro sandwiches for those hot summer days!

The wide-opening front to this location and bold, bright murals transport you to a sunny Mexican street market.

Get unplugged and enjoy your surroundings. There’s more space here so it’s the best location to meet people the old-school way – face to face. I’ve personally eavesdropped on several Spanish conversation immersion meetups from the Spanish-Ingles Exchange group that meet the 2nd Thursdays (6:30-9:30pm) of every month.

Stop and Shop at Cocoa Cinnamon Today

Never settle for conventional coffee. Fuel your entrepreneurial spirit with a personalized coffee experience that infuses love, culture and the true spirit of Durham. Cocoa Cinnamon teams up with the best local vendors like Big Spoon Roasters, Guglhupf, The Parlour and more to deliver your favorite pastries, chocolates, jams, nut butter blends and more.

As if that’s not enough to like, Cocoa Cinnamon also donates a portion of their profits to local organizations and offers a flexible “community coffee” program for coffee drinkers going through financial hardships. Support, community, and good coffee go hand in hand.

Buy a bag of 4th Dimension Coffee and get a free prepared drink from the menu with your Shop Durham card.

Gabriel Guillory
Author: Gabriel Guillory

I’m a freelance content writer and musician who is fueled by equal parts coffee, eclectic local menus, and the outdoors. I moved to the Bull City in the summer of 2015, having spent my whole life as a Louisiana native. Brick by brick, I’ve fallen in love with Durham’s entrepreneurial spirit, commitment to art, down-and-dirty nightlife, world-class food, and social diversity. When I’m not fumbling around with words and ideas, you can find me on a local hiking trail with my pack of five dogs or downtown catching a live band or pop-up dance party.