by January 17, 2012 at 11:00 am 2,726 0

"Borderstan", Ian Cunningham, Flickr, pnzr242, Thursday Night Throwdown

Thursday Night Throwdown at Flying Fish Coffee & Tea in Mount Pleasant last week. (Ian Cunningham)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @frijolita.

Photos by Ian Cunningham; find him on Flickr at pnzr242 and follow him on Twitter @pnzr242.

Your barista has a dirty little secret. (Starbucks baristas excluded.) Or at least mine did. Until he told me all about it. DC, see, has a seedy, espresso ground littered underbelly.

It’s a little like fight club. Only brighter. And not in a basement or abandoned warehouse. And there’s no… fighting. Okay, it’s not like fight club at all, but up until DC’s hipster barista contingent issued a public challenge to their counterparts in Philadelphia, the latte art fight club that is Thursday Night Throwdown had gone largely unheard of. (This month it was at Flying Fish Coffee & Tea in Mount Pleasant.)

By now we’ve all realized, DC’s coffee scene is growing up! And growing up quickly according to Jon Riethmaier, editor of “The DC coffee scene is really solid, and there’s a lot of evidence the foundation has been set for major growth in the immediate-to-near future,” says Riethmaier. “There are shops in DC that are neighborhood institutions. These shops have elevated DC’s coffee consciousness and deserve a lot of credit. There’s also newer ventures and soon-to-be-open shops that will continue to raise the bar. The future looks bright, for sure.”

And so Thursday Night Throwndown was born. The event originated as a community building effort and a way for baristas to socialize outside their chosen coffee house to meet new people. “It’s a chance to get together with other coffee people, catch up, see what’s going on in other cafes,” said Eric Barth, barista at Dolcezza Gelato in Dupont Circle.

The way it generally works is baristas from DC’s finest coffee shops — Dolcezza, Filter, Peregrine, Chinatown Coffee Company and the like — gather in a designated coffee shop where they’ll duke it out over latte art of all designs. Proper brackets are drawn up and baristas present their best ferns, hearts and pandas (not really, I haven’t seen a panda yet) to a panel of judges. The winner proceeds to the next round, and so on and so forth until one barista is crowned the queen/king of all baristas in DC.

Want to try your hand at artfully pouring frothy milk? It’s $5 to participate and check out the rules for participating over on their blog. Call your spot before 9 pm, limit 30 participants, winner takes all.

I’ve attended two TNT events myself now and I have to say, they’ve succeeded in creating a community social event for sure. Each time the venues have been packed to the hilt, with plenty of beer passed around and a jovial spirit in the air.

Though, I must say, unless you’re competing, are besties with your barista or cheering someone on, it’s definitely an in-the-club event. Spectator sport this is not… at least not yet. Unless you arrive early, nabbing a spot by the judge’s bar can be difficult until the competition proceeds to the third round of pouring. That’s how many people gather for the Throwdowns! It’s pretty much wall-to-wall baristas.

Want front row seats at the latte art action? Arrive early or come a little on the late side. You’ll want to nab a prime spot by or near the judges so you can check out everything first hand.

Let’s say you don’t get front row seats though. Mill around and start chatting people up about a brewing method or a particular roaster. As Riethmaier told me, “It’s a place to really nerd-out.”

At its finest moments, TNT is about a love of coffee and the people who bring it to you. “I’d been in school for 6 years,and liked the social aspect of coffee… customers and talking to people,” says Barth. “[As a barista] you can kind of effect people’s days, you can make it as good as possible while they’re doing something they would already do.”

If you want to learn more about DC’s coffee scene, should be your first stop. Riethmaier is an unabashed “advocate for the culinary pursuit of coffee” as he put it. And you’ll be hard pressed to find a group of folks who love the bean juice more than even the most fiendish coffee addict you know.

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by June 28, 2010 at 5:10 am 3,006 2 Comments

Alejandra Owens Filter Coffeehouse Dupont Circle

Filter Coffeehouse is on 20th Street NW, south of S Street. (Alejandra Owens)

From Alejandra Owens at One Bite At A Time

Filter Coffeehouse opened in March and had gone largely unnoticed by me until I was taking a round about way home one day. I was walkin’, jammin’ out to Taio Cruz… there’s The Real World house… wonder what they’re doing with… hey! What’s THAT!

That… was Filter Coffeehouse. I told my boyfriend we needed to stop by sometime and deviate from the usual Starbucks routine. But, we didn’t go until my friend, Adventures in Shaw, was enthusiastically tweeting about Flat Whites one day. What is a Flat White? Adventures In Shaw says it best:

A flat white is an espresso based drink that originated in New Zealand and Australia. Steamed milk (apparently pulled from the bottom of a steaming pitcher… no, I don’t know what that means either) is poured over either a single or a double shot of espresso and handed over to an unsuspecting person to drink.

Filter Coffeehouse Alejandra Owens Dupont Circle

The Flat White originated in Australia and New Zealand. (Alejandra Owens)

Done! I was there in a jiffy! I really love coffee. I’m not a connoisseur, more of a junkie.

Their coffee was great, the price point was just right (see below) and frankly, I think Dupont needs more indie coffeehouses. I’m thankful for places like Afterwords Cafe at Kramer Books, but this, this is a coffeehouse. What do you guys think? Are there coffeehouses in or near the Circle I am woefully missing?

Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar

Where Am I Going: Just a bit north of Dupont Circle at 1726 20th NW (20th and S Streets).

When Am I Going: Monday-Thursday 7 am-7 pm; Friday 7 am-9 pm; Saturday 8 am-9 pm; and Sunday 8 am-6 pm. Pretty much whenever you need coffee the most.

Alejandra Owens Filter Coffeehouse Dupont Circle

A scone at Filter Coffeehouse. (Alejandra Owens)

Paycheck Pain: Espresso? $2.25! Flat White? $3.00! Plain coffee? $2.75 for a large! Pretty much the most “expensive” thing on the menu is the $5 mocha. HA! Treat and snacks are equally pocket-friendly.

Say What?: Really quiet. Almost… awkwardly quiet? At the time I was in there, Sunday late afternoon, there wasn’t  much hustle and bustle or raucous goings ons. Anyone have a different experience?

What You’ll Be Eating: The usual croissant or scone action.

Happy Hour: It’s caffeine… isn’t every hour a happy hour when you’re drinking coffee?

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