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The art, history and culture of coffee collide in Apt. N Coffee's mission

Apt. N Coffee feature
Photo by Ahmed El Khatib. Photo courtesy of Apt. N Coffee. Omar Rezk (Left) and Ibrahim Darhmaoui (Right).

Like many other students, Ibrahim Darhmaoui and Omar Rezk found their passion for coffee during their college years. Rezk’s sister — who's also Darhmaoui’s wife — is a self-proclaimed coffee addict and powerful influence in their lives.

She ignited their passion for coffee that ultimately led to the creation of their coffee catering business, Apt. N Coffee. Serving the Triangle area, Apt. N strives to bring the intimacy of a coffee shop and the history of coffee to different social events. 

Traditional coffee, nontraditional places

After about two years of planning how they could combine their passion for coffee, entrepreneurship and service in a unique way, Rezk and Darhmaoui catered their first event with Apt. N in August 2018.

They started close to home, catering events in their community for free in order to spread the word about their idea. 

Apt. N's mission is to sustainably provide a specialty coffee experience that focuses on the quality, history and art of the coffee itself. Rezk, Darhmaoui and the rest of their team bring their coffee cart to events around the Triangle such as weddings, academic conferences, institutional events and other social gatherings. 

Like any other coffee shop, Apt N. serves espresso, lattes and cappuccinos, as well as Turkish coffee and specialty drinks that are unique to their business. They locally source their products through their partnership with Counter Culture Coffee and other local businesses, and they focus on sustainability by using compostable cups. 

But Apt. N does much more than just providing coffee to events in the area. 

“There are tons of coffee shops around, we can’t compete with them,” Darhmaoui said. “But what we can do is bring the experience and the quality of your local coffee shop to an event you’re attending. We can bring traditional coffee to nontraditional places.”

In addition to serving coffee in unexpected places, Apt. N provides their customers with an educational, immersive experience.

“What we’re trying to do is provide a coffee experience that brings the history and art of coffee to the forefront of the conversation,” Rezk said.

After nearly three months of operation, Rezk and Darhmaoui have been blown away at the support they’ve received from the community. 

The co-founders both have ties to UNC: Rezk is a two-time UNC graduate, and Darhmaoui interned with the UNC School of Medicine in 2017. They were surprised at the community’s support, advice and encouragement, but thankful for it nonetheless. 

The company’s name, Apt. N, references Darhmaoui’s apartment, where the idea for a coffee catering company was conceived, and the community that surrounded them there.

Service is key

Neither Rezk nor Darhmaoui have plans to stay in the business industry. Rezk is studying issues in public health, and Darhmaoui is pursuing dentistry. But, they both had an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for coffee, so Apt. N was inevitable, Rezk said. 

The co-owners saw a gap in the coffee industry, believing coffee catering consists of bags of burnt, cold coffee in cardboard boxes in the back of conference rooms. Rezk and Darhmaoui wanted to change that and bring quality coffee to places it wasn’t expected. 

The two also believed society was disconnected from the food and drinks that were being consumed, so they set out to give their customers a way to connect with the coffee they were drinking by incorporating stories about the history of coffee and facts about the impact each cup of coffee has on individuals and communities all over the world. 

“Being able to tell these stories while serving you with a cup of coffee is not only going to make that cup of coffee more meaningful to you,” Darhmaoui said. “But it’s also going to normalize these other cultures and allow you to see the impact this coffee made in these different places.”

Rezk and Darhmaoui said that while society is focused on convenience, the culture of conversation and service is growing. They are using their company to revive the culture of coffee as a means for connecting people and the importance of being mindful consumers while bridging the gap between convenience and appreciation.

“People are always going to find that to-go option if they want it, but focusing on the experience is a market that’s worth exploring,” Darhmaoui said.

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What’s in store

The success and growth Apt. N has seen so far has been encouraging and exciting, Rezk said. For now, their goal is to continue to spread the word and inform more people about the value their service adds to social events. 

While Apt. N is currently catering social events, they also set up at public events such as the Eno River Farmers’ Market in Hillsborough. They advertise public events they plan to attend on the company’s Instagram page, @apt.n_coffee

In the future, Rezk and Darhmaoui said they plan to put on their own events, such as art exhibits and concerts, that will highlight local talent and Apt. N coffee. 

“We’re here to serve the community and give back to the community,” Rezk said.