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 (DaniĂ«lle), 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

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Coffee with a Cause

Sitting at Bourbon Coffee I am inspired by coffee with a cause. Lauren and I wanted to highlight a few cafes that serve a greater purpose and no better place to start than here!

BOURBON COFFEE

Bourbon Coffee sources all of their beans directly from farms in Rwanda where they have direct trade relationships. I recently learned that most African coffee farming is much different than what you read about in Central and South America, for example, as African coffee farms tend to be much smaller and run alongside other agriculture to feed the families of the farmers. Due to this, most African coffees are sourced through cooperatives and other partnerships.

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Bourbon Coffee

Bourbon Coffee buys coffee only directly from farmers and coops, eliminating any middlemen and therefore allowing their farmers to receive more than 25% of the fair trade price for their coffee. They have built relationships with their farmers and coops boasting transparency and fairness.

This also empowers African coffee farmers to participate directly in the global marketplace and increase their economic development. It’s no coincidence that Bourbon’s first US location is in Foggy Bottom not too far from the Peace Corps, USAID, and other humanitarian organizations.

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Story behind the cup at Bourbon Coffee

EBENEZER COFFEEHOUSE

Ebenezer Coffeehouse is owned and operated by National Community Church and all their proceeds go back into community outreach programs. They are actively involved in building DC through their many locations and projects.

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Inviting space at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse

They are located near Union Station and have that vibe of giving travelers rest in a warm and inviting space.

Furthermore they serve One Village Coffee from Pennsylvania. They source only fair trade coffees and donate $1 of every Artist Blend coffee back to the COMSA Coop in Honduras to build bee colonies. They also donate coffee to homeless programs in Philadelphia.

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Ebenezers Coffeehouse

THE POTTER’S HOUSE

The Potter’s House is a 100% non-profit cafe that was formed during the 1960s to create an inclusive environment for everyone. They promote activism, the arts, and community development.

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Books, cards, art, and coffee at the Potter’s House

They have a ‘pay what you can’ soup program and a ‘pay it forward’ coffee program where you can buy someone else a cup of coffee. They host community events and are also environmentally conscious, using solar energy, sensor technology, and a compost program for food scraps.

Not that they can have too many because their food is delicious and the atmosphere terrific!

DOGTAG BAKERY

We highlighted Dogtag Bakery during Veterans Day so we’ll keep it short, but we think it’s pretty cool that 100% of their profits go back into their fellowship program to help entrepreneurial veterans.

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Dog Tag Bakery

What are some other cafes that you like to go to because of their mission (and great coffee of course)?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

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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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?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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,

Daniëlle