By Morgan Bryce
Savor a sip of carefully brewed coffee or tea at Opelika’s Ristretto Lounge, which recently opened behind the Tiger Square Shopping Center at 2650 Corporate Drive.
Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, the lounge is owned and operated by Lee-Scott Academy graduate Johan Jo.
In an interview with the Observer this summer, Jo explained the origin of his lounge’s name, which possesses a double meaning.
“Ristretto is typically half of what a regular espresso would normally be – the same amount of coffee, but it’s a shorter extraction time, and in my opinion, it’s the sweetest part of an espresso. And that’s what I want this place to be, a sweet experience for everyone who comes in,” Jo said.
Jo christened the lounge with a soft-opening celebration on Oct. 19, with guests mostly consisting of his family and friends.
While Ristretto’s menu may be simple and include caffeinated standards like cappuccinos and lattes, there are some nuances.
Their methods of coffee-making include batch and dutch brew, espresso, siphoning (which utilizes infrared heating elements) and hand-drip for customers to obtain a first-hand look at their drink being made from start to finish.
For tea, Jo will employ the pour-steep, rinse-steep and traditional Chinese “Gongfu” tea-making methods. Matcha is a major part of the tea menu.
Intelligentsia and T2 Teas are Ristretto’s main coffee and tea distributors. Jo said there will be an emphasis placed on serving single-origin coffee, which is raised and produced by farmers around the world.
“I want to promote more of the farmer side of the coffee, because they put a lot of work into their craft. We trade directly with them to serve coffee here,” Jo said. “There’s not any third-party people that we go through at all, so that’s why I’m fully confident in serving Intelligentsia right now.”
Next week, Jo said Ristretto patrons will be able to purchase baked goods and pastries during their visit, which will be made by the fusing together of French and Japanese baking philosophies.
Fruit trees ranging from apples and cherries to figs and persimmons have been planted outside the lounge. Once they begin bearing fruit, Jo said customers will be welcome to pick and eat what they want free of charge.
Ristretto’s floor plan is open and airy, part of Jo’s vision for the lounge to be a space where people can share ideas and create.
On the ground level is adequate chair-and-table seating options, along with a conference room that can be reserved for group presentations or studying. Upstairs offers more seating options and clear glass partition for patrons to view the happenings below. There is also an outdoor seating area equipped with benches for people to sit and soak in nature, which may also be used for concerts and live music in the future.
“I don’t want people to come here and think, ‘oh, it’s a coffee shop.’ They can come here, and do whatever they want here,” Jo said. “We’re thinking about hosting yoga and fitness classes outside and cinematography and photography workshops upstairs. People will be able to collaborate on ideas and motivate each other and be hands on with their content.”
For more information, like and follow Ristretto’s Facebook and Instagram pages.