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?

Screenshot 2017-05-23 13.43.58
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.

DSC_0091
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.

IMG_5999
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.

Screenshot 2017-05-23 13.44.55
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

 

Sneak Peek of Swing’s Coffee

It’s a busy time for the folks at Swing’s Coffee Roasters.

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).

dsc_0715
Teaser window coverings at 640 14th St NW

 

dsc_0050
Beautifully designed bar at Swing’s Coffee

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 the coffee 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.

dsc_0031
Two of the many coffees available at Swing’s

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.

dsc_0056
The pastry case that will soon be filled with scrumptious baked goods
dsc_0024
3-group La Marzocco espresso machine

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.

dsc_0043
Black, marble and brass complement each other at Swing’s
dsc_0013
The aesthetically pleasing Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine
dsc_0007
Coffee Director Neil pulling a honey-processed Java espresso shot

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.

dsc_0059
Owner Mark Warmuth and cafe manager Alex Farewell-Prisaznuk working out details of the new Swing’s Coffee

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 look forward to seeing you there!

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

dsc_0064

La Colombe Doubles DC Presence in Less Than a Month

La Colombe first hit the DC coffee scene in 2014 with its quirky, quaint café situated in Blagden Alley. Their second local shop didn’t open in Chinatown until fall 2015. And now, in less than a month, La Colombe has doubled its DC presence with its Manhattan Laundry and REI grand openings on October 1 and October 21, respectively. It’s exciting to think we featured the fan favorite in our first article together for Perfect Daily Grind, and now it’s expanding at such a quick rate!

img_6512
La Colombe’s third DC location at Manhattan Laundry offers lots of space and light

Located adjacent to WeWork, the Manhattan Laundry location on Florida Avenue is open and bright, with La Colombe’s signature large windows, exposed brick, and clean, sleek furniture. The building is on the National Register of Historic places, and La Colombe has done a great job at preserving its natural beauty. There is ample seating and lots of light, perfect for a coffee date with an old friend or cramming for that exam next week.

img_6515
Enjoying a geisha pour over and draft latte on my first visit to Manhattan Laundry (please excuse my pastry crumbs)

It seemed everyone and their mother was incredibly stoked at the opening of the REI flagship store in NoMa (see the marching band strike up some spirit on our Twitter feed), which includes DC’s fourth La Colombe. This building also contains a lot of history, being the site of The Beatles’ first US concert. Hundreds lined up early this past Friday morning (or camped out overnight- how apropos) for the grand opening, and La Colombe not only provided coffee for those waiting outside, but they offered free coffee to visitors Saturday and Sunday. The café will have its own entrance and hours for those needing their caffeine fix before REI opens for the day.

dsc_0379
La Colombe’s fourth DC location is tucked inside REI’s new flagship store in NoMa

The company plans on opening its fifth local store in Farragut Square, though the date on that is still to be determined. However, one thing is for certain…La Colombe is definitely carving out a space for themselves on the DC coffee scene.

[UPDATE: La Colombe at 1710 I Street (near Farragut Square) is now open!]

We’d like to know, what’s your favorite La Colombe location?

Stay caffeinated,

Lauren

dsc_0335
Taking in the scene at REI’s grand opening

Sneak Peek Inside Commonwealth Joe

Last week as the sun began to rise over the Bartlett Apartments at Pentagon City, we sipped on Ethiopian pour-overs and marveled at the space around us. Commonwealth Joe’s first brick and mortar was just gearing up for the day, part of their soft opening process. We took a seat in their soon-to-be SCAA-certified coffee lab and talked with Operations Manager Mike Peterson on Commonwealth Joe’s history, brand, and hopes for the future.

dsc_0314

Commonwealth Joe started as a wholesale business in 2012, but their story began almost a decade ago. Robert Peck was a barista at a coffee shop in Culpepper, VA, and his mother was the coffee roaster. When the shop closed, his mother bought the roaster and they continued to roast beans in the garage for their friends, family, and eventually farmer’s markets. Originally warned to stay away from retail, Peck and his college buddies-turned-business partners took a risk and purchased The Java Shack in 2015. They have learned a lot over the past year, observing and maintaining a system that had worked for nearly twenty years and beginning to improve upon it. In April The Java Shack was named the Washington City Paper’s “Best Coffee Shop of 2016.” But if you’re expecting The Java Shack when you walk into Commonwealth Joe at Pentagon City, you’ll receive quite a shock.

dsc_0319

Rich wood tones, accented by brass, denim, and bold blacks create a welcoming space that encourages one to linger; the wall above the coffee bar is made of Japanese tempered wood and graduates from light to dark, mimicking the coffee roasting process; a separate glass-enclosed room with sliding doors converts into a lab that will be used for cuppings and other community events… overall the cafe has a clean and modern look that is still warm and indulgent: this is all part of Commonwealth Joe’s recent rebranding.

dsc_0342

The shop offers drip coffee for those on the go and pour-overs for those who want to stay a while. The blend used for their espresso drinks contains notes of chocolate, peanut butter, and strawberry and works well with or without milk. It’s important for the shop to select beans that are expressive to what coffee can be, Peterson explains. He remarks at the artisanal and romantic aspect of coffee, something Commonwealth Joe hopes to relay to its customers while making it simple for everyone to appreciate. Their single-origin beans are available for retail.

dsc_0397

Supportive of local business, they use craft chocolate shavings and powder from nearby chocolatier Kingsbury Chocolates & Confections for their hot chocolate and mochas. Their wide array of loose leaf teas come from House of Steep in Arlington and their baked goods from Junction Bakery in Alexandria.

In addition to the aforementioned beverages, it’s the carefully created and tested cold brew recipes that really set Commonwealth Joe apart. Commonwealth Joe is offering not one, not two, but five different cold brew options (including one decaf), and they plan to offer flights of cold brew on their menu soon.

dsc_0367

During the warmer months, you might find their baristas pedaling trikes up the road to serve you nitro cold brew, which certainly has helped in getting their name out there. They also service 20+ offices in the DC area with their cold brew kegerators. Commonwealth Joe every day in the office? That would definitely make work more enjoyable.

dsc_0362

In the coming years Commonwealth Joe hopes to move their roaster up from Culpepper, VA, but for now their goal is to make really good coffee approachable, and we think they are on track to do just that in their new, inviting, well thought out space.

dsc_0347

Their official grand opening is tomorrow, October 22, with a party from 9am to 3pm. They will offer free drip coffee and 50% off pour overs, nitro cold brew, and espresso-based drinks.

dsc_0412

Have you had a chance to check them out? We love to hear from you!

Keep Caffeinated & Stay Grounded,

Lauren and Daniëlle

Myanmar Coffee: A District Debut

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.

DSC_1473
Guests tasting the first import of Myanmar specialty coffee

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.

DSC_1480
Pastries and nibbles for guests at La Colombe, Chinatown

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.

 

DSC_1487
The first two dozen bags of Myanmar coffee for sale in the US!

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.

DSC_1500
Lots of press at the debut of Myanmar Coffee at La Colombe

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.


DSC_1576
The bright Myanmar coffee carries itself as a brewed coffee or an espresso!

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.

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

 

 

Sneak Peek Inside Grace Street Coffee

When you think of the Georgetown neighborhood, you might think of students bustling between streets lined with row houses to get to campus, high-end retailers and restaurants vying for the attention of consumers, and tourists lining up to see if those cupcakes taste just as good as they look on TV. Specialty coffee is not usually one of those first things to come to mind when you think of Georgetown, but Grace Street Coffee just might change that.

IMG_5565
Comparing two pour-overs

Daniëlle and I were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Grace Street Coffee with a couple of others last week, prior to their grand opening on Monday, August 15. General Manager Angel and Head Barista Sam came ready to wow us, and wow us they did.

DSC_1214
Angel and Sam demonstrating their coffee skills

First we were presented with two pour-overs: Sumatran and Ethiopian. The Ethiopian, with a lighter, fruitier taste also serves as their cold brew. Then came the espresso drinks. Their milk comes from South Mountain Creamery of Middletown, MD, and it makes for really nice microfoam for your latte. I must admit, I downed mine pretty quickly after taking the obligatory latte art photo. What surprised me most though was how they make their mochas. While most cafes will use a syrup to add the mocha taste, Grace Street simply steams chocolate milk and adds it to the espresso. This ensures their mocha is consistent in flavor and not too sweet.

DSC_1226.JPG
Lovely latte art

Speaking of sweet, a quick side note to address their vanilla syrup. Oh. My. Gosh. It is made in house, and I honestly would have taken a growler of the stuff home if I was allowed. But I digress…

Next came their specialty drinks, beginning with the espresso shrub. This unique drink is composed of espresso, balsamic vinegar, and natural sweeteners. We also sampled the espresso tonic and Grace Street mule, both reminiscent of a cocktail. For all you tea fiends out there, Grace Street will provide a number of options for you. We actually rounded out our tasting with the matcha latte and samplings of two baked goods from Pie Sisters that will be sold upon opening.

DSC_1251
Careful stirring of the refreshing espresso tonic

While the drink offerings are important, let us not forget about the space itself. Grace Street Coffee will operate under the same roof as the forthcoming Sundevich and South Block Co. There will be plenty of seating inside, but for those craving some sunshine, a dog-friendly patio will also be available.

A shiny gold roaster sits out in the open. All coffee beans will be roasted on site 4 or 5 times a week, inviting customers to get a close look at the process. Grace Street sources their single-origin beans from small companies that maintain reputations of working closely with their farmers. When the cafe receives a particular bean, they roast it 6 times, each to a different level of darkness, and then cup the beans to determine which roast brings out the best in each bean.

DSC_1263
Pour-over bar ready for some action

As we said our “goodbyes” and “good lucks” to Angel and Sam, I walked away impressed and eager for them to open, as I know they are eager to share their product with the public. Their “sophisticated, not snobby” attitude encourages customers to ask questions while inviting them to show off their coffee skills. So get ready to #GraceYoself, because Grace Street Coffee is coming at you August 15th!

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

IMG_5560.JPG
Follow the arrow