Written by Jana Riley
It’s an early Monday morning in Augusta, and as the sun slowly rises over the Savannah River, the city collectively begins to wake. Over at Ubora Coffee Roasters in Downtown Augusta, the crew is ready for an influx of customers. Owner Andre Leon calibrates the espresso machines, making sure they are ready to produce the perfect pick-me-up. Baristas arrange freshly-baked pastries in the bread case and check to make sure their array of coffee beans is fully stocked. Just before the doors open, Nora Moisa, General Manager, takes a final look at everything and smiles, looking forward to the day.
Fostering togetherness was one of the primary goals for Ubora Coffee Roasters when Andre Leon began to dream about opening such a space with his business partner, Phillip Weisner, not long ago. Weisner and Leon met serving in the United States Navy, and are both still active duty service members.
He contacted Weisner with the idea, who jumped aboard immediately, ready to co-own the place and split responsibilities from afar. Then, he called longtime friend Nora Moisa, a restaurant industry veteran, and asked her to move from Miami to Augusta to help run the shop. Moisa obliged, and the team set to work. After settling on the location at 1128 Jones Street, they began to transform it into the coffee shop of their dreams, focusing on elevating the coffee shop experience while encouraging connectivity.
“We designed this space with the idea in mind that we wanted to make people talk to one another again”
"We wanted to facilitate a space where people can engage with each other easily if they so choose. So we opened it up, made it so that none of the seating is facing a wall, and set the space up in a way that encourages community. Bringing people together is still one of the most important aspects of this venture,” says Leon.
Though he is a relative newcomer to Augusta, Leon has already immersed himself in the culture and history of the city, intent on making meaningful contributions here. For Leon, that means offering the best possible coffee that he and his team possibly can, a dedication that is reflected in the name of his venture: “Ubora” means “excellence” in Swahili.
At the long bar that Leon and Weisner made together, the coffee brewing processes are on full display, allowing one to feel a part of the action as they watch their beverage being made with the ultimate attention to detail. In some ways, the action behind the bar seems like a visual orchestra, an opera, a dramatic play; against a backdrop of exposed brick, heightened by the tall ceilings, and bathed in light from the shop’s windowed facade, the performance is impeccable, reaching every one of the senses. As the scent of freshly baked pastries rises into the air, the barista selects the beans for a beverage, and grinds them to the perfect consistency for their application.
The process begins with green coffee beans from carefully-selected origins, including farms in Brazil, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Colombia, Honduras, Indonesia, and Costa Rica. Placing strong emphasis on sustainability, ethical practices, quality, and flavor, the coffee buyers make sure to curate a collection of flavors and intensities to suit every palate.
After arriving to their on-site roastery, the beans are roasted in small batches in their custom-made, state-of-the-art Dätgen German roaster, while a computer monitors and controls temperature, speed, and time. Overseeing the operation is Tony Faircloth, a retired Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy and current roast master at Ubora. For all of their beans, Faircloth and Leon are well-versed in their flavor profiles, growing conditions including soil and altitude, and water content, and roast each in a way that brings out the very best in the coffee.
After roasting, members of the team perform a cupping session, brewing and tasting a carefully measured amount of each new roast to ensure consistency in flavor and aroma. Once satisfied, the beans are bagged, and the small-batch roasting process ensures that only the freshest coffee is used and sold on-site.
A frequent visitor of specialty coffee shops all over the world, always in search of places that truly honor the flavor profiles of each bean, Andre Leon seeks to bring the same enjoyment of the beverage that he has found in his travels to Augusta and beyond, always ready to share what he knows and inspire passion for the process in others.
“Coffee does not have to simply be a ‘pick-me-up’ in the morning. If done properly, it can be enjoyed and appreciated in much the same way as we do wine; from seed to cup, there are so many variables that can go into a cup of coffee, and I love sharing that with people.”