CHESAPEAKE, Va. — When you step inside Pale Horse Coffee in Chesapeake, the aroma of coffee beans smacks you in the face in the best way.
Step closer and glance at the menu, and the smell combines with the joy of seeing endless coffee options on the menu!
There are a few reasons Pale Horse Coffee is so special. One reason is, they roast their beans in-house. And this isn't just any roasting process.
"Without boring you with the science of it: it's extremely different than typical drum-roasted coffee, so what most people find is they think our coffee is smoother and better-tasting," said co-owner Michael Vecchione.
Mike is a roaster, and two years ago, when this company was just getting started, he would spend nearly 14 hours standing in front of the roaster to make sure the product was perfect.
"We have over 16 different origins from different countries of coffee. I'm very passionate about the blends," he said.
This spot is authentic down to the T-shirts. The three owners are coming from three different backgrounds to form the ultimate business.
Don Wingard started it all with coffee he was once selling under another name. Don then sold his coffee to Mike, who was running a cigar trolley. Mike and Don joined in business to start Pale Horse Coffee, they were working with another company to have T-shirts made, and that's when they met Gray Livingston, owner number three.
Each of the men has a unique skill set, covering every aspect of this business.
Don, Mike, and Gray's similarities don't stop there. These guys are all veterans. Don served 30 years in the Navy. Mike served 20 years in the Coast Guard. Gray served 21 years in the Airforce.
They once served our country. Now they are creating and serving coffee.
"I know I can speak for my partners. We all love it. It's a very different change of pace, obviously. We love being able to be a part of the community. We love giving back. We love being able to support the veterans that we served with while we were in. So, it's a really good feeling," Mike said.
Out of the 18 people that work for this company, nine of them are veterans. For these guys, honoring and continuing to serve those that fought for our country is a must.
"We also sell cookies from the Sweet Easy Bakery, which is a veteran-owned bakery down in Elizabeth City," said Mike.
When it comes to food, they don't make their own, but instead, they make it a goal to sell and support local.
"City deli provides us breakfast burritos every morning. On the weekend, we bring in food trucks from about 8 in the morning until noontime. Since none of the restaurants are open in our strip for breakfast, they allow us to do that, which is nice. It also gets us to bring in different options for the customers," he added.
If you haven't noticed, they take their coffee seriously here. This is what many would call a "passion project," pouring all they have into Pale Horse Coffee.
"We do everything small batch right here, and we only roast and keep on hand what we use," Mike explained the process.
As a result, their coffee is handled with care, and that's evident in the taste. It goes down exceptionally smoothly. Most patrons tell Mike that they can drink it black.
"I hear that all the time. Most people who don't drink black coffee find that they can drink our coffee black, which is cool," he smiled.
Outside of their many blends of coffee, they also have specialty drinks listed on the menu, lattes, flame throwers (coffee with a kick of Cayenne pepper) and cold brews.
"Cold-brew is very different than hot brewed coffee. It's lower acidity. Usually, people with acid reflux will enjoy cold-brew," said Mike.
If you wondered why the spot is called Pale Horse Coffee, Mike said it's a "simple" biblical answer.
"Obviously, in Revelation, you know death rides a pale horse. So our slogan is 'When you feel like death,' which is typically when you need coffee," Mike laughed.
Pale Horse Coffee is about to expand its blends, adding a new brew called Revive.
"It's from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it's all about bringing back their coffee culture after the wars that they've had there. So, we're really excited about that. It's, to me, one of the best tasting coffee beans I've ever had," Mike said.
However, that's not all they're expanding. There will soon be a second location in the Greenbrier area of Chesapeake. The doors will be opening around Halloween.
"I absolutely love coffee if you couldn't tell. So, I enjoy just experimenting with new beans, bringing things to the area that, you know, other shops don't necessarily have," Mike said.
If you would like to visit the guys at Pale Horse Coffee, you can find the shop at 1296 S. Battlefield Blvd., Suite 104.