Ethiopian Coffee Ceremonies

If there is one place in the world you should think of when you think of coffee, it should be Ethiopia. A little refresher from Coffee 101… Ethiopia is said to be the birthplace of coffee, discovered by “dancing goats.” Legend has it that in the 9th century, an Ethiopian shepherd by the name of Kaldi noticed his goats extremely active and unable to sleep after consuming coffee cherries. Ethiopians are very proud of this history and proud of where it has brought them. They are Africa’s top producer of coffee, seventh worldwide, with an estimated 15 million people relying on coffee production for their livelihood. However, if they’re not part of the production process, they are most certainly part of the consuming process.

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Drinking coffee is a way of life in Ethiopia. It is part of their culture. If you were to visit one’s home, you will most likely be treated to a coffee ceremony, no matter the time of day. A coffee ceremony not only honors the crop itself, but promotes community. Being extended the invitation to a coffee ceremony is a sign of hospitality, respect, and friendship.

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Learning how to conduct the ritual of an Ethiopian coffee ceremony is often a tradition passed down from generation to generation. It is conducted by a young woman in a traditional Ethiopian dress of white cotton with colored borders. Being chosen to perform the ceremony is of high honor. To begin the process, green coffee beans are washed to remove husks and then placed over a tiny stove. The young woman shakes the beans consistently, almost in a hypnotizing manner, allowing the beans to crackle and the aroma to fill the room without them burning. Sometimes during roasting, incense will be burned to either ward off spirits or bring health to those who breathe it in. Once the beans are roasted, typically to medium, they are ground using a mortar and pestle. Roasting and grinding the beans immediately before brewing them brings out the strongest, freshest flavors. The grounds are then poured into a clay coffee pot called a jebena (seen above the sign at Sidamo) that has a round base, thin spout, and straw lid. The coffee is brewed (traditionally three separate times) and sieved before being carefully poured into tiny ornate cups called cini. The young woman pours the coffee from a foot high, not stopping until each cup on the tray is full. This is said to take much skill and practice. The coffee is served black, most often with some type of snack, though it is acceptable to add sugar. However, it is offensive to refuse the coffee as the ceremony is not just about the beverage itself, but friendship. It typically takes at least half an hour from the washing and roasting of the beans to the first pour, but the time in between is the perfect time to socialize, catch up on one another’s lives and what is going on in the community.

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There are two places in DC where you can participate in free Ethiopian coffee ceremonies- Sidamo on H Street and Harrar in Park View. Sidamo holds ceremonies every Sunday at 2pm while Harrar’s, which take place Saturdays at 2pm, are a little less frequent (sign up for their email list to be in the know). Attending a coffee ceremony is like being transported to a different world, even if just for a short while. So take a break from your fast-paced DC life and immerse yourself in an experience of the senses!

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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Introducing Small Chop

“We just want to share.”

It didn’t take long of talking to Antajuan Scott before realizing that Small Chop is different. They’re not just serving up coffee; they’re serving up an experience.

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Small Chop opened as a pop-up café at The Hilltop Bar & Restaurant in the Pleasant Plains neighborhood in January. The idea began nearly five years ago when Antajuan and Samandar Khelghati worked together at The Gibson. Discussing ideas and goals while getting to know one another, Samandar mentioned that he always wanted to open a café. Several years and cities later, space and time finally aligned, and Small Chop was off the ground.

So what is Small Chop?

The name comes from Nigeria. It refers to experiences of merging community and food, particularly street food. As Antajuan explained, “You go grab small chop with friends…it’s a way of life, experiences to be valued.” And that is what Small Chop aims to do. They want to be experience producers, providing experiences that revolve around culture, community, and of course, food.

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Small Chop is proud to promote local brands and provide a platform for emerging businesses. As Antajuan emphasizes, it is a creative collaboration. The beans are sourced from Lost Sock Roasters, and they are the first café to serve their product. (I would recommend ordering a pour over next time you stop in – you won’t be disappointed!) Their “Bake Sale” pastries come from Paisley Fig, Republic Kolache, and Cowbell Kitchen.

The pop up café is just phase one of Small Chop. Soon they plan to offer dinner services, bringing people together over diverse food of high quality, calling it Break Bread. They also have plans to give back to the community in various ways, beginning with a pancake breakfast in mid-March. Other ideas being considered are establishing a scholarship and a professional development program – stay tuned for updates on all these admirable ventures.

Small Chop desires to be a hub for the community, a place for everyone, even for those who are transient and will soon be long gone. They wish to carve out a space for people to be nourished and “grow before [they] go.” It’s more than just being a “third place;” it’s a safe haven, a gathering place for creative minds and people interested in making a difference. All while providing top-notch food and drink.

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Be sure to check out Small Chop’s pop-up! They are open M-F 7am-2pm and just started opening on weekends from 8am-2pm. If you’re free this coming Monday, they are holding a cupping at 11am. This is a great opportunity to learn more about coffee (trust us, there’s a lot to learn!) and get a feel for the Small Chop experience.

Have you been to Small Chop yet? Let us know what you think!

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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Honey Processed Coffee

I recently mentioned a honey processed espresso I had during a preview of the new Swing’s location, and it stuck with me. Shortly thereafter I started writing an article for Perfect Daily Grind on the different types of honey processing and I became determined to have that Java Honey again, and any other honey processed coffee I could get my hands on.

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I’d had honey processed coffee before but it probably didn’t register as being significant until someone sent me some from Pennsylvania through a coffee swap, Coast 2 Coast Roast. What made this coffee different is that people asked me about it, asked me how it tasted. Syrupy. Bold…

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I now know that there are different intensities of honey processing, ranging from white and yellow, to red and black. I went back to Swing’s to get more Java Honey and ask about its specifics – unfortunately this popular coffee sold out.

I asked their manager if she could tell me how it was processed and her response fascinates me – the farmer doesn’t know. To make honey processed coffee, producers leave some of the fruit of the coffee cherry around the bean when drying – how much is left on determines the classification. In this case, Swing’s asked the farmer to process it differently to make a honey- It was his first time processing his coffee in this manner and therefore doesn’t have a standard to compare it to.

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Honey processing originated in Costa Rica (and derived its name from some visitors remarking on the honey-like consistency of the mucilage around the beans during drying, and the buzzing of some bees who clearly thought the same!) and is making its way around the coffee industry- partly through roasters like Swing’s encouraging their producers to branch out.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the article on Perfect Daily Grind.

If you know where we can find more in the District, chime in! So far we’re waiting for the return of it to Swing’s Coffee, and hear that Grace Street Coffee will carry some in a few months. Qualia Coffee also carries several honey processed coffees but explains they’re harder to find this time of year because of the harvest season in Central America. Can’t wait to see more on the shelves!

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

What is Starbucks Reserve?

“Brookland is getting a new Starbucks!” Everyone was so excited. I work in the neighborhood and thought, “What’s the big deal? There’s already a Starbucks across the street at the Catholic University bookstore.” But this wasn’t going to be just any Starbucks. This was going to be Starbucks Reserve.

Starbucks Reserve is a response to the growing third wave coffee movement. The coffees offered in these locations are limited quantity, high quality. Only 1% of the coffees Starbucks tastes every year earn the title of “reserve,” and each receives its own special roast. They use the Clover brewing system to brew each individual cup, carefully controlling the water temperature and brew time to accentuate all the nuances of the bean. Starbucks Reserve offers coffee subscriptions starting at $19/mo, and they also hold workshops. For instance, the Brookland location is holding a brew method workshop today from 4-6pm.

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I sauntered into the Starbucks Reserve in Brookland earlier this week and was wowed at how beautiful it is. Hands down the most gorgeous Starbucks I’ve ever been inside. And it’s spacious with ample lounging seating. I already regretted not giving myself enough time to sit down and enjoy my coffee in the store before heading into work. When I went to order I said I’d like the Ethiopian, to which the lady pointed out they currently offer two varieties, so I went with her recommendation of the sun-dried and made my way over to the Experience Bar. This is where they brew the reserve coffee. You can simply grab a seat and wait on your coffee, or your can immerse yourself in the reserve experience, chatting with the barista who is crafting your beverage and asking him all of your coffee questions. As soon as I stepped over to the Experience Bar, my barista exclaimed, “Lauren, did they tell you this is my favorite coffee?” We chatted about our love of Ethiopian coffees as I watched the Clover at work. When my drink was ready, he poured it into a sleek black cup (which to be honest made me feel fancy) and handed me two colorful information cards – one for the coffee I was drinking, and the other for the coffee he recommends I try next time I stop by (which will be soon).

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This experience made me look at the corporate coffee chain in a whole new light. And if you find yourself at a Starbucks Reserve but still want your regular grande caramel macchiato non-fat two pumps, don’t worry. You can still order all of your regular Starbucks drinks at a Reserve location. Now you just have more high-quality options!

Have you tried Starbucks Reserve? What do you think?

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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