By KATE SELTZER
Katora Coffee’s first month on campus has resulted in mixed reviews from students. While some have accepted the change, others still regard the coffee shop with skepticism.
One primary area of concern surrounds the accurate identification of ingredients and allergens.
“They need to label their food with what’s in it other than avocado and bread for avocado toast, for example,” said Meagan Morrison, a senior theatre major. “I ended up picking out onions and tomatoes, which I can’t eat, and I got sick from their egg wrap supreme because it didn’t list that peppers and onions were in it.”
Kayla Shaffer agreed.
“We [students with severe allergies] are one of the groups that get forgotten about when it comes to campus dining,” Shaffer said. “Personally, I am not a fan of Katora. I can appreciate having a vegan option on campus and that is great for vegan or vegetarian students but for students with severe, we are talking anaphylactic, nut allergies it is a hazard. The almond milk is bad enough, but what is worse is having nut flours and nut proteins. I wouldn’t be able to walk into Katora without having a reaction.”
Shaffer noted that Blackstone had similar allergy concerns.
According to Christian Zammas, co-owner of Katora, the coffee shop has already made several changes to better fit the needs of UMW students.
Many of these changes to its menu and event programming were in response to feedback given at the student forum on dining services earlier this month. Changes include the addition of lemonade as an alternative to coffees and teas and increased single meal swipe options. Zammas also plans on holding open mic nights on Tuesdays and offering later hours during exam week.
Zammas also completed the training necessary for Katora to be designated as a “safe zone” by the James Farmer Multicultural Center.
“Several weeks ago we had a very positive and constructive meeting with members of [People for the Rights of Individuals of Sexual Minorities] and others from the University to talk about the University’s mission and values with regard to the LGBTQ+ community, which we strongly support,” Zammas said. “We want our Katora Cafe to be a place where everyone feels welcome and respected.”
PRISM declined to comment on this story.
Ben Jones, a former employee of Katora’s downtown location, has been active in threads about the coffee shop on the UMW Facebook meme page.
“I defended them on the original thread in the meme page, but I began to see how everything that was said was true or likely true,” said Jones.
According to Jones, who worked at Katora for three weeks, the downtown location was frequently empty with lots of downtime for employees.
“[Zammas] kind of brought this somewhat intense mentality to the job that ‘you should always be doing something,’ which would be understandable if there was actually business there,” Jones said. “But he would come in to the shop after the checklist had already been completed and no one was there for over an hour, and tell me to do things I already did or get upset over really irrelevant things, like business cards being unstraightened or something.”
“That, plus them being extremely unorganized – to the point of making the schedule ending Sunday, then only making a new one Sunday night at like 10 p.m. – made me not want to work there,” he added.
Cadi Trevino Pinto, a sophomore communication and digital studies major and a current employee at Katora, asked students to approach the coffee shop with an open mind.
“A lot of rumors have spread about Katora, and I think it’s important to realize that this is a completely different shop than Blackstone,” she said. “It’s also different from the downtown shop. The employees are different and so is the clientele. You can’t judge based on what you haven’t experienced yourself.”
Trevino Pinto added that although transitioning to a new menu and new management was initially difficult, she feels that everything is steadily improving.
“Christian and [co-owner April Zammas] have been working very hard to create a work environment that is as energetic and fun as they are. All in all, my experience has been great and my hope is that things just get better,” she said.
Stephanie Johnson, a senior philosophy major, is also a current Katora employee. She said the experience has been a positive one for her.
“I just want to talk about how great Christian and April are. I have nothing but respect for them. They just want to be a part of UMW and support all of us here at the school,” she said. “They’re the best bosses I’ve ever had.”
Johnson said that Christian and April Zammas are flexible with their student employees and never want them to prioritize the job over school. Like Trevino Pinto, she urged students to give the coffee shop a chance.
“I hope the school gives them a chance to be a part of the community because they will only add to it,” she said.
Students have had mixed reactions to the food and drinks available.
“I just really like coffee,” said freshman theatre major Genesis Simmons. “I have an addiction. So it’s just another way for me to get my fix. I really like their caramel macchiato with coconut milk.”
Freshman biology major Lilly Van Liew found the smoothies underwhelming but said she liked the atmosphere of Katora.
Glynnis Farleigh, a senior history major, said she likes Katora’s tea and cold brew, as well as their caprese sandwich and egg white wrap, but has had issues with payment.
“Almost every time that I’ve been to Katora has been different in terms of payment and ordering,” she said. “There seems to be a lot of variation in employee training. Many employees still seem unsure of how to charge meal swipes or flex, and for customers, meal deals seem to be arbitrary. For example, you can meal swipe a scone, but not a cookie.”
Farleigh made it clear she has nothing against the current Katora employees but said she missed the environment of Blackstone.
“The environments aren’t the same and don’t feel as tight-knit as Blackstone or current on-campus dining locations,” she said.