A Coffee Snob’s Guide to Crossing the Continent

Aeropress. Check.
Hand grinder. Check.
Freshly roasted beans from your favorite local roaster. Check.

You’re all set!

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Ok just kidding.  Crossing the continent can take a day or it can take 17, depending on your mode of travel. There might come a time when you’re tired of nearly going into muscle failure hand-grinding your coffee, or you’re done trying to juggle two devices and too many coffee beans to make a cup for your AND your travel partner. You’re desperate. You want a coffee shop. Your Instagram account is in serious need of a new latte art shot.

It is best if you have other coffee snob friends who have paved the path before you and can guide you to your next single origin espresso. But in case you’re not so lucky….

Here are the 5 steps to take to get your fix.

Equipment required:
– smart phone
– indulging partner willing to take a significant detour
– some manners.

1. MAPS

Locate the “maps” app on your smart phone and ensure your Location Services are on. Find yourself on the map. Enter “coffee” into the search bar.

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2. STARS

Do not bother with anything less than 4 stars. Reviews can be a biased and unfair, but remember, we’re desperate and only have one shot to get this right as we’ll soon be in the middle of nowhere again. Follow the stats.

3. PICTURES

Squint and try to decipher the little thumbnail photos of the cafes in the area. Do you spot latte art? Do you see a bright space? Are you lucky and do you see some manual brew equipment on the wall? Be careful not to click on the photo as you may be redirected to the inescapable rabbit hole called Yelp.

4. DESCRIPTIONS

Bypass any cafes where the reviews starts out with “the mint, nonfat, extra whip, unicorn mocha frappe latte was excellent…” They do not serve real coffee here. Instead look for key words like “locally roasted” or “chemex.” Alternatively look for the names of award winning roasters you are already know about. These will make you feel at home.

5. INSTAGRAM

If you’ve made it this far and found a coffeeshop that passed through all the steps, proceed to open up your Instagram. Go ahead and smile to yourself as you feel that flutter in your stomach in anticipation of great success. Search for the coffeeshop and hopefully you’ll be rewarded with more latte art shots, pourovers, and other highly instagrammable features. Take it a step further and click on a few hashtags. Your arms can rest today. You made it.

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** In the highly unfortunate case that there is no Instagram account or all you see are pictures of foamy fluffly cappuccino, don’t give up. Go back to step 2 and stay resilient. Your diligence will be rewarded in the end.

 

A word of warning….

It is best not to go into a coffeeshop and ask “do you do latte art?” This means you have reached a real low point. It’s time to check yourself- do everyone a favor and go through your photo feed on your phone, find an old latte art pic, and post it to Instagram with a sappy nostalgic caption. This will buy some time for you to recompose yourself, and find your manners (see the equipment list, above). Tsk tsk. Bust out the Aeropress and make yourself a coffee. You don’t deserve the cappuccino today.

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Best of luck in your search for cross-country specialty coffee.

What other methods do you use to get your specialty coffee fix while traveling?? Help us get ready for the next road trip !

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

Table Service

With Slipstream opening their second location this weekend and Vigilante rolling out “Table Service” full time in their café, we thought it high time to talk about it. What is Table Service and how does it fit into DC coffee?

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Slipstream on 14th Street. Credit: @mrpaulop (Instagram)

Part of the Third Wave of coffee is the concept of offering higher quality everything for customers: coffee, water filtration, food pairing, atmosphere.. The Second Wave was about convenience, but now people want to offer more of a third space for their customers – a place away from home and work where they can commune with others.

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The menu at Vigilante Coffee

In regions like Europe and Australia, table service is seen more often than not – it’s the norm and the anticipated. Leave the hurried life behind for a moment while you enjoy a delicious cup of coffee with a friend and unwind. On a recent trip to New York, in fact, I was reminded of the concept at the Australian café “Citizens of Chelsea,” and time slowed down for a few moments.

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This lovely latte art was brought to my table without a worry

Cafes like Slipstream and the Busboys and Poets on 14th Street NW naturally have table service as their menu is a bit more expansive than a typical coffee shop (I bring up that particular BB&P because it has a large café-type area in addition to their restaurant with couches and coffee tables). Coffee-focused cafes like Tryst and now Vigilante also offer a different coffee shop experience, one that is meant to be relaxing and stress free.

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No waiting around for this avocado toast at Slipstream.                                             Credit: @momentofmeaning (Instagram)

As Austin pointed out in Vigilante’s blog, no more pacing around the drink bar waiting for your coffee, hoping no one else accidentally snatches yours. (Don’t worry – if you’re in a hurry you can still order your drink to-go!). You no longer feel the pressure to blurt out your order as you’re trying to read the tasting notes of the single origins on the menu. Another plus: chat with the barista when they bring you your drink, they will be less rushed than if they were just working on drinks all day.

What do you think about table service in DC? How does it affect your workday or your meet-up with friends?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

 

Croissants and Cortados

People often ask us what our favorite cafe is. It’s hard to say, because there are so many elements that go into making a cafe special. Some of the top contenders though for me (Daniëlle), are coffee (obviously), seating options, and pastry selection.

Sometimes I look forward to that cortado like nobody’s business, I can almost taste it on my way to a cafe. That first sip can turn my day around.

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I grew up in Europe so my standards for a croissant are extremely high (at 7-Elevens in Sweden, for example, croissants are baked on the premises each morning. No individually-bagged, week-old dry croissants, even at the corner store). I love being able to pull the flaky layers apart one by one, savoring each buttery bite.

And seating, that’s an obvious choice. If I want my coffee to go, I generally just make some at home. If I can afford the luxury of time, I love to linger and sink into a seat at a cafe and stay a while. People-watch, read the local section of the paper, get some work done in the company of others.

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Great coffee, a comfortable place to sit, and a soft croissant.

When those three ‘needs’ are met, you will likely see me time and again, getting lost in a good book or catching up with a friend.

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[Point of clarification: There are certain pastry flavors (think blueberry or cinnamon) that can really complement coffee, but more often than not I go with a simple savory bite – I relish the occasional sweet treat but I also like to stay balanced and not waste my workouts 🙂 Plus, Lauren and I are suckers for alliteration so croissants and cortados were the obvious choice!]

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Do you have your favorite pastry vendors and their partner cafes memorized like I do? What is your perfect trifecta and where do you find it?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

Roaster of the Month: Vigilante Coffee

 

DSC_0002With so many exciting things rolling out for Vigilante Coffee, we are thrilled to feature them as our Roaster of the Month and share in their progress with you.

In the Beginning…

The concept of Vigilante Coffee began years ago, when Chris Vigilante was living in Hawaii. Quite the opposite of what you often find when cafe owners get into the business, Chris started out seeing coffee grown on the farm, and eventually started roasting, whole selling, and then getting into retail. Along the way he was joined by partners Austin and Ashley who each bring unique perspectives to the team and help the company grow and flourish.

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The original espresso machine, now in the lab

Austin first met Chris when Austin was working the DC scene and Chris was a barista. They became friends and started roasting coffee together in the basement of Austin’s apartment. When they realized they were producing really good coffee they started selling wholesale and farmer’s markets (they’ve been at Eastern Market for five years now). Next they started hosting pop-up cafes and the success there really changed the game.

When a loyal customer caught wind that they were looking for a more expansive roastery, he introduced the team to a bright open space in Hyattsville that he would share with them while he continued to use part of the garage as his office. The community, however, kept inquiring when they were going to serve coffee rather than just roast it, and the friendly pressure gave way to the cafe it is today.

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It’s such a great community, in fact, that when they were looking for a place to expand, that was their number one priority. A great community to grow into, in addition to a good space and an excellent relationship with a new landlord. They landed on College Park, Maryland, and are excited to open in September of this year.

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Finding the Unique in the Second-Most Traded Commodity in the World.

What sets Vigilante apart? We think it’s their dedication to education and their desire to build relationships with their partners.

Austin heads up the education program and they offer classes several times a week in their new lab, both to their wholesale partners and the general public (you can register through the link on their website). They cover everything from different brew methods, to the history of espresso, to basic latte art.

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The bright lab in the same property as the cafe offers the perfect space for classes and cuppings

If you follow Vigilante on social media you’ll notice they spend significant time at origin, sourcing new coffee and growing their coffee community with the producers. Awan and Chris are the green buyers for Vigilante coffee and they’ve seen how making connections with farmers allows the quality of the coffee to skyrocket. The directness of the chain is a major focus for Vigilante.

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Roaster Franklin oversees a batch during a morning roasting session

We’ve seen before how this can be a two-way street and through their relationships they’ve been able to offer programs like harvesting incentives to their producers. Another perk is trying new innovative methods with the producers, like having them ferment the coffee in tea water. When working through importers they can select a certain flavor profiles and the importer might come back with 10 farms that can offer those that season.

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Always Striving for Improvement

In addition to growing their cafes, Austin is also excited to tell us about service style! Called the Vigilante Experience, they are now offering table service in the evenings with the intention of rolling this out full-time soon. Throughout their travels they’ve all seen how relaxing full service cafes are, when their is a major focus on presentation and fulfilling all aspects of the customer experience. In a hurry? Your server will take your order electronically on your way to a table so they can get started on it right away. Prefer a splash of milk in your coffee? Your servers can better help you narrow down which coffee suits your needs and what complements them. We are excited to experience this for ourselves soon!

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The Stats

Take a look at the stats, and let us know what you love about Vigilante Coffee in the comments!

Roaster manufacturer: Dietrich
Calibration Program/software: Roaster’s’ experience and a clipboard!
Capacity: Approximately 25 lb per batch output
Batches/hour 3 – it takes about 15-18 minutes per roast
Lbs per day/week: About 2,000 pounds a week
Bean sourcing (direct trade/importers): Mix – Direct importers like Caravela and Ninety Plus, and personally built direct trade
Cuppings frequency: Daily for the roasters, weekly for staff (keeping it interesting by cupping the same bean 6 ways, cupping defects, etc).
Packaging: Lined resealable bags.
Where to buy: 90+ places offer Vigilante Coffee in the area! Find it at a multitude of stores, bars, and restaurants, as well as farmer’s markets. Sign up for their subscription service on their website!
BONUS:
Personal favorite region (Austin): Kenya, though it sometimes changes with the seasons
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now: Burundi, and the Ethiopian Kemgin

 

Stay Grounded,

Daniëlle