In Praise of the Competitive Barista

US Coffee Championships LogoThere’s a special kind of joy I get when I find myself discussing coffee with someone who’s never considered being a barista an aspirational type of gig. Sure, a ton of coffee professionals are biding time until grad school is over, or they land a more permanent, more lucrative job. But there’s an eye-opening, of sorts, when people discover that a lot of baristas really, really dig this job and want to be damned good at it. And some are in it for the long haul.

They do shit like latte art competitions (TNT – holla!), join professional associations, pursue certifications and, yes, some go on to compete in regional, national and even international competition. Call it the secret life of the barista, or whatever. And I love introducing people to this side of the industry.

Now, to be clear, it’s not necessary for baristas to do these things to demonstrate their commitment to the craft. Some long-time coffee pros have never joined the Barista Guild of America or gone to competition. But I think it’s an important indicator of the maturity of the coffee service industry, and more people ought to know that such things exist. [Read more...]

Friday News Roundup

We’re trying out a new weekly feature, which may or may not be permanently called Friday News Roundup. Here’s a look at several stories that developed over the past few days.

Mid City Caffe Set to Close October 1

We’re sad to report that one of the District’s finer independent shops is shutting its doors for good. Mid City Caffe announced it will be closing on Saturday, October 1, which means you have about a week to stop by and pay your respects. We found out through an e-mail exchange with Mid City’s Jeffrey Lamoureux there are no plans to reopen or find a new location for the shop. The good news, Jeffery said, is that all of the current staff are likely land behind another counter or found doing other things, so keep an eye out. Jeffrey will be working with the AKA Hotel downtown, which is planning a specialty coffee concept later this fall.

Washington Post Spotlights Local Shops

The Washington Post gave us this list of Best Coffee Shops on Thursday. While I’m generally not a fan of rankings and “Best Of” voting, it’s good to see several local independents getting a little love in the mainstream press. Included in this list are Northside Social, Qualia Coffee, M.E. Swing Co., Chinatown Coffee Co., Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso, Grape and Bean and Peregrine Espresso. Congrats.

Peregrine to Hold Tasting and Discussion Saturday

You can already find Counter Culture’s Cinco de Junio in a few shops in the area, but Peregrine has been working closely with the Cinco de Junio co-op recently to support community building in the co-op’s hometown of Sabanas, Nicaragua, in coordination with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation. This Saturday at Peregrine’s Capitol Hill shop, the public is invited to taste some of the different lots coming from the co-op, and be part of a discussion on the Foundation’s work in Las Sabanas. Since August 2011, Peregrine has supported Fabretto by donating $0.25 from each cup and $1 from each bag of Cinco de Junio sold. The money supports teachers in Las Sabanas who run extracurricular elementary programs.

Saturday, September 24, 7 p.m.
Peregrine Capitol Hill

New arrivals at Qualia Coffee

Joel Finkelstein, head roaster and owner of Fresh Off the Roast and Qualia Coffee, has announced new additions to the fall lineup that can be found at Qualia as early as next week. They include beans from Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, El Salvador, Bali and Sulawesi. The beans from Bali are the same the shop currently carries, but this batch was dry-processed rather than washed, bringing out lots of pungent fruit notes in the cup. Stop by the Petworth location next week and grab a cup.

Autumn is Here!

The season has officially changed and you know what that means – folks are starting to flip their shit over Pumpkin Spice Lattes. But you don’t have to visit one of the bad guys to get your pumpkin fix. The Kitchn has posted its DIY recipe that claims to be just like Starbucks. In full disclosure, I haven’t tested it, but it sounds easy enough so long as you have access to espresso. If you try it out, be sure to send pics to

Speaking of Bad Guys …

Los Angeles-based Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf recently opened its first Manhattan shop and was featured in a Huffington Post piece on expansion plans in New York and elsewhere. According to the story, the next city being targeted is Washington, D.C. The first shop will appear inside the Washington Hilton this October, but what’s alarming is this quote from Bob Kaufman, the mega-chain’s vice president of business development. According to Kaufman, “Just going in and opening one store in the city, to see how it works, is no good. You need to build enough stores to allow customers to fit a Coffee Bean visit easily into their day, rather than working their whole day around us.” Want more bad news? The Washington Business Journal ran a recent story announcing Arabica Café’s introduction to the DMV. The 40-unit chain is mostly aroundOhio, but Sam Saa has purchased the development rights for Arabica in D.C.,Virginia andMaryland. Initial plans call for seven stores.

I’ll leave you with this …

Arlington County

Explore the coffee of Arlington County, Virginia. If you’ve got a favorite coffee place that isn’t listed here, send an e-mail to You can find a complete guide to area coffee shops – along with walking, biking and driving directions – on the District Bean Coffee Locator.

Northside Social

3211 Wilson Boulevard
(703) 465-0145
Serves Counter Culture Coffee
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Bayou Bakery

1515 N. Courthouse Road
(703) 243-2410
Serves Counter Culture Coffee
Find Bayou Bakery on FacebookTwitter and Web

Buzz Bakery

818 N. Quincy Street
(703) 650-9676
Serves MadCap Coffee
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Boccato Gelato & Espresso

2719 Wilson Boulevard
(703) 869-6522
Serves Stumptown Coffee and Vigilante Coffee
Find Boccato on FacebookTwitter and Web

Java Shack Coffee House

2507 N. Franklin Road
(703) 527-9556
Serves Lexington Coffee
Find Java Shack on FacebookTwitter and Web