The Better the Water, the Better the Coffee

The better the water, the better the coffee. Makes sense right? I mean, nearly 99% of coffee is water. So why have I been using sub-par water to make my coffee all these years?

DC water is not the tastiest. I won’t drink it straight from the tap. Maybe I just got used to my local water system in Louisiana, or maybe my taste buds are super sensitive. Maybe it’s DC’s rough history with the water system… So like so many of you, when I drink a glass of water, I drink filtered water. However, for three of the almost four years I’ve been living in DC, I’ve been using the tap water when brewing my coffee.

That stopped when I attended my first coffee competition, the annual Aeropress Competition that took place last July. Competitors came in with their own water, some filtered in jugs, others particular water bottle brands. And only at this time did I realize I might want to stop using tap water for my coffee. I mean, there’s a reason not one of these coffee pros is using tap water. So that evening as I was programming my drip machine for the next morning, I decided to add filtered water as opposed to tap water. And did it make a difference…?

Absolutely!

I could immediately tell my coffee was cleaner and crisper. And honestly, now it takes longer for residue to build up on my drip machine. Now filtered water is all I use. It’s an added benefit that filtered water is better for your health as it is absent of some unwanted elements that could otherwise be making their way through your body. It can also contribute to nutrient absorption, weight loss, skin hydration, and detoxification.

After reading this, you might be thinking, “No shit, Sherlock,” and that is fine. But if you’re not doing so already, try making your morning coffee with filtered water and let us know if you can taste the difference.

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

P.S.- Yes, there are cities out there with high quality tap water. Maybe you’re lucky to live in one of these places where filtered water isn’t necessary. If you do, please share with us your thoughts on using your local tap water to brew coffee.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Bike to Work Day 2017

Tomorrow is the day many of you have been waiting for – Bike to Work Day! Last year over 17,000 people registered with even more participating, and even with potential storms I’m betting for another awesome turnout this year.

We all know the benefits of biking to work – exercise, low cost, environmentally friendly – but tomorrow there are also freebies and deals for those who ditch the gas guzzler for two wheels. Below are some of the coffee-related deals we have seen as well as where coffee will be located along your commute.

Cafe Kindred: They will be located on the W&OD Trail.

Commonwealth Joe: They will be located at the Ballston, Columbia Pike, and Rosslyn pit stops.

Dog Tag Bakery: They will be located at the Georgetown Waterfront pit stop.

Grace Street Coffee: They will be located at the Georgetown Waterfront pit stop.

Malmaison: The cafe will be opening at 8am, and they are offering $2 off any of their large specialty juices (ok, this isn’t coffee, but what deal!).

Peregrine: They will be located at the Union Market pit stop.

Stomping Ground: They will be located at the Del Ray pit stop.

Swing’s Coffee: Bring in your helmet to show you’re biking to work and receive a $1 12oz. coffee and a fun gift from District Taco.

Vigilante Coffee: They will be located at the Hyattsville pit stop.

This link takes to you the official Bike to Work Day page where you can register to participate and find your pit stop (there will be 86 around the DC metro area). And if you need convincing that caffeinating before biking is good for you, look no further.

Be safe, stay hydrated, and have fun biking to work tomorrow!

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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

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

Croissants and Cortados

People often ask us what our favorite cafe is. It’s hard to say, because there are so many elements that go into making a cafe special. Some of the top contenders though for me (Daniëlle), are coffee (obviously), seating options, and pastry selection.

Sometimes I look forward to that cortado like nobody’s business, I can almost taste it on my way to a cafe. That first sip can turn my day around.

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I grew up in Europe so my standards for a croissant are extremely high (at 7-Elevens in Sweden, for example, croissants are baked on the premises each morning. No individually-bagged, week-old dry croissants, even at the corner store). I love being able to pull the flaky layers apart one by one, savoring each buttery bite.

And seating, that’s an obvious choice. If I want my coffee to go, I generally just make some at home. If I can afford the luxury of time, I love to linger and sink into a seat at a cafe and stay a while. People-watch, read the local section of the paper, get some work done in the company of others.

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Great coffee, a comfortable place to sit, and a soft croissant.

When those three ‘needs’ are met, you will likely see me time and again, getting lost in a good book or catching up with a friend.

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[Point of clarification: There are certain pastry flavors (think blueberry or cinnamon) that can really complement coffee, but more often than not I go with a simple savory bite – I relish the occasional sweet treat but I also like to stay balanced and not waste my workouts 🙂 Plus, Lauren and I are suckers for alliteration so croissants and cortados were the obvious choice!]

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Do you have your favorite pastry vendors and their partner cafes memorized like I do? What is your perfect trifecta and where do you find it?

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