Small Planes Taking Off!

“Coffee is about connection [. . .] Connecting people from different places and in some respect shrinking the distance between us.”

Standing in a large warehouse, surrounded by bags of green coffee beans and possibilities, Ryan Jensen describes how the name Small Planes came to be. It’s about taking people from different planes and connecting them through coffee.

Small Planes Coffee has been operating since the spring, but truthfully it’s something that’s been in the works for a while. Ryan and his wife Jill, owners of Peregrine Espresso, have long considered opening a roastery. After success with their three Peregrine shops (Eastern Market, Union Market, and 14th Street), they figured the time was right to begin their next adventure.

Though it might appear difficult to distinguish at first, Peregrine and Small Planes are two separate businesses. However, Peregrine is Small Planes’ first wholesale account, and they’re hoping to secure several more wholesale customers by the end of the year.

I met up with Ryan and head roaster Evan Howe a couple weeks ago at their headquarters near the Arboretum. They’re located in a strip that also includes a cidery that is soon to launch and a catering company. The space is huge, giving them a lot of room to grow (and kick around the soccer ball in their downtime). While Small Planes currently only operates as a roastery, they are juggling different ideas for the future of the space, including opening up the garage door and establishing a coffee bar.

Evan previously worked at Peregrine with Ryan, but venturing into the art of roasting was almost an entirely new challenge. He received training from Coffee Lab International in Vermont as well as friends in the industry such as David Stallings of Passenger Coffee. A lot of it is trial and error, and he admits it can at times be frustrating,  but once you dial in on the perfect setting for a bean, it all becomes worth it.

When it comes to quality control, they do not settle for anything less than perfect. Small Planes uses a trustworthy importer in Lancaster, PA, to secure their beans. Their machine can roast up to 25 pounds at a time, and they cup each batch and conduct quantitative analysis to ensure top notch quality.

My visit ended with a cupping of four of their coffees: two Guatemalans (La Ensenada and Hunapu), an Ethiopian (Kochere), and a Kenyan (Gichatha-ini AB). I was amazed at how different the two Guatemalans were, and while I would normally gravitate toward the Ethiopian, it was the Kenyan that most intrigued me. To be honest, it’s pretty intimidating to cup alongside two pros, and I want to thank the guys for not judging my mediocre slurping skills.

I am beyond grateful to have met Ryan and Evan, two of the nicest guys in the coffee biz, and learn more about Small Planes. Right now you can find their coffee at Peregrine, so be sure to drop by and try it out!

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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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

Southeastern Roastery, A Path to Coffee

I (Lauren) met Candy back in March when she was at Duality Espresso & Whisky Bar officially launching Southeastern Roastery. Talking to her briefly (as she had many supporters in attendance), I was enthralled by her path to coffee and her enthusiasm for this new adventure. I knew her story was one District of Coffee should share, and who better to tell it than the woman herself?

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In hindsight, it appears that I have been consciously crafting my coffee quest to create Southeastern Roastery, but this is not quite accurate. The reality is I can only vaguely pinpoint its beginnings let alone any intentional endeavors along the way.

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Southeastern Roastery is headquartered in Isle of Wight, VA.

My best guess is that I began preparing to enter the vast world of coffee in the summer of 1995, when I decided, clumsily, to start engineering school. Did I know what I was getting into at the time? No. But, math problems were my past-time jigsaw puzzles, I like chemistry, and I emotionally needed the follow-up security that the degree claimed to afford me. Four and a half years I spent toiling in labs, studying fluid flow theories, and sitting through what seemed like endless group meetings. I came away with a diploma noting my skills and put it to use in pulp and paper, oil, and controls design.

After graduation I came to know rural America well. Though beautiful, I experienced enough to know that I did not want to spent spend my adult youth aging there. Also, during this time, I realized that I lost the creative space allowed in learning engineering to the economically driven and controlled processes of industry. I soon became bored with the field in which I was working and needed a change.

The year was 2006 when I made the decision to enter graduate school. By this point, the industrial environment taught me that fields of engineering, and science in general, needed more human guidance. I had witnessed communities complain of industrial waste in water and soil and listened to companies battle with them for increased profits. I was fed-up with an itch for a switch from life in rural, industrial America. So, I registered for a program geared toward natural resource management with an international focus and moved to Central America. This is when I met Costa Rica.

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On a more recent trip to Central America, this time to Matagalpa, Nicaragua with Gold Mountain Coffee Growers.

The “rich coast,” with its mountainous islands and luscious rain forests, unwrapped my joy in sylvan pleasures that my adult self had boxed-up from childhood. In this plush landscape, I encountered coffee. Not just the roasted bean, but also its trees, fruit, growers, terrains, and climates – it’s ecosystem. It reminded me of home. As a child, I spent long hours with various family members plowing, planting, watering, and de-weeding gardens of green beans, cantaloupe, collard greens, kale, green peppers, squash, tomatoes, corn, and pumpkin. Nestled between the warm waters of the Pacific and the Caribbean, among frequent earth tremors, through coffee’s familiar yet foreign vegetative environment, I sensed a wider connection to the world that the U.S. alone did not afford me. What I was able to claim as the comforts of home had extended beyond its borders.

I was content with that notion then, and that emotion has stuck with me. It is in this connectivity of the roots of agriculture that I am drawn to coffee. With it, I am building cross-border relationships through this common ecosystem using what I have gained throughout my life. This opportunity is my gift from the universe, from which I am ever learning and ever growing. And, even at its tumultuous and unpredictable times, I compassionately accept and look forward to sharing its beauty.

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You can experience Southeastern Roastery here in DC!

If you are in the DC area, you can explore Southeastern Roastery locally crafted coffees at Songbyrd Record Cafe in Adam’s Morgan, Duality Espresso and Whiskey Bar at 1301 U St. NW, and Uptown Arthouse in Cleveland Park. Follow the roastery on Instagram – @southeasternroastery – for cuppings, tastings, and future happenings throughout DC, MD, and VA. Most of all, cup collectively and share lovingly!

Written by Candy Schibli, Head Roaster, Southeastern Roastery

 

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