One Mug at a Time

On any given night there are 8,350 homeless persons in DC. The annual homeless assessment report from HUD revealed that homelessness in the District increased 14.4% in 2016, the third largest spike in the country. Also, while the number of single homeless persons might be falling, the number of children and parents experiencing homelessness is rapidly increasing.

These statistics can seem daunting, and there’s a lot of work to do. However, its people like those at District Mugs that provide me hope. Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit this unique program that works to combat some of these problems in our city.

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Learning about design and falling in love with all of these mugs. Photo by Yasser Osafat

District Mugs launched less than a year ago. The social enterprise was started by Shreya Bhargava, Founder and Director, after she volunteered at homeless shelters in DC. She saw the misconceptions about the homeless population and also the potential, and she wanted to create a program that would empower them. Courtney D’Amico, Assistant Director, has been involved since the beginning, eager to provide skills and resources for clients to become self-sufficient. Yasser Osafat and Try Serino round out the team as art instructors whose rapport with the clients is effortless and fun.

Their clients, who are single mothers or people who are currently experiencing or have experienced homelessness, come from their partners at Street Sense. Every Thursday morning a group meets at the Church of the Epiphany to decorate coffee mugs. They guess that they have had 30 people come through since their inception.

District Mugs aims to teach their clients not only about art, but business and self-sufficiency. Their goal is to provide people the resources to be able to run a small company of their own. Along the way they are making new friends, developing a creative outlet, and increasing their monthly income.

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Try works with Reggie to perfect his most recent mug set. Photo by Yasser Osafat

The team paints mugs for holidays and corporate orders; however, between these special occasions they experiment with new ideas and techniques. Shreya and Courtney remember how the clients were hesitant at first to get creative. However, when I visited, I sensed no hesitation, but eagerness to test their capabilities and pride in their accomplishments. They looked to one another for suggestions and encouragement, and a couple of them were even hard at work on mugs they can sell as a set.

Mugs go for a suggested donation of $10. District Mugs keeps $1.50 to go towards purchasing more supplies, and the rest of the sale goes to the artist. This encourages them to hone their skills and make even more mugs!

The nonprofit wants to expand eventually – designing more than coffee mugs and meeting more than once a week. But for now, I would say the work they are doing is extremely impressive.

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Sheila beginning her next polka-dot project. Photo by Yasser Osafat

If you’re interested in purchasing a mug, you can do so at Purposeful Purchases. District Mugs also hosts pop-ups – previous ones held at Pottery Barn, Mellow Mushroom, West Elm, and Lava Barre. Be sure to follow their Instagram page to stay up to date on where they’ll be next!

Take a look below at some of the beautiful mugs these artists have created! And please join me in saluting District Mugs who is changing the lives of DC’s single mothers, homeless, and formerly homeless, one mug at a time.

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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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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).

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Teaser window coverings at 640 14th St NW

 

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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.

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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.

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The pastry case that will soon be filled with scrumptious baked goods
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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.

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Black, marble and brass complement each other at Swing’s
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The aesthetically pleasing Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine
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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.

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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

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Roaster of the Month: Lost Sock Roasters

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Lost Sock Roasters cupping at Colony Club

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.

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Local supporting Local – Lost Sock Roasters cupping at Colony Club

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.”

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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.

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Coffee offerings at the Timber Pizza Co. pop up
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Lost Sock’s branded gear at Timber Pizza Co.

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.”

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Lost Sock’s pop up at Timber Pizza Co.

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Keep your roaster radar tuned for upcoming pop-ups featuring Lost Sock Coffee!

The Stats:

Roaster manufacturer: Mill City Roaster
Calibration Program/software: Artisan
Capacity: 6 kilo
How many batches per hour: 4
Lbs per week/month: approx 300lbs
Bean sourcing (direct trade/importers): Collaborate with a small number of importers as well as a couple direct trade collectives.
Cuppings frequency: Weekly
Packaging: Hand stamped fully recyclable brown kraft bags.
Wholesale/Retail: 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!
BONUS:
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.

Stay Grounded,

Daniëlle

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Meet the New Katz on the Block…

Dream. Declare. Deliver.

This is the tagline for Katz District Coffee, and it couldn’t be more appropriate.

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Katz District Coffee’s center of operations

Kyle Katz and Brian Edling used to be roommates in DC. Their love for coffee originated with a chocolate-y, almost Snickers-like cup of coffee from Filter Coffeehouse in Dupont that really opened their eyes to what coffee could be. Kyle then moved to his home state of Florida for a job that couldn’t be passed up before making his way to Atlanta. At that point he was faced with the question: “What is it that gets you up in the morning?” Realizing his answer wasn’t satisfactory, he rearranged his priorities and set out to accomplish his goal of making a really good cup of coffee.

Meanwhile, Brian and his girlfriend, still living in DC, decided to take several months to travel around Southeast Asia. That was when he received a call from Kyle telling him about his idea and asking if he was interested. Without hesitation, still in Thailand at the time, Brian hopped on board. This was early 2016, not even a year ago.

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In less than a year Katz District Coffee has grown from dream to realization.

They have been full speed ahead ever since. The two found warehouse space in College Park which they are really excited about. College Park has developed a “College Park City – University Partnership” to become a sustainable top 20 college town by 2020, and Katz District Coffee feels lucky to be a part of that. They figured out what kind of roaster they wanted after Kyle’s previous experience learning from the guys at Firelight Coffee Roasters in Atlanta. So they took their van down to Florida to pick up their roaster, picked up some beans from a crazy coffee enthusiast in Tampa with a warehouse lined with silos of coffee beans, and made their way back up to roast their very first official batch of Katz District Coffee.

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The roaster in action

The guys tried around twenty different kinds of coffees before settling on their current four, all fair trade and good for this colder weather: Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, and Sumatra. The Sumatra is processed specifically by women through the cooperative Kopi Wanita, and the profits in turn go towards training programs for female co-op members. They are fond of the single-origins, citing that they help one learn what they like about different kinds of beans.

Through my time talking to them, it’s clear that they are not only passionate about coffee, but about coffee education, teaching people more about the process of farm to cup and helping them discover the different aspects of coffee. It’s also evident how welcome they feel entering the DC coffee scene. Rather than feeling threatened or intimidated, they feel inspired and encouraged, and honored to play a part in it all.

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Brian roasting up a new batch of coffee

Kyle handles the sales and marketing side of the business while Brian handles operations and roasting. The two still work outside part-time jobs until the business really takes off, which my guess will be soon.

Katz District Coffee is currently available for retail at Dacha Market and Pleasant Pops as well as on their website. Stay tuned for more places to find them! Everything is roasted to order with their beans being good for up to a month. You can even order a sample box and receive 4 oz. packages of all four of their current offerings.

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On the shelf at Pleasant Pops in Adams Morgan

They look forward to exploring how to roast the perfect bean for an iced coffee or cold brew, and a storefront is definitely on the horizon. But for now, I still sit amazed at how much they have accomplished in such a short period of time. It just goes to show that if you DREAM something and DECLARE it, you can DELIVER.

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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Checking on the beans in the middle of the roasting process