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

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Meet the Café on Wheels

Today’s post is by guest writer Susannah Winters of Wheelys Cafe DC. For those who are unfamiliar with Wheelys, allow Susannah to share her story. She and her husband are the embodiment of the Walt Disney quote “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

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Before my husband and I met each other we both separately had dreams of owning a cafe. We wanted it to be a community hub with open mic nights and local art featured on the walls. We loved coffee and loved the idea. What we didn’t love was the idea of having a brick and mortar. Something about it felt like too much and wasn’t for us. Maybe because we both like the freedom to pick up and move on a whim.

Years later, after my husband had been in real estate for years and I worked for Lululemon for almost a decade, we decided it was time to do something different. I was on maternity leave when my husband approached me with the idea of buying a coffee cart bicycle…specifically, a Wheelys Cafe franchise. We have biked together since we met, whether it was beach cruiser pub crawls in San Diego (where we lived) or training for a ½ ironmans…so he sold me on the idea pretty easy. We packed up our toddler and two dogs, sold our house, I got a job transfer, and we made the move from San Diego to DC.

We chose DC because we wanted a densely populated area that loved coffee ✓ and bikes ✓. And boy does DC love their coffee and bikes!

Our mission is to inspire more people to ride bikes while serving the best cup of coffee possible off of a bike. We are committed to supporting local small businesses and creating an engaging and thoughtful experience for our customers.

Being pedal and solar powered makes us one of the most eco friendly cafes in the world. As we expand, our goal is to stay as eco friendly as possible by restocking our cafes by cargo bicycle (yuba El Mundo V5).

We became operational about 6 weeks ago and we’ve found quality partners since our launch. We’ve fallen in love with both Zeke’s Coffee Roasters and Swings Coffee and serve both from our bike. We hand pour every cup which is infused with love, because we believe it makes a difference. We also serve District Doughnuts, our newest partner.

Since our move to DC we’ve fallen hard for DC’s spacious bike lanes and plethora of coffee roasters and micro roasters. The coffee scene here easily rivals San Diego (although the craft beer scene needs work ← our other love).

We’ve been serving on the corner of 9th St.  North and North Stuart Street in Arlington (in front of Dunkin Donuts), and we will be moving to another Arlington location in a few weeks. It’s a mini victory for us when we convert a Dunkin Donut’s customer to a fan of locally roasted organic coffee. You can always find our location on our insta @wheelyscafedc.

We also do weddings and events!

We are looking for permanent spots in DC proper. The beauty of being on a bike is we can fit most places! If you or someone you know wants a pedal powered cafe to serve up some deliciousness, shoot us a note on Instagram.

Huge thank you to Lauren for inviting me to write a guest blog on District of Coffee! I’m thrilled for the opportunity to share about Wheelys Cafe DC!

Written by Susannah Winters, Owner & Chief Culture Officer of Wheelys Cafe DC

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

Travel Tuesday: San Fransisco Bay Area

Earlier this month, I made a long-overdue trip to visit one of my best friends in Berkeley. I had traveled there several years back, but that was well before my constantly-caffeinated days. I researched. I strategized. I asked for recommendations. What I learned was that the coffee scene in the Bay Area has a lot to offer, and there’s no way you can tackle it all in one visit. However, you can’t say I didn’t try…

Artis Coffee

This was my first stop for coffee once landing in the Bay Area. Located in Berkeley, Artis provides a friendly open space with large windows and sleek furniture. I brought a book to read with me but was easily distracted by the live brew bar where you can sit up close and become engaged in the process as well as the roasting beans in the background. They had many pour-over options, so I asked the barista what he recommended that wasn’t an Ethiopian (warning: this trip is very pour-over-heavy). He suggested the Brazilian, and it did not disappoint, setting the bar high for the rest of my visit. If you can’t make it out to the Bay Area, don’t worry – Artis also has a location in Bangkok!

Highwire Coffee Roasters

Another Berkeley cafe, I stopped in for coffee and a bagel before making my way to the city. I ordered the howling wolf, aka nitro cold brew, and despite one man inquiring why I was drinking beer at 10am (cue outward awkward laugh and inner eye roll), it was delicious. The place, which includes a back patio, was bustling with people studying, catching up, or just grabbing a cup of coffee before heading to work for the day. A panini shop, Cafe Crosta, had also opened in their space just days prior to my visit. Supposedly they will begin focusing on the food so that Highwire can go back to focusing more on their coffee.

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Not a beer, but a yummy nitro cold brew.

Four Barrel Coffee

This was the one place that people consistently told me I had to visit while in San Fransisco. I was thinking about ordering a latte, but when I noticed the slow bar, I quickly changed my mind. There were six options available for pour-overs – three from Ethiopia – and these options rotate weekly. I chose *surprise* one of the Ethiopians and chatted with my barista about their beans and the somewhat isolated slow bar. “It’s like they’re Africa, and I’m Madagascar,” nodding his head first in the general direction of the other coffee station and then back to me. He offered me a small chocolate cookie from a local bakery while I waited and admired the art on the walls, a new installation called “Let My People Lego” by Elbe Spurling. I enjoyed my drink perched in the window while people watching and day dreaming about what West Coast life would look like for me.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

Ritual has several locations in San Fransisco, but the one I visited in Hayes Valley was not what I was expecting. It was the tiniest shop just popped up in the middle of a square. The structure of the place (I think it might have been a shipping container?) as well as their use of this bold bright red color drew me in, and I sat outside watching people go in and out while a man played guitar nearby. It seemed that the majority of people popped in for a quick espresso, though a few ended up hanging around for a while. I quickly realized why people might call this the “hipster” location, though no one seemed “too cool for school” (do people still say that?). After a little while I ordered a cold brew to accompany me as I walked to my next location.

Sightglass Coffee

Sightglass has three locations (one more coming soon) of which to choose from, and I went with the flagship location in the SOMA District. It was huge with seating downstairs and upstairs, and a giant roaster in the midst of it all. I placed an order for a Kenyan pour-over and was directed towards the young man who would be preparing my drink. I appreciated watching my drink crafted from start to finish and enjoyed how the baristas took each order one at a time, though there were plenty of friendly baristas so no one had to wait long. Something I unfortunately learned after my visit is that they have an affogato bar upstairs! How freaking cool is that?! Obviously my research wasn’t as thorough as I thought, but more obviously, I must go back.

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Things are non-stop at the Sightglass flagship location.

Wreckingball Coffee Roasters

So this cafe was the one I was most excited about, and for a completely geeky reason: one of the owners of this shop is the person who coined the term “third wave” coffee. Located in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, the cafe was smaller than I expected but with fun pineapple wallpaper and several areas for seating. The friend I was visiting tagged along for this venture following a walking tour of the Castro. He has only recently become a coffee drinker, and he always orders a vanilla latte; however, Wreckingball didn’t offer any flavors, so he went with a little simple syrup…and he said it was the best latte he’s ever had! There were two pour-over options (I know, so many pour-overs! I’m sorry!), and of course I went with the fruity Ethiopian. As my drink was being prepared, the barista humored me by walking my friend through the whole process, from the proportions to the bloom. I think my friend also humored me by acting interested. However, I was too busy coffee fangirling to really care.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit all the shops on my list, like female-owned Scarlet City in Oakland or the famous Blue Bottle (my logic for this was that we will soon have one in Georgetown, though I know it won’t be the same as going to the original). I tried stopping by Verve Coffee Roasters, but they happened to be closed the afternoon I made it out there, giving me a good excuse to go back soon.

I left my heart in San Fransisco, along with a long list of coffee shops to visit on my next trip! Any recommendations?

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

P.S.- On a non-coffee-related note, macaroni & cheese might be my favorite food, and there is a restaurant in Oakland called Homeroom that’s all about the mac & cheese that you must visit if you’re anything like me! You’ll thank me later 😉