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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.