Before Nasi Moradi and CJ Huang opened Cafe Muse on Feb. 5 in North Liberty, Huang realized he needed to up his coffee brewing game.
The more he learned about making a perfect cup, the more he started to pay attention to the details such as the temperature of the water, the length of brewing time and even the technique for pouring the water over the beans.
All those elements combine with the flavors of the coffee to create an experience he wants to share with customers.
Neither he nor Moradi have prior experience running a coffee shop — she is a Realtor and he co-owns Rock Bar American Grill in downtown Cedar Rapids. But they’ve been enjoying the chance to expand their horizons.
“We went to a lot of cafes and studied a lot, and we met with a lot of roasters,” Moradi said.
They settled on Chicago-based roaster Intelligentsia to source their coffee, impressed by the company’s dedication to working directly with coffee growers to source single origin, direct trade coffee beans.
“They approach coffee as an art,” Huang said.
He has enjoyed sampling roasts from different regions as he learns more about coffee.
“The flavor yields from single origin are wonderful,” he said. “This has been a great learning experience for us.”
The food menu is small — a handful of sandwiches, charcuterie and hummus and vegetable snack bowl — with pastries from Tip Top Cakes in Coralville. Along with coffee and espresso drinks, they serve Rishi teas, smoothies, chai and hot chocolate. Another option is high tea, which comes with sandwiches, pastries and fresh fruit.
They plan to extend their evening hours and start serving wine, beer and coffee-based cocktails such as Irish coffee, an espresso martini and a coffee old fashioned. They want the evenings to feel more like a lounge than a bar — with couches and quiet music, a place to relax with friends and a drink.
“Our goal is to have a unique experience,” Moradi said.
They worked with AKAR Architecture of Iowa City to design the interior of the 2,700-square-foot space, which includes granite flooring imported from Italy and plenty of light.
In a town where a large portion of the population works in Iowa City or Cedar Rapids, the couple are hoping their drive-through window and location near Interstate 380 will draw commuters.
Moradi said they enjoy traveling, and the idea for Cafe Muse came from visiting cafes and coffee shops in other cities. They wanted to bring that kind of coffee shop experience to North Liberty, which they have called home for three years.
“We decided to do it ourselves instead of waiting for someone else,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how fast North Liberty is growing and how many businesses are coming to town. We’re excited to be a part of it.”
WHERE: 565 Cameron Way, North Liberty
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Drive-through starts at 6:30 a.m. weekdays and 7:30 a.m. weekends. At the end of February hours will extend until 10 p.m.
DETAILS: (319) 626-6873, cafemuseiowa.com