Re-Doing the District

I (Daniëlle) am sitting at Dolcezza, at the new DC Wharf, contemplating how much DC coffee has changed since I left for Alaska last summer. When I knew I was returning I asked Lauren where I should go first – what HAD to be my first stop back in the District? Since I got here in January, I’ve made every effort to visit as many new places as possible. What’s crazy? That using Lauren’s last post as a guide, it’s taking nearly two months to make some progress! A few other places have also popped up just since she published her post early January (Elle, Bluebird, Bluestone Lane)

Allow me to run through a few of the beautiful cafés I’ve had the pleasure to get to recently:

Qualia. We were excitedly anticipating this opening practically from the first time we wrote about them – it had been a long time coming. An early Saturday was the perfect time to soak up the sun through their big windows and take over the arm chair corner and linger. With tons of single origin offerings just like at the at their first location, it added up to a perfect morning.

Blue Bottle in Georgetown. DC became the hub for West-Coaster ‘Philz’ to start launching its East Coast expansion, so it was exciting to see Oakland-native Blue Bottle make its way down. They opened in Georgetown last summer, and are set to open a second location soon, near Union Market. If anyone has ever flipped through James Freeman’s book, you’ll know he takes his coffee, and his cafes, very seriously. They didn’t skip a beat in creating a beautifully simple and bright space in Georgetown to sit and enjoy some millennial toast and a pour-over.

Velo Café. I don’t know how bikes and coffee came to be a thing, but it certainly is a thing. Serving up Vigilante Coffee alongside their bikeshop and small hardware store is the perfect one stop shop. District Hardware has been around for decades and their warm and friendly staff reflects this mom-and-pop feel.

Bluestone Lane in West End. Reportedly the largest Bluestone Lane in the US, their newest café co-located with the West End Community Library is stunning. When I visited, some of their corporate managers were there and it was delightful to hear the Australian accented individuals talk about their passion for coffee. I think it’s part of the culture. Flat whites, avo toast, and table service all around.

The Cup We All Race 4. Instagram photos of this café led me to the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan – I may not have found it, were I not actively searching for it! Perhaps the mystery is part of the allure. The Cup We All Race 4 is in the front lobby of the hotel, but you are welcome to enter through the doors into the main lobby and linger while you sip on your Counter Culture cappuccino. Super friendly bar staff will even come by and bring you some water to sip on. The hotel also boasts two bars and a restaurant.

Little Pearl. I have been a fan of the coffeeshop part of Pineapple and Pearls since its inception, and the beautiful space at their new location came at no surprise. Paired with some of their famous baked goods, adorable cutlery and bright openness, our morning there was heavenly. And they serve wine in the evenings, so win-win! 

Café Chocolat. They serve La Colombe coffee here, but do yourself a favor and also order the drinking chocolate! They come in three different varieties and they’re as beautiful as they are delicious. If you have the chance, engage in conversation with the shop owner about craft chocolate- I’m a relative newbie to the culinary category but I can tell you I’m here to stay. Craft chocolate is in my future!

Pluma by Bluebird Bakery. It’s no secret that I have a slight obsession with croissants and I’ve always held the bluebird bakery ones with the highest esteem. I was thrilled when I heard they were opening up a store front, and it met all my dreamed-up expectations. Beautiful décor, Stumptown coffee, and perfectly situated in the seriously exploding Union Market area.

Dolcezza at The Wharf DC. All the Dolcezza locations are so instagrammabe and their newest location is no exception. Giant windows with spectacular views, I can’t wait to see it during Cherry Blossom season! Dolcezza also serves Stumptown and they make all their gelato from scratch.

Gregorys (three locations). Did Gregorys kind of sneak into the District without a big fuss? Allow me to add a little fanfare by explaining that DC is the first place outside of the New York City area where Gregorys is making its mark. That’s NY- 26, DC -3 . Pretty impressive that they saw the DC market as being the one to focus on next. Try their mylks – activated charcoal is on the menu folks!

Swing’s on G Street. Swing’s closed their oldest location about 18 months ago due to renovations being made to the building, but they sure did their best to keep with the classic charm of the original while sprucing up the broader space. They also have bins and bins full of whole bean coffee where you can customize your blend.

I did make it to Crimson Diner (with Lauren!) but we got there too late for espressos. Fried green tomatoes anyone? (they were amazing. And HELLO there’s a whisky bar downstairs!)

I still have a handful of cafes to explore and while initially I was in a rush to get to them all immediately (clearly, and I had to get this blogpost done!), I’m going to slow down and revisit a few of my other favorites too. And a couple more are slated to open soon, so I’m not running out of new places yet! It’s good to be back, even if just for a little while.

 Let us know which of the newest cafes have tickled your fancy!

 Stay grounded,






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.


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.

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.

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.

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,


Roaster of the Month: Vigilante Coffee


DSC_0002With so many exciting things rolling out for Vigilante Coffee, we are thrilled to feature them as our Roaster of the Month and share in their progress with you.

In the Beginning…

The concept of Vigilante Coffee began years ago, when Chris Vigilante was living in Hawaii. Quite the opposite of what you often find when cafe owners get into the business, Chris started out seeing coffee grown on the farm, and eventually started roasting, whole selling, and then getting into retail. Along the way he was joined by partners Austin and Ashley who each bring unique perspectives to the team and help the company grow and flourish.

The original espresso machine, now in the lab

Austin first met Chris when Austin was working the DC scene and Chris was a barista. They became friends and started roasting coffee together in the basement of Austin’s apartment. When they realized they were producing really good coffee they started selling wholesale and farmer’s markets (they’ve been at Eastern Market for five years now). Next they started hosting pop-up cafes and the success there really changed the game.

When a loyal customer caught wind that they were looking for a more expansive roastery, he introduced the team to a bright open space in Hyattsville that he would share with them while he continued to use part of the garage as his office. The community, however, kept inquiring when they were going to serve coffee rather than just roast it, and the friendly pressure gave way to the cafe it is today.


It’s such a great community, in fact, that when they were looking for a place to expand, that was their number one priority. A great community to grow into, in addition to a good space and an excellent relationship with a new landlord. They landed on College Park, Maryland, and are excited to open in September of this year.


Finding the Unique in the Second-Most Traded Commodity in the World.

What sets Vigilante apart? We think it’s their dedication to education and their desire to build relationships with their partners.

Austin heads up the education program and they offer classes several times a week in their new lab, both to their wholesale partners and the general public (you can register through the link on their website). They cover everything from different brew methods, to the history of espresso, to basic latte art.

The bright lab in the same property as the cafe offers the perfect space for classes and cuppings

If you follow Vigilante on social media you’ll notice they spend significant time at origin, sourcing new coffee and growing their coffee community with the producers. Awan and Chris are the green buyers for Vigilante coffee and they’ve seen how making connections with farmers allows the quality of the coffee to skyrocket. The directness of the chain is a major focus for Vigilante.

Roaster Franklin oversees a batch during a morning roasting session

We’ve seen before how this can be a two-way street and through their relationships they’ve been able to offer programs like harvesting incentives to their producers. Another perk is trying new innovative methods with the producers, like having them ferment the coffee in tea water. When working through importers they can select a certain flavor profiles and the importer might come back with 10 farms that can offer those that season.


Always Striving for Improvement

In addition to growing their cafes, Austin is also excited to tell us about service style! Called the Vigilante Experience, they are now offering table service in the evenings with the intention of rolling this out full-time soon. Throughout their travels they’ve all seen how relaxing full service cafes are, when their is a major focus on presentation and fulfilling all aspects of the customer experience. In a hurry? Your server will take your order electronically on your way to a table so they can get started on it right away. Prefer a splash of milk in your coffee? Your servers can better help you narrow down which coffee suits your needs and what complements them. We are excited to experience this for ourselves soon!


The Stats

Take a look at the stats, and let us know what you love about Vigilante Coffee in the comments!

Roaster manufacturer: Dietrich
Calibration Program/software: Roaster’s’ experience and a clipboard!
Capacity: Approximately 25 lb per batch output
Batches/hour 3 – it takes about 15-18 minutes per roast
Lbs per day/week: About 2,000 pounds a week
Bean sourcing (direct trade/importers): Mix – Direct importers like Caravela and Ninety Plus, and personally built direct trade
Cuppings frequency: Daily for the roasters, weekly for staff (keeping it interesting by cupping the same bean 6 ways, cupping defects, etc).
Packaging: Lined resealable bags.
Where to buy: 90+ places offer Vigilante Coffee in the area! Find it at a multitude of stores, bars, and restaurants, as well as farmer’s markets. Sign up for their subscription service on their website!
Personal favorite region (Austin): Kenya, though it sometimes changes with the seasons
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now: Burundi, and the Ethiopian Kemgin


Stay Grounded,


Favorite digs in the District

Do you have a favorite coffee shop in DC?

I was recently reading a blogpost about what it takes to make your coffee shop stand apart from the rest, and it made me wonder what my cafe would look like if I had one. What is it that draws me back in, time after time? What are the factors that are important to us when evaluating coffee shops? Skim over the categories or look more in depth about some DC digs:

  • Coffee taste. Is it consistent- do you generally get the same great cup every time? Places like Filter Coffee and Chinatown Coffee Co always deliver for me.
  • Size. Are you always counting your lucky stars when you find a table? Do you like sharing a couch with someone and partaking in your community? Colony Club always seems to have options and that little couch area is big enough to carve out your own space or cozy enough to chat with your seat mates.
  • Space. Natural light? Couches or chairs? Stand-up bar? Not too hot, not too cold? Compass Coffee has made great choices with their sky light and have stand up bars at a few locations too.
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    A perfect pour over at Chinatown Coffee Co.
  • Decor. This one is tricky. Do you like it homey or modern? Woodsy or clean? Full of personal decorations that make it unique, or uncluttered and ready to have you get to work? Grace St Coffee has a clean modern look, yet reclaimed wood for their tables – the best of both worlds. Qualia and The Coffee Bar (S St) are like hanging out in my friend’s living room.
  • Menu (drinks). Do you like a cafe that transitions to a bar at night? Do you like a cafe that experiments with coffee drinks and creates unique concoctions or are you a purist? Do they have alternate dairy options? Home made syrups? Lots of cafes played around with fall favorites in the area – places like Swing’s also got creative for the holidays. Tryst and Slipstream turn boozy, and The Wydown recently followed suit.
  • Menu (food). I often judge my cafes by their pastries. Nothing ruins my day like a dry croissant! Philz sources their munch options from different vendors so there is always variety. Some bake in-house like The Wydown. Do you like cafes that offer sandwiches beyond the standard pastry? A full menu like Maketto?

    Homemade scones at The Wydown
  • Baristas. Does someone greet you when you first come in (sincerely not because they’re forced to?) If you go regularly do they know your name, or more importantly, your go-to drink? At Grace St I always see people get greeted like old friends.
  • Wi-fi. Are you here to work? Or do you grin when you see the no wi-fi sign reminding you to connect with people face-to-face again? On that note, outlets?! Commonwealth Joe offers a few separate areas – with outlets and without.
  • Location. Obviously convenience to your work or home, but also, is there parking? Is it feasible during a snowstorm? Is it next door to Trader Joe’s so you can run a few errands while you’re at it? Filter in Brookland is connected to a bike shop if your spandex is stretched out!
  • Outdoor space. Patio? Terrace? Shade via umbrellas or plants? Big Bear Cafe is a summer favorite with their vine-y canopy.

    Green terrace at Big Bear Cafe
  • Brew methods. Pour over, french press, Aeropress, espresso drinks, nitro, drip. For a while I was on a pour over kick but lately I’m into cappuccinos again. For an Aeropress I head over to Zeke’s or Vigilante and for a cappuccino I found a hidden gem at Society Fair in Alexandria.
  • Hours. Do they open early before you have to get to the office? Stay open late for that coffee date or study session?
  • Roaster. Do you like the hum of the roaster and the toasty fragrance wafting over? Does your cafe sell bags of beans? Do they sell smaller samples so you can try different coffees at home? At Qualia they’ll weigh out smaller portions for you during non-rush times.
  • Multiple locations. You know what you like and you want it when you want it. Does your favorite cafe have multiple locations? I know I can get an amazing cortado at The Coffee Bar when I’m shopping near S St, and when I’m working near Dupont Circle.

    Foolproof cortado at The Coffee Bar
  • Coffee with a cause. Do you know if your cafe supports a specific cause or charity? As a veteran I love Dog Tag’s non profit mission, and Ebenezers is operated by a community church. Some cafes feel strongly about certain causes and donate proceeds or put on events. Bourbon Coffee only works with small lot farmers in Rwanda.
  • Music. Jazz to help you study? Hip Hop to keep you energized? Live music nights? Not too loud that you can still catch up with your friends?
  • Affordability. Are the standard coffees and offerings reasonably priced? If steep, is there a justifiable reason like premium ingredients and local sourcing and sustainability? Do they offer refills on drip coffee? Vigilante just came out with a premium Kona bean that runs higher than most but it’s a gem. Most cafes source local dairy.
  • Activities. Do they sell the weekend paper or are their copies available for perusing? If you’re tracking your tykes in with you, is a kids play area important to you? Open City at the National Cathedral has activity kits for kids by the entrance, and Buzz Bakeshop in Alexandria has a whole kids section.
  • Non-snobbery. Are you comfortable chatting with your barista about your coffee? I read somewhere that 80 % of baristas are obsessed with coffee (I’m sure that’s a reliable fact, haha) and therefore you’d assume they love talking shop. My most interesting coffee conversations usually happen at The Coffee Bar (and sadly, at Caffe Aficionado before they closed).
  • Instagrammability. I mentioned light before, but are you pretty guaranteed to get some pretty latte art? A cute mug that will kill the composition of your shot? A pretty background? Does the cafe give props when you post, or even regram customer shots? Some people love the unique serving ware at La Colombe, and you can’t get a bad shot at Pineapple and Pearls. There is a window table at La Mano that makes me pull out my camera phone every time.

    Well-lit marble table at La Mano
  • Caffeination education. Do they host cuppings, or classes and workshops? Tastings to help refine your palette? Vigilante, Peregrine, and the Counter Culture lab offer classes while lots of cafes have weekly tastings and cuppings.
  • Spirit. Do they get festive for any and all occasions? Decorate pumpkins and don ugly sweaters during the holidays?
  • Technology. Do they offer pre-ordering or have an app?
  • Rewards. Do they punch your card and hook you up with a free bevy after 10 lattes? All the Tryst cafes do. Participate in programs like the Indy Coffee Passport (so sad they’re not running that this year)?
  • Gear. Do they sell filters when you’re in desperate need, and equipment for when you’re ready to treat yourself? Do they have coffee shop swag with fabulous branding? Most specialty shops in the area sell gear- The Wydown has a very impressive collection of brewing equipment.
  • Professionalism. Can you pick the barista out of a crowd? Do barista aprons tickle your fancy?

The list is long and I haven’t found that one cafe that scores in every.single.category but it is a pretty demanding checklist. I am highly satisfied with my neighborhood cafe (especially since they switched their pastry vendor 🙂 and who knows, maybe one day I’ll get to build my own lego cafe in real life.

What are some of your favorite coffee shops? What are your criteria that you evaluate cafes on? We want to hear from you!

Stay grounded,