Cuppings & Tastings: FAQ

Coffee Tasting FAQ:

-I see several cafes in the area offer tastings. What do they entail?

Generally cafes offer coffee tastings just to give people an opportunity to taste coffee from different regions and to introduce new coffees. We have found that tasting sessions vary greatly depending on who attends! At some they are short and sweet, with the host talking a bit about the background of the coffee and offering the prepared samples, encouraging participants to try the coffees several times as they cool down. At others the participants are more curious, and the discussion gets deeper into the different tasting notes, origins, and so forth. Typically tastings last from 30 minutes to an hour.

Lots of chatter at this Madcap tasting

-What is a cupping?

Cupping is a way to evaluate coffee using the following parameters: fragrance/aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, sweetness, uniformity, cleanliness; it is also a time to note defects. In these ten categories, a score of 1-10 is assigned (although more commonly, a score from 6 – 9.75 is assigned in quarterly increments). The scores are then added to assign a final score.

In cupping, taste is just one step of many. The evaluation occurs at all stages, from smelling dry beans, to wet grounds, to eventually tasting, and evaluating the taste and mouthfeel at different levels. In cuppings the temperature of the water (and its cooling) is monitored carefully to discover different highlights of the coffee.

-Who cups?

Roasters use this method to evaluate their coffee beans. We’ve mentioned previously, for example, that Grace Street Coffee cups their coffees on average six times when they receive a new bean variety. At Qualia they cup their coffees about two-dozen times a month to ensure the best beans for their customers. Some cafes offer public cuppings to their customers, like Swing’s and Vigilante (and in the near future, Grace St. Coffee).

-Why would I go to a cupping?

First, they are a great way to taste different coffees. Just like at tastings, the person running the event may ask participants to share what they think of the coffee, what they taste, and which one they prefer. It also offers a more in-depth discussion of the process that cafes use to select their coffees. Cuppings are a great way for coffee shops to share this process with the public.

Photo Feb 05, 10 19 58 AM (1)
Public Cupping at Swing’s

Additionally, some cafes are just excited to share coffee knowledge in a fun way. When Grace St. Coffee starts to offer public cuppings it will mostly be the same bean, roasted six different ways.

Same bean, six different roasts, at Grace St Coffee

-What’s the relation between specialty coffee and cuppings?

We recently did a post on new coffee coming from Myanmar, and this being significant because their coffee is just now being discovered by the coffee industry outside Asia. We mentioned that as luck would have it, it’s considered specialty coffee – what does that mean? Although there is not necessarily a formal definition of specialty coffee, it is widely recognized that any coffee scoring above 80 on a cupping is considered specialty. If you really want to geek out, have a look at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s guidelines for cupping here, and see how you get to 80. So it is important for specialty coffee producers to cup their beans to ensure they meet the mark!

-Where can I go to a tasting/cupping in the area?

Madcap Coffee
718 7th St NW,
Washington, DC, 20001
(888) 866-9091
Tastings at 10 AM Fridays
Free, but must RSVP

Vigilante Coffee
4327 Gallatin Street    
Hyattsville, Maryland 20781
(301) 200-3110
Cuppings 1 PM Fridays
Free but register at

Swing’s Coffee
501 East Monroe Ave
Alexandria, VA 22301
Cuppings MOST Fridays at 10 AM
Free but check schedule at

The Wydown
1924 14th St NW,
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 507-8411
Tastings/Cuppings 1:30 PM Fridays
Free, casual, just stop by

Qualia Coffee
3917 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011
(202) 248-6423
Tastings 2nd and 4th Sundays, 2PM
Free, just stop in

Counter Culture Training Center
1840 Columbia Rd NW, Suite 203
Washington, DC 20009
Tastings/Cuppings at 10 AM Fridays
Free, more info at

{Grace Street Coffee}
{3210 Grace St NW}
{Washington, DC 20007}
{Will start offering public cuppings in September}

Additionally, Vigilante, Counter Culture, and Peregrine also offer more extensive classes about coffee/espresso/brewing methods/latte art, some of which include a cupping. Find out more about them on their social media!

Have you been to any DC area cuppings or tastings? Let us know if we missed any!

Stay grounded,




Myanmar Coffee: A District Debut

Washington DC is an incredible city in so many ways, and history is made here almost daily. But how often can you say that there are coffee industry “firsts” in DC?

On Tuesday, I (Daniëlle) had the unique opportunity to attend an event of historic proportions at La Colombe in Chinatown: a celebration of the first shipment of Myanmar coffee to reach the United States in decades.

Guests tasting the first import of Myanmar specialty coffee

And not just any coffee, specialty coffee. (More on how “specialty coffee” is defined on the blog here)! The coffee tasted incredible – it was clean, fruity but rich, a little sweet. As I was chatting with Craig Holt, Founder and CEO of Atlas Coffee Importers, he grabbed my spoon and took a slurp of my espresso to discuss the flavor notes as the brew cooled down and the espresso developed.

Pastries and nibbles for guests at La Colombe, Chinatown

The story of how the beans came to be could be turned into a movie (read my article for Perfect Daily Grind about it here), and to hear the passionate accounts first-hand was incredible. A volunteer who saw potential in some unassuming beans.. an aid worker who realized that these beans could be a turning point in the lives of so many.. teams of people who came together to validate the quality of the beans.. a few coffee professionals who sampled the coffee and pushed for its exposure.. several major investors who are assisting in the development and infrastructure to keep the production moving.


The first two dozen bags of Myanmar coffee for sale in the US!

As these 28 bags of coffee sat on the counter, guest speaker after guest speaker conveyed how much goes into getting these roasted beans to the consumer- the process is expansive and intricate, so much that most of us never even consider. These processes and stories happen from time to time: smallholder farmers’s lives enriched by a serendipitous interaction with the right people in the coffee industry. But the fact that there are so many firsts (I mean, Myanmar!!) brought this specialty coffee story to the presses, right here in DC.

Lots of press at the debut of Myanmar Coffee at La Colombe

Guests of honor included a former ambassador to Myanmar, distinguished members of the Myanmar coffee community, specialists in aid and development, and a lot of people very passionate about coffee. Lauren and I are continually impressed with the innovation of La Colombe (the first to nitro!) and they did it again with their involvement in exposing this budding coffee region.

The bright Myanmar coffee carries itself as a brewed coffee or an espresso!

The coffee will be available to the masses September 5th at La Colombe, and also at Whole Foods (although I’m not sure when). I bought one of the last of the 28 bags on the counter Tuesday evening, and am sipping on my first Aeropress brew of it right now. The DC Coffee scene is rocking.

Stay grounded,




You’ve Got Beans: Coffee By Mail

If you’re anything like me, you don’t think about restocking something until you’re completely out. I am terrible at this, and there have been one too many mornings when I wake up and realize I have no coffee left in my cabinet. Those are not good mornings. Maybe you’re not like me and you’re pretty good at keeping your coffee stocked, but you are tired of the same old selection at the grocery store or get overwhelmed by the number of offerings at your neighborhood coffee shop and so always go with your usual. Coffee subscriptions make things easier by having coffee scheduled to be delivered to your door on a consistent basis, and coffee professionals who are eager for consumers to discover something new are left with the decision of what beans to select, making sure to rotate based on what is in season and what is particularly fresh. Below are several local options for coffee subscriptions.

Ceremony Coffee Roasters:

Ceremony out of Annapolis offers two different subscriptions – one that is exclusively single-origin beans and another that is blends. If you are on the single-origin plan, you will receive two 6oz. bags every other week. If you go with the blends, you will receive one 12oz. bag every other week. 10-week subscription is $100 and 20-week subscription is $195, shipping included.

District Beans:

For those of you who can’t make up your mind or want an even larger variety of coffees, District Beans subscription service works with eight roasters, including Swing’s, Compass, and Vigilante, to deliver fresh beans to your door every month. The bachelor/bachelorette package is 12oz. for $16, the couple’s package is 24 oz. for $30, and the family stash is 32oz. for $44, shipping included. Beans are shipped the first Saturday of every month.

Qualia Coffee Roasters:

For $53/month, Qualia will mail you two 10oz. bags of beans every other week. Qualia ensures their beans reach the consumer no more than three days after roasting, promising high quality and freshness.

Vigilante Coffee Company:

Vigilante provides a more flexible approach to their subscription system, allowing you to select the amount of coffee you need (ranging from 12oz. to 5lb.) and how often you wish to receive it (ranging from 1 to 4 weeks). Beans are roasted on Tuesdays and shipped on Wednesdays to guarantee the coffee you receive is fresh.

Zeke’s Coffee of DC:

Zeke’s offers weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly options for their Coffee Club. $20 to have your subscription delivered to your door and $14 if you pick your order up in store. With each delivery you will receive a full pound of freshly roasted coffee and a card describing the tasting notes and farm of origin.


Additionally, various local coffee shops provide the opportunity to purchase their beans a la carte on their website to be delivered to your door.

If you know of other local coffee subscription services, or if you have a favorite, please let us know in the comments below!

Keep caffeinated,


All About That Affogato

Can you tell we’re on a little bit of a gelato kick? And considering how hot it is outside, can you blame us? So sticking to our theme for the week…

The first time I walked into Love ‘n Faith Community Cafe on 14th Street, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Was I in the mood for ice cream, or did I really just need a coffee? Well, the smoke wafting from the liquid nitrogen made me giddy like a child, inviting me to press my face against the glass to witness everything behind the scenes. My mind was made up – ice cream it is! But wait. I still wanted a little caffeine boost, and since Danielle and I were meeting to discuss coffee, it would feel inappropriate without it. The solution to my delicious dilemma: an affogato.

Liquid nitrogen is used to make the ice cream right in front of you at Love ‘n Faith

Affogato means “drowned” in Italian as the gelato is literally drowned by a shot of freshly brewed espresso. Traditionally made with vanilla gelato or ice cream, it is often served as an after-dinner dessert. Also, because of the mixture of hot and cold, it remains a popular treat throughout all seasons.

The first time I tried an affogato was on vacation in Rome, and I was surprised at the bittersweet taste that transpired as the cool gelato began to give in to the piping hot espresso. I felt like I was supposed to like it, I wanted to like it, but I remained unsure, wishing I had just stuck to my usual order of stracciatella. It was not until I moved to D.C. several years back that I decided to give affogatos another shot, now knowing a bit more what to expect. I remember waiting patiently (it might have been impatiently) in line at the Pitango in Penn Quarter and once it was my turn to order asking the person behind the counter what he would recommend. It did not take him long to suggest a chocolate hazelnut affogato. The rest, they say, is history.

Pitango Gelato Penn Quarter

A variety of other gelato shops offer affogatos, such as Dolcezza and Dolci Gelati, as well as several local coffee shops, like Qualia and Vigilante. Oftentimes they’ll provide a variety of flavor options for those wanting to branch out; however, if you find yourself dining in an Italian restaurant, don’t expect an affogato in anything other than its traditional form. One of the most memorable affogatos I’ve ever tasted was at Momofoku in CityCenter. After inhaling one of their famous bowls of ramen, I decided to indulge in the affogato provided by its sister bakery, Milk Bar – it came in the form of cereal milk soft serve topped with a fresh double shot of espresso. It was just as sweet as I imagined it to be, and it offered a different vehicle in which to participate in the recent cereal milk soft serve craze I had been seeing on social media.

Sweet cereal milk affogato

There is one thing that I surprisingly have not tried yet… Did you know some places give you the option of adding liqueur to your affogato?! Danielle brought this to my attention. She was once served an affogato in Sydney with a shot of amaretto, and it is now actually how she prefers it. Now that sounds like the perfect after-dinner treat!

Returning to my visit to Love ‘n Faith, I decided on an affogato with cookies ‘n cream ice cream. As I waited for it to be prepared, I sat down at one of their handmade tables decorated with thoughtful quotes. The smoke from the liquid nitrogen began to dissipate throughout the cafe, and one of the employees kindly delivered my order to me. I loved how my drowned ice cream was still smoking when it got to the table. Love ‘n Faith just provided another experience in which to enjoy an affogato.

I’d like to know, where is your favorite place for an affogato? Any cool flavor combinations I should try?

Keep caffeinated,


Cookies ‘n Cream affogato at Love ‘n Faith