Gourmet coffee shop opens on Durant Ave, seeks to impart life advice

Rachael Garner/Senior Staff

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Hoping to dole out life advice and gourmet coffee, SoDoI, a new Berkeley coffee tasting house, held its soft opening this past weekend.

Located at 2438 Durant Ave., SoDoI served free cups of coffee to customers, giving them a chance to experience the new shop’s atmosphere and beverages before SoDoI’s planned grand opening Feb. 12.

“This is a slow space where people can enjoy good coffee, space and music,” said SoDoI CEO Jae Chung.

Students shuffling in and out of SoDoI during the soft opening said they were excited for the addition of a local coffee house near campus.

“It’s super hip, it’s where music and fashion and coffee combine; I like the feel of the place,” said campus sophomore Wesley Wan.

Chung explained he founded SoDoI on two basic ideas: he likes helping people and he likes drinking coffee.

“I want to enjoy life, and while I’m enjoying it, I want to do something for society,” Chung said. “Providing coffee isn’t enough for me, I want to do more.”

The name of the store was inspired by one of Chung’s role models, Martin Luther King Jr. Chung said he is responding to one of MLK’s quotes — “I want to make the world a better place” — with the phrase, “So do I.”

SoDoI’s coffee bean roasters are Bob Baldwin and Robert Hensley, who were both apprentices of Alfred Peet, the founder of Peet’s Coffee. Calvin Yao, an employee of SoDoI, said Baldwin and Hensley also teach the barristas of SoDoI how to brew the coffee.

Determined to provide high-quality coffee, SoDoI sells a variety of roasts that are inspired by the tastes and processes of coffees drawn from the international beans of Guatemala, Colombia and Kenya.

Yao said the shop hopes to dispense more than just coffee to its customers, emphasizing the importance of never giving up, always being truthful and loving life.

“We want to empower (our customers) through conversation and our coffee,” Yao said. “It’s the small things, and over time the small things become big things.”

The repurposed furniture, old theater lights and old rowboat inside SoDoI are meant to represent that when one door closes, another one opens, and that there are many opportunities in life, according to Joshua Lee, another employee.

If this model is successful in Berkeley, Chung said he would want to expand SoDoI internationally.

“Jae (Chung) — his heart is for the youth and students and (he) wants them to pursue their dreams,” Yao said.

Sam Juha, the owner of Cheese N’ Stuff, said he is enthusiastic about the opening of SoDoI right across from his popular sandwich shop in Telegraph Channing Mall.

“This is unbelieveable. It’s beautiful … a great addition to the area,” Juha said. “I wish (Jae) the best.”

Alok Narahari is the lead business and economy reporter. Contact him at [email protected].