Coffee inspires my mornings. I'll awaken from a good night's sleep some days, yet I'll miss the bitter tones of a nice dark brew playing upon my tongue. Only after I get a cup of this roasted gold will my day turn sunny-side-up, and then I'm ready to tackle my tasks.

That's one thing that I (and every other coffee drinker) can share with Jared Peterson, general manager of Cafe Kopi, whose appreciation for coffee and other beverages plays into his work in his business. Through an interview with him, I was able to have a small chat about his inspirations, business, and most importantly, the food and drinks at Cafe Kopi.


A photo of the exterior of Cafe Kopi with empty outdoor seating and a lush green tree. Image from Cafe Kopi InstagramImage from Cafe Kopi Instagram.

Smile Politely: Hi can you introduce yourself?

Jared Peterson: Hi, my name is Jared. I'm the general manager of Kopi. This is my second stint of working at Kopi. My love for this business has brought me back after a short hiatus.

SP: What inspires you at the cafe?

Peterson: I'm inspired by a great hand-crafted beverage first and foremost. Coming up with creative ideas to improve something or make something new really inspires me.

SP: What did you do before Cafe Kopi?

Peterson: I've almost always worked in the restaurant business my whole professional career. I even owned a cafe and bagel shop here in Champaign years ago.

A light brown coffee drink in a glass pint glass with a paper sleeve reading Cafe Kopi. Image from Cafe Kopi's Instagram.Image from Cafe Kopi's Instagram.

SP: What is your favorite drink that Cafe Kopi serves?

Peterson: A nice smooth cold brew would have to be my go-to. If done right, a cold brew doesn't require any cream or sweetener.

An overhead photo of a white drink with ice on a sand colored counter. Image from Cafe Kopi's Instagram.Image from Cafe Kopi's Instagram.

SP: What is your favorite baked good that you serve at Cafe Kopi?

Peterson: Have you tried our raspberry-almond scone? It's delish.

Several scones and baked goods with a chocolate drizzle from Cafe Kopi. Image from Cafe Kopi's Instagram.Image from Cafe Kopi's Instagram.

SP: I'll have to try that. Can you talk about what cuisine Cafe Kopi specializes in?

Peterson: Kopi has always wanted to be known for its high quality beverages. Whether you're a coffee, tea, or juice person, we want you to have something to cherish here. All of our food items have a slight twist that makes Kopi a little unique.

SP: How is business now since reopening after lockdown?

Peterson: This is something that none of us have ever experienced before, and we are learning new things daily. Support has been really great. It's a scary time for locally-owned businesses right now. Hearing about the local shops that aren't going to be able to reopen really resonates with me.

SP: How has Cafe Kopi changed in its 25 years of business?

Peterson: Not a whole lot, really. When I returned after being gone for about five years, I couldn't believe how similar everything was when I left. It was like I was gone for a week.

A white hand holds a plastic to-go container of an icy coffee drink from Cafe Kopi with a blue sky in the background. Image from Cafe Kopi's Instagram.Image from Cafe Kopi's Instagram.

SP: What's the most popular thing that customers get from here?

Peterson: There are a lot of staples here at Kopi. The chai tea latte still has me convinced that it's the best in town. We spend a lot of time coming up with seasonal items that will keep you coming back for more. Recently, the mocha cold brew has been a customer favorite. There are also more new and exciting things that I know will become popular.

SP: How can customers help support Cafe Kopi right now?

Peterson: When you are thinking about your next beverage, come see one of the local businesses. The corporations aren't going anywhere, so shop small and shop local.

Cafe Kopi
109 North Walnut
Champaign
7 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily

Top image from Cafe Kopi's instagram page.