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It's 'Coffee Time' in Centreville

New store opens in the Pickwick Shopping Center.

After retiring from the federal government and moving to Centreville, three years ago, from Norfolk, Mike Brown decided he wanted to open up a business.

"I thought of a coffee shop," he said. "I like getting up early in the morning, so I thought this would be the thing to do."

The result is Coffee Time, a lively and cheerful new place in the Pickwick Shopping Center, along Route 29 in Centreville. It features a wide variety of coffee drinks and other beverages, plus pastries, in an atmosphere reminiscent of a tropical island.

The palm tree floor and table lamps have yellow neon bases and green neon leaves, and the music ranges from Jimmy Buffet to Train to Counting Crows.

A seating area with easy chairs and a palm tree is up front, but there's also a raised area in the back without the music speakers for a quiet area to chat or have a meeting. It has a comfortable easy chair, a wicker loveseat with big cushions and pillows and tables.

Brown and his wife Jo own the shop together and, he said, "We like to go to Key West, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Cancun — anywhere where there are palm trees. That was in the back of my mind when we were decorating this."

Sully Station II residents, they chose this spot in Centreville for their business because "it had a stable neighborhood — Bent Tree, Little Rocky Run, etc. — that could support this," said Brown. "And we were trying to find a place where the heavy traffic was."

Hours are Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (phone 571-321-0281). There's free wireless Internet, satellite TV and live bands, a few Saturday evenings a month. Coffee Time has been open four months and already has a devoted following.

"My husband discovered this place and said it has the best coffee in the area — and it does," said Rita Stankwitz of the Town of Clifton. "It's fun to come down here. This is the cutest place — it has real character. And it has a Ms. Pac Man game — which is really hard to find." Besides all that, she added, "It's the only coffee shop on this side of town."

Her husband Herb said he likes stores with individual proprietors because "they're vested in the community — they're here to stay." And he, too, loves "the ambiance, the comfy chairs and especially the palm trees. I'm from L.A. originally, so it's like a blast from the past."

As for the coffee, he said, "It's wonderful. I get a triple-shot latte. It has good, strong flavor and gets me going in the morning. I'd absolutely recommend this place because it's convenient and good."

The house coffee is a Kenya/Sumatra blend. It's a dark roast because the espresso beans are a little darker than usual. Prices are $1.40 for small, 12 ounces; $1.60, regular, 16 ounces; and $1.70, large, 20 ounces.

Hot specialty drinks, such as a white chocolate mocha, also come in three sizes, 12 ounces, $2.35; 16 ounces, $3.10; and 20 ounces, $3.50. Iced and blended specialty drinks, such an iced caramel latte, come in regular size, 16 ounces, $2.50-$3.30, and large, 20 ounces, $3-$3.70. And vanilla soy milk is available.

Coffee Time offers an imaginative array of beverages, including lattes, mochas, espresso, cappuccinos and flavored coffees — such as hazelnut, almond, Irish cream, caramel, raspberry, etc.

"We use a cold brew," explained Brown. "We have a large filter in a five-gallon jar with a spigot. You put your ground espresso beans into the cold water and let it sit for 24 hours. Then, refrigerated, it's usable for two to three weeks afterward. We use that instead of a shot from the espresso machine, and it takes the burnt taste out of the ice-blended drinks, like smoothies. We offer any of the lattes iced, hot or blended like a smoothie."

Coffee Time also features special drinks, each day, such as Snickers or Milky Way lattes. It even offered a Super Bowl Sunday latte made with chocolate, almond and caramel, a shot of espresso and frothed milk. Especially popular are the caramel and mocha lattes, but Brown is always open to suggestions and is happy to take customer requests.

"Just ask, and we'll whip 'em up," he said. At Christmastime, he served a Jack Frost mocha — a hot drink combining white chocolate, mint syrup, espresso and frothed milk. And for Valentine's Day, he offered a Love Potion latte — a scrumptious concoction of white chocolate, raspberry syrup, espresso and frothed milk.

Customers may also enjoy chai tea and gourmet, flavored teas, such as organic, mandarin or green lime. There are also ice-blended drinks and fruit smoothies in flavors including mango, strawberry, blueberry-banana and four berry (raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and blueberry).

Or they may indulge in a specialty drink such as a frozen, Coffe Time mocha made with caramel, vanilla, chocolate, cold-brew espresso and milk and then whipped in the smoothie machine like a milkshake. Other treats include frozen, regular and white mochas, frozen vanilla lattes and gourmet hot chocolate.

Brown also recommends his Italian-style cappuccino of frothed milk and espresso served in a special cup and saucer: "We pour the frothed milk slowly down the side of the cup to where it blends with the crema and forms almost a meringue on top of the cup." (Crema is an extract that comes from the espresso when it's brewed correctly).

Coffee Time offers muffins and pastries, too; for example, customers may purchase a small latte and a muffin for $2.50. Or try an Italian soda made with seltzer water, flavored syrup and half-and-half.

Mark and Ann Holmes of Little Rocky Run are big fans of the new coffee shop. "Someone in his choir at St. Andrew the Apostle told him about it," said wife Ann. "It's someplace other than Starbucks — a change of pace. There's no waiting, and I like the palm trees — it's electric!"

Enjoying a cup of the house coffee, Mark said it had a good flavor. He also liked Coffee Time's music and atmosphere and appreciated the fact that it also has a quiet spot where people can just talk or relax. Meanwhile, his wife, sipping a decaf vanilla latte, was also pleased with her drink.

"It's not too syrupy and sweet — just the right combination of espresso and milk," she explained. "And the coffee is strong, but not acidic — it's mellow and good. I also had a coffee-cake muffin made with cranberries and chocolate chips. The chocolate was a surprise, and it tasted good."

Brown believes he gives more personalized service, a better product and a better price than other coffee shops, and he truly wants his customers to be happy. "If they're new customers, we'll ask if we made their drink the way they like it, or if there's anything else they'd like us to add," he said. "We try to remember people when they come in and have their drinks ready for them."

In keeping with the theme, the store logo shows a toucan wearing sunglasses and holding a cup of coffee while chillin' in a hammock between two palm trees. Said Brown: "It's time for kicking back — it's Coffee Time."