A Custom Caffeine Jolt

Charles Asselbaye in his new coffee shop, Local Joe KAIT HANSON PHOTO

Charles Asselbaye in his new coffee shop, Local Joe KAIT HANSON PHOTO

One of the true treats of walking around Chinatown is stumbling upon hidden gems you might miss while driving — restaurants, bars, boutique stores. One of the newest additions to the Chinatown landscape is Local Joe Hawaii, located at 110 Marin St., adjacent to O’Toole’s Irish Pub.

Run by Charles Asselbaye, Local Joe is open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Asselbaye brings a lifetime of experience in the coffee business to the shop — he first worked at a Peet’s Coffee & Tea nearly 20 years ago. More recently, he co-owned Island Brew Coffeehouse in Hawaii Kai alongside wife Amy and another couple.

“I had always dreamed about opening up my own shop,” says Asselbaye, whose wife also co-owns Local Joe. “It’s been three months here now and it’s been great.”

Expect all the usual coffee drinks at this quaint shop — lattes, cappuccinos, as well as more unique offerings like a Vietnamese cold brew made with sweetened condensed milk. There’s also a wide array of baked goods made fresh daily by in-house pastry chef Monica Chapman, including paleo chocolate chip cookies, scones, brownies, croissants and flatbreads. Plus, there’s heartier meals like an egg muffin or a barbecue chicken sandwich.

Then there’s the curious pink foaming machine on the counter that promises more than just an average caffeine fix.

It’s called The Ripple Maker and it can imprint any image onto your cup of joe using a free app. Text, graphics, even a photo of yourself holding your latte — it all can be replicated into your coffee. “I first saw it being demoed in Seattle and just thought, ‘Wow, I need that.’ After a year, they sent me one and here we are,” Asselbaye says.

Customized foam designs aside, the coffee itself is a work of art. In an effort to support the community and Hawaii’s economy, Asselbaye visits local coffee farms to learn all he can about the growing process. He also custom sources the beans, grinding everything fresh in-house.

“I wanted to take control of my coffee from seed to cup, so that’s one of the reasons we are roasting here and buying directly from the farmers,” he says. “We buy the green coffee from growers on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai. It’s my goal to keep everything local, fresh and healthy — they all go hand in hand.”

Soon, Asselbaye hopes the shop can become more involved in community events.

“Community is so important,” Asselbaye says with a smile. “We’re going to look to do pop-up events, food festivals, art shows, evening events and, you know, just getting out there!”