Neighborhood Crawl: Dupont Circle

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Oh Dupont Circle! Home of the High Heeled Race, weekend chess games, and turn-of-the-century rowhouses. It was my first introduction to Washington DC as an adult (well, twenty-something college student) and while so much has stayed the same in 13 years (2 a.m. empañada shops and getting lost in Kramer Books), there have been welcome additions to the area as well.

It would be overly ambitious to name all the places worth a visit next time you’re in Dupont Circle but let us take you to a few places worthy of your taste buds and a feast for your eyes.

1. Begin your stroll by popping into DGS Delicatessen where Colony Club is hosting the pop-up/collaboration, “Sadie’s Weekdays.” DGS Deli pays homage to the District Grocery Stores that adorned the corners of the District early in the 20th century, and the architecture and design will tug on your nostalgia strings. Grab your Bullfrog breakfast bagel and a beautifully crafted specialty coffee drink in this inviting space to start out your day. {Note: if you’re coming by after 11 or on weekends we also really enjoy En je ne sais Quoi a few doors up – while more a bakery than a coffee-focused cafe, the croissants and other specialty baked goods are serious business).

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2. Walk northwest along Connecticut Avenue to Dupont Circle. Fact: the fountain itself was designed by the same duo who designed the Lincoln Memorial, Henry Bacon and Daniel Chester French. On weekends you are sure to find entertaining chess games along the outer rim of the park but one guide suggested bringing your own board games if that suited better! [Has anyone else noticed a surge of “Settlers of Catan” games going down around town??] While the water is not currently on, there is plenty of life around the fountain and great people watching opportunities. Or sit and read the paper on the grass for a while and place bets on which squirrels are the boldest.

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3. If you are there on a Sunday stop into the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market. A great opportunity to purchase a bag of Zeke’s coffee to take home with you as well as some pickles and a plant and whatever else might be on your list!

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4. Walk over to the Phillips Collection (“America’s First Museum of Modern Art) and experience the most intimate way to view a Van Gogh or Georgia O’Keefe in the city. Walking through the building itself is worth its admission price (check out their website for pricing as it varies by time and circumstance) although the rotating exhibitions always aim to impress. [Note: the main house will be closed for renovations beginning 23 May so head over there quickly or you’ll have to wait until 2018!]

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5. Two blocks directly south will find you at Emissary. A basement cafe that opened last fall, it serves light bites and bar drinks at night, and during the day it’s a third wave coffeeshop begging for you to meet up with a friend on the terrace or read a book over their marble design.

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Note: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible opportunity to visit some embassies in the area this weekend and over the next several weeks – more info here and here. Filter Coffee and Glen’s Garden Market are mere steps from each other on 20th St NW – both absolutely worth the tiny detour from Connecticut Ave. And the National Geographic Museum is next on my list, also just a stone’s throw from Dupont. Lastly- Dupont Underground!!!! Do some googling and get out there, folks.

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What are some other favorites in and around Dupont Circle? Please share in the comments!

Stay Grounded,

Daniëlle

Caffeinate Your Workout

“Bro, do you even lift?”

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The only lifting happening here are these noodles to my mouth.  [Credit: Sarina Raman, IG: @ramanoodleseats

Lauren is an avid yoga enthusiast (even goes on Yoga retreats) and I am a Tony Horton convert – a forever and loyal P90Xer. I used to hate working out – sure I’d run, clear my head- but the times that I would REcommit myself to a gym and a complimentary personal training session, I would always be reminded that to increase bone density I needed to lift weights.

So now I power through my workouts in the morning, but even though I love them (and I love it when people notice that I work out ;)) it’s not always easy to start that warm up.

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Unless I’ve had my coffee.

Caffeine gives us a buzz. It wakes us up and energizes us. Caffeine can increase the release of dopamine – simply put, a compound that makes us feel good. So it makes sense that having a cup of coffee about 30 minutes before our workout would give us that nudge that we need.

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P90X for life.

Caffeine can also help blood circulation, thus moving more oxygen to your tissues. And in studies on the performance of athletes, that performance is typically increased when there is caffeine involved- perhaps it’s psychological but I’ll go with that. And the antioxidant bioflavonoids that are so beneficial in coffee? They lose their effectiveness after the coffee is ground, so in addition to tasting better, freshly ground coffee is also better for you.

Furthermore, the chemical compound adenosine is what helps us sleep, and caffeine helps block its receptors. It takes about 20-40 minutes for caffeine to travel through your intestines, through your bloodstream, to your brain. More proof that it’s a good idea.

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Stopping for a cortado at the beginning of a ride

Grace Street Coffee paired up with Lululemon in December for a “coffee nap.” [Grace Street Coffee’s general manager Angel is a Lululemon Brand Ambassador]. For the coffee nap guests were offered a cup of Indian Yelnoorkhan Estate coffee and then invited to lay comfortably on a yoga mat for 20 minutes (sleeping helps to naturally clear some of that adenosine). At that point, after the caffeine was absorbed and working its magic, they ran through some revitalizing yoga poses, using the caffeine to its maximum potential.

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The owner of Filter Coffeehouse is an avid cyclist and made headlines a few years ago when he opened his Brookland location- where they share their space with the cycling shop ‘The Bike Rack.” Here you can get caffeinated and have your chain lubed at the same time. Once that caffeine is in place to block that adenosine, you’ll be ready to hop on and get moving.

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Washington DC is abundant with paths and trails for cycling,                                                       running, walking and circuit training.

A few notes: be sure to keep hydrating – while coffee is liquid, it is also a diuretic and it’s important to stay hydrated! I always down a tall glass of water before I start on my morning coffee ritual. Another consideration – while I assumed the best way to do this was to drink your coffee black, it’s a good idea to have a flat white and let the protein in the milk to do its work too!

For a few more tips on creative and productive foods – check out my ramen lifting friend’s article on Spoon University (the list includes chocolate!)!

I can think of quite a few other cafes that are near gyms or trails in the DC area. What are some of your caffeine/workout routines?

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

Neighborhood Crawl: Union Station

When Lauren and I first began collaborating about this blog, one of the topics we were so excited about were Neighborhood Cafe Crawls. With so many fantastic neighborhoods in Washington DC, it was always hard to pinpoint where to start. Then it occurred to me that a great place to start would be where many start their time in DC: Union Station.

While not necessarily a mecca for specialty coffee, we’re here to celebrate coffee AND the District, so read on for how to fill a few hours doing both.

1- Start out at Ebenezer’s with a vanilla rose latte. Feel good about your purchase as their proceeds go directly back into the community, and enjoy a relaxing setting with a book or a friends and some people watching.

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2 – Head over to Union Station and admire the newly rejuvenated main hall. The station celebrates its 110 year-birthday this year, and some original building material can be found in the antique train gates in the Train Concourse. Enjoy some shopping in the bustle as you admire the 36 Roman Legionnaires watching over the main hall.

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3- Pay a visit to the underrated Smithsonian Postal Museum. Even if you don’t have time to go into the atrium with a 90-foot-high ceiling to see the 1851 stagecoach and 1931 Model-T mail truck, you’ll be glad you stepped in just to take in the magnificent historic City Post Office Building that was constructed in 1914. (PS – It’s a Smithsonian Museum so it’s FREE!)

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4- Walk east on the outside of Union Station this time and admire the Capitol Building from directly in front of the train station. The arches on the south side of Union Station are magnificent, and the Capital peeking through the flagpoles is breathtaking.

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5- By now you’re parched for more coffee so head over to Union Kitchen Grocery where you an pick up a handcrafted Compass Coffee espresso drink, and a few bags of  fresh coffee to take home from one of the many local roasters sold there.

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{Disclaimer: Technically not a neighborhood, Union Station is actually in NoMa (North of Massachusetts), which to many DCers implies H St NE.}

TIP: If you’re traveling by car we hope you’re lucky to find some parking near Ebenezer’s and UKG- otherwise park at Union Station and have your ticket validated at the machine before walking back out to the garage. It’ll get you two hours for $6.

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Where else do you like to stop in while near Union Station?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

 

Coffee with a Cause

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

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.

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Bourbon Coffee

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.

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Story behind the cup at Bourbon Coffee

EBENEZER COFFEEHOUSE

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.

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Inviting space at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse

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.

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Ebenezers Coffeehouse

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.

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Books, cards, art, and coffee at the Potter’s House

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!

DOGTAG BAKERY

We highlighted Dogtag Bakery during Veterans Day so we’ll keep it short, but we think it’s pretty cool that 100% of their profits go back into their fellowship program to help entrepreneurial veterans.

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Dog Tag Bakery

What are some other cafes that you like to go to because of their mission (and great coffee of course)?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

Celebrating Valentine’s Day the Caffeinated Way

It’s just around the corner, and whether you love it or loathe it, you can’t ignore it… Valentine’s Day! I for one am kind of a fan of the holiday (if nothing else for the sale on Valentine candy at CVS the next day), though I see how it can get a bit overwhelming. For those choosing to celebrate, District of Coffee picked out a few places to enjoy your Valentine’s Day – while also getting your caffeine on – depending on your relationship status.

For the casually dating

So maybe you’re like Ryan Howard and have found yourself in a bit of a pickle. Or maybe you just started seeing someone and want to spend Valentine’s with them while keeping it chill. Personally, I really can’t think of a better date than playing board games over a cup of coffee or a beer (unless it’s Monopoly, then you will see my ugly side…) The Board & Brew in College Park satisfies all those needs and more, making for a fun outing. Songbyrd Music House & Record Cafe is a great place for a memorable Valentine’s date, and on 2/14 there will be live music provided by Sweet Earl Green and Aaron Abernathy- tickets here. It’s also a good time to find out what kind of music your date is into, because we all know that can be a deal breaker. For something more casual, take a self-guided walking tour around darling Old Town and end the night with some espresso, sorbet, or pie (or all three) at Killer E.S.P. Or, if you’re looking to impress your date with one of the newest coffee shops on the scene, take them to Colada at 14th & T. It just opened on February 1st, so it’s possible your date hasn’t even heard of it yet, making you look super hip.

For the more serious relationship

If you really want to treat your sweetheart, Cafe Bonaparte is a pricier option in Georgetown that your date is bound to appreciate. Dine on delicious French cuisine and finish your meal by ordering one of their divine coffee drinks such as a nutella espresso with whipped cream. But be sure to make a reservation! If you want to keep the night a little more low-key (and inexpensive), why not hit up Bakers & Baristas and take a walk around the mall? I can’t think of many other things as romantic as the monuments at night. Sit on the steps of the Lincoln with a cappuccino in hand and your love by your side. What if you want to have a fun Valentine’s date, but you also want to be home in time to catch the newest episode of This Is Us while in your pajamas? Drop by La Colombe in Blagden Alley around sunset and accompany it with an artsy photo shoot, or visit the one in REI and plan your next weekend getaway together. And for all of you in Baltimore, Pitango Bakery is holding a special chocolate and wine tasting event on 2/14 for only $20. Click here to RSVP. Okay, there’s no coffee involved, but chocolate and wine!

For the “Happy Singles Awareness Day” folks

Wherever you damn well please. You ain’t gotta impress anyone!

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No matter how you celebrate, I hope you all have a brew-tiful Valentine’s Day!

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

Resolutions for a (More) Caffeinated New Year

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” -The Great and Powerful Oprah

It’s a new year, and you know what that means…New Year’s Resolutions! The most common resolution for 2017, according to Statistic Brain, was eating healthy/losing weight, followed by self/life improvements (admittedly pretty vague), making better financial decisions, and quitting smoking. We’re already six long days in, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some people have already broken their resolutions by now. It’s a nice idea though, don’t you think? – making a cognizant commitment to better yourself and grow as a person in the new year. I can get on board with that. In the words of Barney Stinson…

In addition to being better about putting up my laundry, I’ve compiled a short list of New Year’s Resolutions that revolve around – what else? – coffee. Coffee has become a huge part of my life over the past two years; however, until fairly recently, it’s been a more passive relationship. In 2017 I am making a commitment to continue being active in the coffee community and allowing my appreciation of coffee (especially local coffee) to really flourish:

  • Wake up earlier so I have time to actually enjoy my coffee at home – this will be the hardest one because I reallyyyy love my sleep, but it is also the one I’m most determined to make happen
  • Attend more cuppings and tastings
  • Learn how to create (better) latte art
  • Master various Aeropress recipes (yes, there are more than one!)
  • Explore more coffee shops, especially those in Virginia and Maryland that I’ve been putting off visiting
  • Grow our following on District of Coffee so we can share the local coffee culture with even more coffee lovers
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My last attempt at latte art. There’s definitely room for improvement!

It may not seem like much, but I am excited to put these resolutions into action. And now since it’s out in the blogosphere, hopefully that will hold me accountable. What are your New Year’s resolutions? And what do you hope to see from District of Coffee in 2017?

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren