This past fall, students who frequented Mocha Joe’s likely noticed a change of decor. The installation of new light fixtures and furniture along with a fresh coat of paint were the obvious physical changes to the space.
This semester marks a continuation in renovations to the coffee shop, which have now moved beyond aesthetics and towards internal improvements.
With a new provider of coffee beans, additions of more traditional drinks and the retraining of baristas to ensure consistency, Mocha Joe’s is attempting to increase the quality of their product to provide artisanal drinks to AU students.
Mocha Joe’s head manager, Libby Durbin, is passionate about serving the best brew possible.
“I don’t really do things halfway,” Durbin said. “Just because we are small-town Indiana doesn’t mean [our coffee] can’t be great.” In Durbin’s mind, a part of being great is embracing and growing through change.
Highlighting the urge to innovate, Durbin made the decision to switch their coffee supplier to Jackrabbit Coffee, a local coffee shop whose beans are roasted by Bee Coffee Roasters in Indianapolis. Jackrabbit Coffee sells beans cheaper than Mocha’s previous supplier, allowing for Mocha Joe’s to invest in several different flavor profiles and offer a new roast every week.
“I’m very excited about the new product,” Durbin said. Mocha Joe’s is also looking into purchasing artisanal coffee syrups from Jackrabbit Coffee, which would further open the door to new flavors and recipes for students to try.
With a staff of 25 students, Durbin also recognized that there was a need for the baristas to be re-trained. “We wanted everyone on the same page,” Durbin said. “Otherwise there are 25 people who have been trained by other people who have been trained by other people. We wanted to make it standard so that a drink made two weeks earlier is made the same two weeks later.”
At the same time, the re-training hinged on helping baristas to feel confident. “You never know where people are coming from, maybe they don’t feel prepared, or maybe they’re having a bad day,” Durbin said. “Mocha Joe’s is a community of people that love each other and want everyone to be their very best. So, we all go through quarterly training because we don’t want anyone to feel in the dark.”
All of the changes are an ongoing effort by Durbin to present Mocha Joe’s as a bonafide coffee shop. “For a long time, [Mocha’s] was just viewed as the bottom of the student center,” Durbin said, but she wants to change that impression.
“I have a passion for good coffee, and have been to a lot of really great coffee shops.” As a result, Mocha’s has undergone a new campaign to provide quality drinks to AU students.
“We’re really excited to get the dialogue started about what customers want, what we want, what coffee means to us, and how we can better serve our community,” Durbin says. “This is in the student center, and [Mocha’s] is for students. My whole job is about serving the people of this campus, and it just so happens that I get to serve the people of this campus with something that I love.”
“Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks,” Durbin joked. “If you got out of your comfort zone and tried coffee made by a small roaster instead of the stuff that’s been mass produced, you may find that you really like it.”
For those willing to try something new, Durbin has some recommendations. For the novice coffee-drinker, Durbin recommends the Mocha Joe—a drink made with chocolate milk and espresso. “It’s sweet. [There is] a little bit of coffee, but not enough to make you feel like you’re drinking straight espresso. It is quite delectable,” Durbin said.
Durbin suggests that the intermediate coffee-drinker “Try a plain latte. You’d be surprised how good it is without any sugar!” As for expert coffee-drinkers, “Definitely try the cappuccino or the cortado,” Durbin suggests. “Or the pour over, where you can try the bean of the week.”