TNT’s Eye of the Tiger Moment

It was one to remember, for sure. If you didn’t know you showed up for a Thursday Night Throwdown at Big Bear Cafe, you could have easily thought you walked into the coolest party in town. DJ rockin’ the room – check. Craft beer and spiked cider – check. Hot dogs – double check. Good looking guys and gals mixing it up – check. Only there was more, like the giant projector screen where, just a window away, a similar scene was transpiring at Spruce Street Espresso in Philadelphia. The mood was set.

If you’re not familiar with the TNT format, just know it’s pretty straightforward. It’s a community celebration and skills exhibition cleverly disguised as a tournament-style, winner-take-all competition. Competitors face off and pour the best latte art they can muster, and a panel of judges decide who advances until a only the champion remains. For this particular TNT, DC competitors would pour against Philly’s starting in the quarterfinal round. Got it?

At Big Bear, 32 baristas faced off and each pour was judged by David Fritzler (Tryst and Open City), Trevor Corlett (MadCap Coffee) and Naruki Hirari, a shop regular. Per usual, the heats were good spirited and displayed an impressive talent level from DC baristas. As the night progressed, the eventual four who would face their Philly counterparts remained: Laura Westman (Big Bear), Liz Fredden (Chinatown Coffee), Tim Brisnerhan (Filter) and Dan McCombie (formerly of Mid City Caffe).

And here’s where it gets interesting – starting with the quarterfinals, only one pour is made at each shop. The judges then compared the pour with that of the other city. Dan and Tim both advanced past the first intercity round, but each was then topped by their Philly rival, for a Philly-on-Philly final match that elicited a few grumbles from the DC crowd. In the end it was Brian Gelletly of Ultimo Coffee that won the night, and somewhere in the streets of Philadelphia a cheesesteak was hoisted in triumphant fashion.

Despite the sting of defeat, there were some great take aways from that night at Big Bear. The TNT scene was bigger and more widely infused with all members of the community than I’ve seen. It was a great mix of coffee pros and locals, all having a good time and enjoying the competition. Much credit goes to Big Bear, the host shop, as well as Judith Mandel and the other TNT organizers. There were a lot of moving pieces to this event, and it went off without a hitch. The live streaming was a big hit, and there’s talk we could see more of this, even at DC-only TNTs. Oh, and the hot dogs.

Photos are below, although I’ll freely admit my DC Brau Public Ale received more attention than my camera work. For some great photos of the event, check out Joshua Yospyn’s coverage over at

And mark you calendar, cause the November Thursday Night Throwdown is set for Chinatown Coffee Co. on November 11 – and there might be a theme.

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Coffee Five Ways Vertical Tasting

Over the weekend I picked up Counter Culture’s Haru to take home and fool around with. I’ve been drinking this coffee a fair bit lately, and what’s apparent when you’re drinking this coffee as drip is the body is light and the lemon is very pronounced with a slight sweetness at the end. It’s a very good coffee, but I wanted to know how this Ethiopian would do in a French press.

The next morning I pressed it and enjoyed a full bodied, creamy cup with more pronounced sweetness and an awesome citrus aroma. Although I enjoyed both, there was a clear distinction between the two (I liked the press more). But it got the wheels a’turning, and after some positive feedback on Twitter it became clear what we had to do.

Coffee Five Ways

Yeah boi! Call it ambitious, but here’s the plan – we’re taking one (yet to be determined) single-origin coffee and brewing it five ways. We’ll conduct a vertical tasting of all five brews, learn a little about different brew methods and have some fun nerding out on coffee. And I promise, this will not be a snobby coffee affair, so coffee lovers of all variety are welcome.

The five brew methods will likely include: French press, Aeropress, Pour over, Clever and Siphon. If you represent a coffee shop and want to provide espresso as one of the options, that would be so nice of you.

The location, date and time will come together shortly. If there’s a shop that is interested in hosting, let me know. We’ll be very appreciative. This will likely be a weekday evening deal.

Since we’re in the planning stages now, if there’s something you’d like to provide input on now is the time! All comments are welcome, either in the comments below, on Twitter or at

Also, shoot me a line if you want to participate so we can get a head count.

The Art and Science of Great Coffee

Specialty coffee is taking over the DC airwaves Wednesday, October 5, for a segment on The Art and Science of Great Coffee. Tune in to the Kojo Nnamdi Show at 1:30 p.m. for a segment featuring Corby Kummer, senior editor of The Atlantic and author of “The Joy of Coffee: The Essential Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying,” along with the District’s own Joel Finkelstein, owner of Qualia Coffee, head roaster at Fresh Off The Roast and contributor here at District Bean. Here’s the teaser:

Across every continent, people build their daily routines around coffee. Many Americans see “a cup of joe” as little more than a caffeine delivery device. But this unique tropical fruit can take on the flavors of micro-climates around the world, from the mountains of Jamaica to the high plains of Ethiopia. We dive deep into the art and science of coffee with a James Beard Award-winning writer and the brains behind a small-batch roasting company and coffee shop in Washington.

Needless to say we’re stoked to see what Kojo, Corby and Joel have in store. This is the next best thing to pouring coffee straight from you radio, so don’t miss a rare opportunity to explore insights from the culinary coffee industry on WAMU 88.5.

DC vs Philly Thursday Night Throwdown @ Big Bear Cafe

You read that right, this is a DC vs Philly Thursday Night Throwdown of epic proportions, so come out to support your local baristas as they battle it out at Big Bear. The TNT Philly guys have a bit of egg on their faces after one of DC’s own (shout out to Josh) walked in and stole the show at their September throwdown. I suspect having your latte ass handed to you by an out-of-towner doesn’t feel that good. They’ll be looking for redemption when they step into Big Bear.

October Thursday Night Throwdown
10/20/2011 @ 8 p.m.
Big Bear Cafe

The trash talk has already started. Checkout this video to see what some of DC’s baristas have to say about the City of Brotherly Love. It’s your turn, Philly. Whatcha got?

MadCap Coffee to Open Café and Roastery in DC

On the same day Mid City Caffe closed its doors for good, news dropped that another specialty coffee shop is coming to the District. MadCap Coffee of Grand Rapids, Mich., announced October 1 that it intends to develop a café and roasting facility in the area.

“In recent trips to DC we have fallen in love with the city, the culture and this exciting opportunity to share a unique coffee experience.” – MadCap Blog

MadCap can already be found in area shops like Buzz and Dolcezza. The addition of its roasting operation lends considerable weight to DC’s position as a specialty coffee city. MadCap brings with it a national reputation for stellar coffees and a commitment to a culinary coffee experience. It also fills a void left from Wrecking Ball Coffee’s relocation to California in early 2011.

The DC location will be only the second operation for the three-year-old MadCap Coffee. The move should boost MadCap’s wholesale operations throughout the East Coast. As of yet, an exact location has not been named, but we’ll provide additional details here as they are available. Until then, you can get to know your soon-to-be-neighbor at, on Twitter @MadCapCoffee or the Book.