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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
With 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Take a look at the stats, and let us know what you love about Vigilante Coffee in the comments!
Roaster’s’ experience and a clipboard!
Approximately 25 lb per batch output
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
Daily for the roasters, weekly for staff (keeping it interesting by cupping the same bean 6 ways, cupping defects, etc).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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 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!
Sitting at Bourbon Coffee I am inspired by coffee with a cause. Lauren and I wanted to highlight a few cafes that serve a greater purpose and no better place to start than here!
Bourbon Coffee sources all of their beans directly from farms in Rwanda where they have direct trade relationships. I recently learned that most African coffee farming is much different than what you read about in Central and South America, for example, as African coffee farms tend to be much smaller and run alongside other agriculture to feed the families of the farmers. Due to this, most African coffees are sourced through cooperatives and other partnerships.
Bourbon Coffee buys coffee only directly from farmers and coops, eliminating any middlemen and therefore allowing their farmers to receive more than 25% of the fair trade price for their coffee. They have built relationships with their farmers and coops boasting transparency and fairness.
This also empowers African coffee farmers to participate directly in the global marketplace and increase their economic development. It’s no coincidence that Bourbon’s first US location is in Foggy Bottom not too far from the Peace Corps, USAID, and other humanitarian organizations.
Ebenezer Coffeehouse is owned and operated by National Community Church and all their proceeds go back into community outreach programs. They are actively involved in building DC through their many locations and projects.
They are located near Union Station and have that vibe of giving travelers rest in a warm and inviting space.
Furthermore they serve One Village Coffee from Pennsylvania. They source only fair trade coffees and donate $1 of every Artist Blend coffee back to the COMSA Coop in Honduras to build bee colonies. They also donate coffee to homeless programs in Philadelphia.
THE POTTER’S HOUSE
The Potter’s House is a 100% non-profit cafe that was formed during the 1960s to create an inclusive environment for everyone. They promote activism, the arts, and community development.
They have a ‘pay what you can’ soup program and a ‘pay it forward’ coffee program where you can buy someone else a cup of coffee. They host community events and are also environmentally conscious, using solar energy, sensor technology, and a compost program for food scraps.
Not that they can have too many because their food is delicious and the atmosphere terrific!
CEO Mark Warmuth and new store manager Alex Farewell-Prisaznuk hold the fort in Washington DC, working with DCRA (Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs) to get final permits approved for the latest installment of Swings Coffee. They are just days away from opening their third location at 640 14th Street NW, in the same building as the Hamilton Hotel and Old Ebbitts Grill. (Their G Street location will re-open after building construction is complete).
Meanwhile Director of Coffee Operations, Neil Balkom, is on his way to Knoxville for CoffeeChamps, a qualifying event for the US Coffee Championships, where he is taking a team of baristas and also judging in the competitions. Following the event he is heading to thecoffee triangle of Colombia to delve deeper into the world of decaf coffees processing. Neil admires decaf drinkers for their dedication to drinking coffee purely for the flavor and enjoyment of it, not to merely transport caffeine, and therefore takes it upon himself to find the very best decaf coffee available.
At Swings’ new storefront you can expect the same quality and service you’re receiving at their Del Ray location: ethically sourced coffee through draft lattes, five single origin pour over options, and that carefully selected decaf. They will offer Junction Bakery pastries and are still working with a few other vendors to nail down more treat options.
CORE architecture + design, inc. (CORE)of Georgetown designed the space that used to be a tobacconist (CORE is the creative brain behind Rare Sweets and District Doughnut, among many other DC favorites). They worked with a marble/brass/black theme and the high ceilings really make that marble pop. Blending the artistically sleek design is a attention-grabbing copper Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine that complements the La Marzocco and Poursteady working the main bar. Combining all that with a Pentair Everpure filtration system, Swing’s Coffee is determined to bring you the best balanced coffee in the District.
While I was canvassing the new space Neil served a honey processed Java espresso made with the Victoria Arduino and its aroma and flavor hinted at biscotti. The machine is quiet and artful. We followed it with a shot of their 4 Mile espresso blend, which was spicy and citrusy. We are looking forward to going back soon to try their draft latte and milk based espresso drinks, which we plan to consume while we linger in their Parisian brasserie style seating against the wall.
Stay tuned for exact dates: they aim to welcome customers the first week of February in a soft-open capacity with reduced hours while they get their new staff up to speed, with a hard opening towards the end of that week.
UPDATE: Swing’s Coffee is NOW OPEN at 640 14th St NW, Washington DC.
We have been hearing about Lost Sock Coffee around town, and I finally met the duo behind the buzz at a cupping at Colony Club a few months back. Jeff, Nico and I got to chatting, and their drive and passion was inspiring. Take a look at how this community minded pair is bringing their coffee to your door.
Like many coffee enthusiasts’ stories, it was the clarity and fruitiness of a washed Ethiopian coffee that first caught Jeff’s attention after being brought up on Dunkin Donuts coffee in Boston. Instantly drawn to learning about how coffee could taste so different, he started exploring.
“When you begin finding the answers to these questions, you open your eyes to an entire world system of countless origins, people, processes and methods. With coffee, you never stop learning – there’s always more to it.”
At Lost Sock they are about more than just coffee; there is an awareness about the lengths at which coffee goes through to reach your cup that they want to share. In fact, Lost Sock was borne out of a community-oriented project they and three other friends thought up around the time Nico and Jeff were students at American University.
“The concept had been coined ‘The Lemonade Stand’- this community-oriented collaborative space would function as a small bar, coffeehouse, art gallery, and live performance venue. We all sensed this growing DIY creative community that was taking root in DC, and we wanted to be part of it, foster it, and contribute.”
Although the original plan didn’t take root, Nico and Jeff kept after the idea and eventually started roasting green coffee in their apartment.
“It was a lot of trial and error, but drinking a cup of coffee that you had personally roasted provided unparalleled gratification. We now had a certain level of control in flavor development, and we became obsessed. We then began taking roasting classes through the SCAA at the Academy of Coffee Excellence at Williamsburg Coffee.”
They have learned how difficult the roasting process is, found the craft in it, and are passionate about bringing that to the masses.
Jeff and Nico aim to bring you a cup of coffee as satisfying in the morning as finding that lost sock you’ve been after. Their design was created by Gem Mateo, whom they met through a mutual friend and who works for Levi’s in San Francisco. The name and design are simple yet thought provoking, and a testament to their fervent passion of the brand.
I recently caught up with them at Timber Pizza Co. in Petworth where they have been hosting a pop-up since the beginning of December. Originally slated to run one month, they’ve extended through January as the restaurant and community have relished their presence. Other than their single origin coffee offerings, I also had the pleasure of trying Cascara tea, a type of tea made from the skin and pulp of the coffee cherry (gently caffeinating its recipient at 1/4 the intensity of coffee). They also serve hot cocoa made from Undone Chocolate (a DC award winning chocolatier) and their homemade vanilla syrup. Timber makes their wood fired bagels (first boiled in New York – what they say about the water is true) and breakfast empañadas.
Future plans include suiting up a VW van to be a mobile espresso/coffee bar, popping up throughout town.
“Our main goal, however, is to establish ourselves as a respected specialty coffee roaster and increase our presence throughout the city.”
Keep your roaster radar tuned for upcoming pop-ups featuring Lost Sock Coffee!
Mill City Roaster
How many batches per hour:
Lbs per week/month:
Bean sourcing (direct trade/importers):
Collaborate with a small number of importers as well as a couple direct trade collectives.
Hand stamped fully recyclable brown kraft bags.
Online : delivery within the District and ships nationwide. In stores/pop-ups at Peach Market, Odd Provisions, Small Chop, and From The Farmer. More to come!
Personal favorite region:
Lately the Kenyans but will always have a soft spot for really fruity, floral, and bright Ethiopians.
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now:
The Nicaraguan Lovo! Also some very exciting new offerings coming very soon including a Kenyan and a Rwandan.