Visiting local coffee shops is a fantastic way to explore a new city. Washington, DC has a robust coffee scene and everyone can find a few shops to enjoy. Rob is joined by Austen Brower to talk about drinking great coffee in Washington, DC.
Austen is founder and host of Drip: A DC Coffee Podcast. His podcast is designed to brew community by being deliberately curious about coffee and coffee culture.
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Washington, DC has a plethora of great local coffee shops. If you like coffee then going to local shops is a great way to support the local economy and small businesses. As you might imagine, it’s pretty expensive to do business in Washington, DC. Every little bit helps.
One fun aspect about going to local coffee shops is they’re scattered in different neighborhoods. So, you get to see different neighborhoods across the city to try your favorite brew. Despite the unfair stereotype, locals are very friendly, especially when they’re in their own neighborhoods. People love to give recommendations for their favorite restaurants or places to see near where they live.
DC Coffee Neighborhoods
Just like there are “restaurant neighborhoods” that we discussed in the Trip Hacks DC restaurant podcast episode, there are “coffee neighborhoods” as well. The 14th Street and U street corridors both have a lot of coffee shops in high concentration. Adams Morgan has some unique spots. Georgetown has nice coffee shops as well.
Freshly Roasted Coffee in DC
A few local roasters are Swings, Qualia, and Vigilante Coffee. There is a roastery called Small Planes that supplies a lot of local coffee shops. Swings is one of the oldest roasters in the area. Qualia and Vigilante were some of the first specialty roasters here. Qualia is known for excellent single origin coffees. So if you’re trying to tour the global coffee scene, they’re a good place for it.
Local & Regional Coffee Chains
Local coffee shops are great, but the last few years have seen the rise of regional chains as well. Regional chains are those the started as local shops in another city, like New York or San Francisco, but became so popular that they expanded to new cities. These can be worth a try. Unlike Starbucks or other national brands, which are everywhere, these are fun to experience if you don’t have one back home.
Austen answers the question: where would you go for a cup of coffee if…
You only have $3 to spend?
The Coffee Bar. The beans aren’t exclusively roasted in DC, but you’re getting really good regional and national roasters. You can definitely get a simple cup of coffee for under $3.
Money is no object?
Unido at La Cosecha near Union Market. It’s based out of Panama and they’re going to serve exclusively Panama coffees. Panama isn’t a big coffee exporter like other countries are, but that makes it unique. The experience will likely cost more than a simple cup.
You have someone in your group who only drinks tea?
Calabash Tea. You’re not going to drink coffee there, but even coffee drinkers can appreciate the drinks. It is fun because you go in and they say, “how can we heal you today”? Or “how can we support you today”? They’ll help you find a really good tea for your situation.
You have someone in your group who likes coffee but has never had anything beyond Starbucks?
Ebenezer’s Coffee always has some unique drinks. Ebenezer’s is interesting because it’s owned by the National Community Church. They turned a crack house into a coffee house near Union Station. They actually have church services under the store. If you go there on a Sunday or a Saturday evening, you might hear church music blasting and people preaching.
You just want black coffee?
You want a coffee experience you will never forget?
Sweet Science Coffee. The owner loves coffee and is very intellectually curious about it. So, she provides a lot of interesting experiences with the coffee. Aside from the beverages themselves, they have tastings and classes too.
You need to get your coffee to go?
Velo Cafe at the Wharf because they have a walk up window. It’s similar to a drive through except you don’t need a car. This is really convenient if you’re walking past or on your way over to the National Mall.
You want a latte art masterpiece?
WyDown Coffee Bar on 14th and 8th St NW. They train their baristas well and have really on-point latte art.
You want an amazing donuts or pastry to go with your coffee?
A Baked Joint or Baked and Wired. Not only do they have amazing baked goods, but they also have some pretty good food too. It’s in Georgetown and locals usually recommend it a superior option to Georgetown Cupcake, which is famous because of its TV show. District Doughnut is not a coffee shop but also an excellent spot for doughnuts.
You don’t mind leaving the city?
Vigilante Coffee in Hyattsville, Maryland. The owners are really cool and very welcoming. Vigilante comes from the owners name, Chris Vigilante, not because they are crime fighters.
It’s 100 degrees and you are craving iced coffee?
You want coffee poured from a tap?
La Colombe for draft lattes.
You want to go to the most “iconic” DC coffee shop?
Swings has been around for over a hundred years and it is right next to the White House. They actually have two locations over near the White House now. So it is very easily accessible for your typical visitor. Peregrine or Vigilante are in this category as well.
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