The Coffee Tavern: Beginnings
Neovia wasn’t necessarily well known for being an attractive and glamourous tourist destination. Well, to Vrosalie’s dismay, her cluttered, hole in the wall coffee shop wasn’t even a common destination for Neovia’s locals.
The interior of the shop didn’t just feel like a wasteland, it looked like one. A somber, disinviting grey atmosphere devoured the café. It even tasted like the bland, bitter coffee was tainted by the cafe’s despair. The coffee shop only reflected the area it began in on a dark and frigid cobblestone street. Vrosalie, a small halloween cybunny with bright, white hair, had been fortunate enough to inherit a generous amount of neopoints for her Neoschool studies. Her ambition, however, was larger than the reality of her situation. She decided to open up a coffee shop in her hometown on the outskirts of Neovia; a daring attempt to pursue her dreams.
Vrosealie adored coffee. She loved the nostalgic, sharp taste that pricked her tongue as she bit into her breakfast sweet bread at the crack of dawn. The artistic combination of a smoky, dark roasted coffee paired with the innocence of her crisp, sweet sugared bread. Coffee was a staple part of a meal in her household, and around Neovia itself. There weren’t many options for flavours, as Neovians weren’t too keen on the rest of Neopian’s candied take on coffee. Around Vrosealie’s hometown, you’d mostly find a house roast coffee or a nice petite cup of espresso. A Neopian would be foolish to expect a Neovian cafe to carry a mocha, or a latte. Contrary to Neovia’s lack of a sweet, sugar-filled mocha, a nearby bakery sold a large quantity of delicious, fresh-baked breads and desserts.
“The Crumpetmonger! The most delectable, scrumptious baked goods in all of Neovia! Baked fresh and crisp locally every morning. Free cup of dark roasted coffee with every pastry purchase!”
It didn’t seem fair, Vrosalie grumbled to herself. How could that bakery manage to horde all of the town’s business? Didn’t Neovians tire of experiencing the same coffee and atmosphere every day? Vrosalie had been distraught for years attempting to compete with the bakery. No one in the right mind would visit her café if they received free coffee accompanied with their pastries. Her attempts to keep up only washed down the drain. Vrosealie even tried to attract customers by serving a rose flavoured coffee. She simply brewed the house roast with rose petals, harvested from her garden, submerged into the liquid. The few daring customers that actually bought the cup retorted after their first sip.
Vrosalie’s dreams were crushed within months. She was the joke of the town. She slumped in her rusty, wooden chair and cringed at the disrupting sounds of its creaking. She glanced out the Victorian framed windows and spotted Neovians at The Crumpetmonger across the street conversing extravagantly over bread and hot cups of coffee. She sighed heavily wishing her burden would dissipate like her business did. Vrosalie had been considering closing down for good, accepting defeat, and moving back in with her parents. Maybe then, she could finally feel at peace with herself.
Vrosalie looked up at the front door as she caught a glimpse of bright colours just beyond its window. The blurred shape came closer to the doors and it became apparent it was a customer from out of town. Vrosalie quickly padded down her vintage, off-white lace blouse and walked elegantly in front of her desk.
The bell above the front window jingled furiously as the door swung open. A chubby desert xweetok with tousled, ash brown hair stood anxiously in the lobby with a small, plump yooyu clutched to his chest. He was dressed in a bright floral t-shirt, black ripped skinny jeans, an armful of wristbands, and a patterned navy blue cardigan slumped over his shoulders. Vrosealie hesitated to speak, her jaw hanging slightly ajar as she took in the strange visitor. He clearly wasn’t from around Neovia, and didn’t look like he knew where he was either.
“Hi,” he nervously let slip out of his mouth. He seemed uneasy as Vrosealie gawked at his exotic appearance. “Uh, do you have any mochas? The bakery didn’t know what I was asking about.”
“I apologize sir,” Vrosalie struggled to hold back her snobbish attitude. “We don’t carry that type of dessert in Neovia.”
“Neovia?” A wave of shock washed across the Xweetok’s face. He glanced out the wooden paned window at the dimly lit, wet cobblestone streets. He looked back at Vrosealie and noticed her strangely proper attire. “I, I thought it was a little depressing to be Meridell.”
Vrosealie sharply turned at him with a slight glare. “The sweetest coffee on our menu would be the rose-flavoured coffee.”
“O - okay, I’ll take one of those then.”
The cybunny swiftly vanished behind the counter and poured the dark coffee over an antique, delicate silver cup. She then garnished it with a single rose petal. Vrosealie slid the cup gently across the counter. The desert xweetok slowly picked it up and took a cautious sip. His tongue was suffocated with the heavy, acidic taste of a dark, unsweetened coffee. A bitter, overpowering floral tone followed the initial taste of the coffee nearly causing him to gag. He sheepishly looked up at Vrosealie as he placed the cup down with a delicate clank.
“Do you have any cream or sugar?”
“You don’t have sugar?”
“Our sugar isn’t for spoiling the coffee I brewed,” she spat stubbornly. “What is it with the rest of Neopia and their coffee anyway? Coffee is a delicacy, an art. It’s a sin to ruin it with all that sugar.”
“Have you ever had a mocha or a latte? Cream or sugar?” The xweetok didn’t come across as offended, in fact, he seemed excited.
The xweetok stood anxiously in front of the counter deciding if he should push his investigation further...but how could he not? The poor cybunny had been deprived of such a delectable treat. “May I…make you one with what you have lying around? I can pay for the materials.”
Vrosealie scolded him again. “Who do you think you are coming into my café demanding to make your own coffee?! Where did you even come from?!”
He didn’t pause for a second to spill his life story. “Well, I live on Meri Acres farm, but I travelled to the Lost Desert to find new fruits to grow. I love experimenting with recipes. I’m kind of lost though, not sure how I ended up in Neovia. We have so many types of coffees and desserts in Meridell, it’s crazy! I do wish you could try some - especially during Altador cup season when we cater to so many different Neopians.”
Vrosealie stood silently in shock at how quickly he took the chance to talk her ears off, but ever stranger, how kind-hearted and genuine he seemed. “What’s your name?”
“Ashdken, but you can call me Ash.”
“I’m Vrosealie,” she took a deep breath to calm her unreasonable temper. She pondered on the possibilities of trying his coffee. She felt as if she had nothing to lose. Vrosealie tried her hardest to speak through her gritted teeth,” I apologize for my defensive behaviour. I would like to try one of your recipes. You’re welcome to my kitchen.”
“Rad! Thanks! You’re so kind,” Ash bolted behind the counter and began to make his concoction without hesitation. Vrosealie watched suspiciously from a distance still trying to shake off her grudge. He didn’t seem to hold bad intentions behind it. It was difficult for her to not take offense to his excitement about coffee other than her own. Deep down, she was self-conscious and afraid her business was on its last foot. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to see what this kid had in store.
“Voila! Cocoa Juppie Mocha,” Ash exclaimed, his face bright with enthusiasm. He handed her the warm, yellow mug. “I had a juppie on me and thought it’d be a good one for you to try. I grew it myself back on the farm!”
Vrosealie hesitantly lifted the mocha to the tip of her nose and wearily sniffed it. She took a sip. A romantic chocolatey aroma swarmed her taste buds as it sweetly complimented the perfectly, light roasted coffee brew. The unexpected fresh flavour of the juppie danced around the slight tang of the coffee. The tasteful experience was bright, like the colour of the mug, like Ash’s attire, like the Meridellan blue skies. Her eyes lit up with a sparkle emulating the explosive colours of fireworks. This mug of Cocoa Juppie Mocha tasted like a mixture of the happiness sweet bread and bitter coffee gave her on a gloomy Neovia morning. It felt like the nostalgic thrill of enjoying an uplifting breakfast before having to face the dull workday. It was genius, brilliant, but there’s no way Neovia would have a market for it. The people were too stuck on tradition.
Ding, Ding! Two neopets walked elegantly through the front door. One, a female grey kacheek, had her hair twisted into a curly updo and wore a long, dark Neovian gown. Her friend, a tall and slender grey gelert with sharp cheekbones, dressed in suede vintage slacks and an off-white ruffled blouse.
To be continued…