It’s 3:30 a.m., and while some students are finishing their late-night cramming at the library, David Hale is already headed to Valentia Coffee (pronounced: val-en-chia) to begin his next day. A typical day for him starts when he arrives at Valentia at 4:30 a.m. It’s the price he has to pay for a cinnamon roll recipe that has to proof for four hours, but the sacrifice has been worth it. The house-made cinnamon rolls sell out daily.  

The Dream

Brandon Fishman

Timing has been a driving force in Hale’s decision to open Valentia, which now serves as an extension of his family values. Hale, a special education teacher and foster parent-turned small business owner and his wife Sarah have dabbled in the world of coffee roasting for the past five years. Recently, they decided to turn their passion into a business when they discovered the space formerly occupied by CoffeeBytes had become available.

“We just had to go for it,” Hale says. “Because you never know when the next opportunity will present itself.”

After securing the location, Hale and his wife turned their attention toward ingredient sourcing and designing an open and welcoming environment.

The Concept

Lauren Ross

The inspiration behind Valentia's name is intrinsic value and goodness, whereas their menu and the atmosphere are rooted in minimalism. Hale wanted to avoid the typical clutter and crowded nature of coffee shops by instead focusing on ways to use coffee and a select few menu items as vehicles for a display of craftsmanship. The menu is admittedly small, with only a few breakfast items like the delicious Stella’s breakfast sandwich, avocado toast with bread from Madison Sourdough, .

The fan-favorite cinnamon rolls, however, this allow Hale’s team of baristas to focus on the execution of each item. The time that is made-up for by fewer breakfast items is allocated to the 40-minute periods during which Hale and the baristas check the delicate composition of the espresso.

Quality Ingredients

Brandon Fishman

All of the coffee beans, in addition to the organic teas and even the cocoa beans are locally sourced. Valentia advertises its use of Rusty Dog Coffee in the storefront windows, decision based on the idea that Rusty Dog embodies the same values and passion for coffee roasting that motivated Hale and his wife. The cocoa beans that become the foundation for the popular mocha are sourced from Sjolinds in Mount Horeb, only a 30-minute drive from Madison. The result is a bolder, richer chocolate flavor.

If you’re craving a standard latte, expect to get your caffeine fix. A 12 ounce latte has a triple shot of espresso, whereas a typical latte of equal size at other coffee shops would only contain a double-shot. Hale maintains a strict four-to-one ratio of coffee to milk, going back to the desire to highlight quality ingredients.

A Family Affair

Brandon Fishman

Just moments after sitting down with Hale, Sarah and their young son enter the welcoming corner cafe and greet David with smiles. We are then informed that while it looks like we are simply sitting on a bench, we are really occupying their son’s (imaginary) kitchen. We quickly slide to a neighboring table to accommodate his “cooking” and “barista-ing.”

It is this sort of imagination and dedication that also led Hale to pursue his passion. The Hales created Valentia from scratch, something that David says sets their coffee shop apart from larger chains.

“We’re local here. Everybody assumes that because [Valentia’s] in the spot that it is, that it’s a chain,” Hale says. “But nope, it’s just little old us.

Valentia is open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, so stop by for a cinnamon roll and some values-based coffee.