Moka & Co. balances crisp internationalism with traditional touches


Lovers of strong Arabic coffee in Okemos will be happy to know they can now pick one up close to home. After opening its East Lansing location in December, Moka & Co. brought another location to the corner of Grand River Avenue and Central Park Drive on March 29.
Design changes throughout the interior have turned this former Panera franchise into a “clean, well-lighted place” (to quote Hemingway) that provides a breath of fresh air and a splash of color at an otherwise impersonal corner with a view of a Rite Aid and a Speedway gas station.
What really makes the drinks Yemeni, employee Jude Yahya said, are the seasonings: Coffee sourced from Yemen is blended with cardamom, cinnamon and ginger and served with the husk of the bean. If you’re a tea drinker or looking for a bit less caffeine, try the shai Adeni — a spiced black tea most English speakers will know as “chai” — with similar fixings.
If you stop in around lunchtime, the shop consistently offers savory tarts, including spinach-feta, tomato-olive and potato-leek. They have just the right amount of moisture and are never flaky enough to be messy.

The company pays as much attention to the housing of the coffee as the bean itself. If you order in, your coffee will come in an insulated glass mug to keep it hot. My pistachio latte, which arrived in an earthy ceramic mug with a flourish of foam art, was cozy on an overcast day but would also be refreshing on a hot one. The cold “refresher” drinks, made in-house, are an especially nice summer treat. They’re a big hit with my kids, who enjoy skewering the real strawberries and seed-packed cubes of dragonfruit floating in the pink drinks with their straws.
The kunafa bite, a gooey mozzarella-based cake infused with orange blossom, rose water and pistachio and topped with a bird’s nest of crunchy vermicelli noodles, balances its diverse flavors and textures especially well.
With the sleek efficiency of international travel, this location can serve as a stopover for your to-go cup. But cane chairs and buttery leather upholstery invite you to stay awhile. Large windows to the south and west allow in a generous amount of natural light. Over the speakers, Arabic music alternates with Taylor Swift’s latest hits to lend a pleasantly peppy vibe.
This location isn’t as buzzy as the downtown East Lansing one (at least not yet), making it a great place to park and get some work done. But its friendly staff won’t let you feel unseen for too long. The shop offers counter service, but employees are willing to bring food and drinks to the table and seem equally equipped to help customers access familiar tastes or orient them as they explore new ones.


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