by Borderstan.com February 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.


Drink it up every morning. (Jonathan Riethmaier)

The series of activities that comprise my morning ritual can be neatly placed into two distinct categories. First there are the things that occur before my morning coffee, a forgettable yet loathsome set of tasks fueled by a sort of sub-human automation I like to refer to as Zombie Jonathan.

Then there are the post-coffee activities, which I tackle with heightened mental awareness and significantly enhanced efficiency and mood. As my colleagues and wife can attest, Zombie Jonathan is not welcomed company.

Scientists have observed that, while that mood and cognitive functioning can improve after drinking coffee, we can now draw a connection between caffeine and our ability to process positive stimuli.

When we take down our morning coffee, we’re actually supercharging our brain’s ability to recognize and process words with positive connotations, an effect not observed with neutral or negative words.

So if you’ve noticed that the world seems a bit brighter after your morning joe, there’s evidence that our brain is working faster as we hear or see good news!

This connection was observed by Lars Kuchinke and Vanessa Lux*, researchers at Ruhr University in Buchum, Germany, who point to caffeine’s role in dopaminergic transmission in the brain. If we consume enough caffeine, they say, we create a positivity advantage in the left hemisphere, the area most associated with language.

The result is faster and more accurate brain processing of positive information. And research shows that as little as 200 milligrams of caffeine, or two to three cups of coffee, is sufficient enough to boost such performance.

In a research experiment, Kuchinke and Lux gathered 66 healthy participants who reported “normal” caffeine consumption (on average, 1.58 cups of coffee per day). The participants were split between a caffeine group — those provided with a 200-milligram caffeine tablet — and a placebo group that received a sugar tablet.

Each group consumed their tablet 30 minutes prior to a word recognition test in which actual words with varying connotations (positive, neutral or negative) were presented amid pseudo-words, strings of letters that look and feel like real words but have no lexical meaning. Participants had to quickly and accurately recognize the actual words, then rate them on a Likert scale from 1 (calm) to 7 (highly arousing).

The results indicated that the caffeine group performed significantly better when evaluating positive words. There was no difference in the recognition of words that were either neutral or negative. This means that us coffee lovers aren’t simply processing all information better, but specifically the positive information we encounter. It’s just another happy bit of news for the caffeinated among us. And I’ll drink to that!

* Lars Kuchinke, Vanessa Lux. Caffeine Improves Left Hemisphere Processing of Positive Words.

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by Borderstan.com January 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.

Kafe Bohem

Kafe Bohem: A taste of Prague. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Kafe Bohem is off the beaten path. That is to say it’s both geographically situated outside DC’s busiest neighborhoods, and a clear departure from standard cafe fare. It’s different. Intriguing. And, dare I say it, a veritable Bohemian rhapsody. Kafe Bohem, the neighbor and sister property of Czech-inspired Bistro Bohem, opened in September 2012 in Shaw, and has since been infusing the DC cafe scene with culture and coffee.

Situated along Florida Avenue with a clear view of LeDroit Park, Kafe Bohem draws upon the cafes of Prague, and features true-to-form Viennese-style coffee, decadent sweet things and art Nouveau images from famed Czech painter Alphonse Mucha. Kafe Bohem owner Jarek Mika, who immigrated from then Czechoslovakia, hopes to have the same success in his cafe that he’s enjoyed in his restaurant. Bistro Bohem, which has been open nearly a year, attracts a loyal following of expatriates alongside neighborhood regulars who have developed a taste for schnitzel, pirogue and classic Czech dishes.

Kafe Bohem’s coffee program manager Lenora Yerkes was heavily involved in the cafe’s build out and conceptualization. She and Jarek set out to create a community-centric coffee spot, pulling from neighboring LeDroit Park and Shaw, but also inviting coffee-goers from across the District to relax, connect and enjoy themselves outside the home and office. The two have engineered a coffee program that compliments the Czech penchant for pastries and tarts.

Aside from coffee staples, like the cappuccino and latte, Kafe Bohem has introduced a line of Viennese coffee drinks that may be new to many, like the Großer Brauner (a.k.a, Big Brown), coffee with steamed milk; Einspanner, coffee with house-made whipped cream; Espresso con Panna, espresso topped with whipped cream; and the Mélange, a drink similar to a cappuccino, but with a large head of foam and dusted with cinnamon or cocoa. The cafe’s coffee comes from Julius Meinl, a Viennese roasting company based in Chicago.

Kafe Bohem occupies the former space of Trinidadian eatery Zee’s Restaurant. Since the closure of Zee’s, Jarek has expanded into the 1,100-square-foot space, which now shares a kitchen with his Bistro and acts as overflow seating during the evening. Similarly, customers of Kafe Bohem may be seated in the Bistro as needed during morning and lunch hours. Kafe Bohem closes at 5 p.m. each day, just as the Bistro opens for service.

Kafe Bohem at 600 Florida Ave, NW offers a taste of something different for DC’s coffee crowd. And to that, I say Na zdraví!

This article was originally posted on September 3, 2012, at District Bean.

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by Borderstan.com January 15, 2013 at 9:00 am 1 Comment

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.


First Iron Tamper Competition. (Jonathan Reithmaier)

A remarkable culinary competition is making its way to DC this week as The Coffee Bar hosts the area’s first-ever Iron Tamper Competition.

The format of the event borrows from the popular Iron Chef shows and challenges the creativity of coffee professionals and foodie types in their ability to craft espresso-based drinks using any of three mystery ingredients.

The Iron Tamper Competition will be held Thursday, January 17, 7 to 10 pm, and is open to all, from seasoned baristas and bartenders to home cooks with a flair for creative ingredient combinations.

There’s a $5 fee to compete, or you can watch for free and enjoy the spirit of competition. The event is sponsored by Batdorf & Bronson, an Olympia, Wash., coffee roaster that has held similar events across the country where its coffee is sold.

The rules are simple. Each competitor is paired with another (at random), and the team has 10 minutes to make use of one or more of the secret ingredients to craft an espresso-based drink, which may be served hot or cold. The drinks are then judged for flavor and creative use of the ingredients. Prizes will be given to the top competitors.

Check out the action, or put your own skills to the test, this Thursday at the Iron Tamper Competition.

Iron Tamper Competition

  • Thursday, January 17
  • 7 to 10 pm
  • The Coffee Bar, 1201 S Street NW

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by Borderstan.com January 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.


Coffee Resolutions. (Jonathan Riethmaier )

We’re roughly a week in to the new year … so, how are those resolutions going? Statistically speaking, some 75 percent of you are going strong. Congratulations! But come July, that figure looks to settle somewhere closer to 40-46 percent [1] (references listed below). And before you know it, 2014 will be knocking on our door and only a strong few will remain. Bummer.

This column isn’t to make you feel bad, nor is it a push for coffee resolutions, per se. Rather, I’m here to share the good news that coffee can help you keep those pesky resolutions. Whether you want to get fit, quit smoking, get ahead at work, be a better person or find love in the new year, coffee’s here to lend a hand. So consider your resolutions (you can check out the Borderstan team’s here) and learn how coffee can help you supercharge your chances of success in 2013.

Resolution #1: Exercise More & Lose Weight

Getting fit is on top of most people’s priority lists at the beginning of the year, but it’s such a drag. It requires substantial effort, both mentally and physically, to adjust to new routines and make healthy lifestyle changes. A quick and easy way to jump start weight loss is by grabbing a cup of coffee, which enhances your metabolic rate [2] – that is, the calories you can burn just sitting! The caffeine in coffee also causes increased force of muscle contraction at lower frequencies [3], and is found to increase endurance for activities like cycling and running [4]. Just steer clear of copious sweeteners and go easy on the half-and-half if you want to cut calories.

Resolution #2: Improve Work Performance

I’m just lousy in the morning without my coffee. But there’s more to simply perking up to getting the job done. Having a cup of coffee can improve memory performance under sub-optimal alertness conditions [5] (e.g., the morning after that killer party).  Researchers have also linked caffeine to activity in the hippocampus and cortex [6], the areas of the brain most involved in cognition. There’s even evidence that a cup of coffee can improve work productivity for women under stressful conditions [7].  Why again was that espresso machine rejected on my expense report?

Resolution #3: Spend Less & Save Money

This sounds counter intuitive, right? I’m telling you to buy some coffee to save money. Okay. But unless cutting out coffee is something you’d really consider (and it’s not, right?!) the savvy alternative is to make a modest investment in a simple, low-tech home brewing setup. For under $100 you can pick up some manual brewing tools and a hand-cranked burr grinder to brew some damn fine coffee that’ll rival anything you’ll find in the fancier cafes, all the while reducing the financial impact compared to daily visits to the coffee shop. Oh, and if you’re a K-Cup user, you could be spending up to $50 per pound [8] for capsuled coffee. Yikes!

Resolution #4: Find Love

Coffee has a way of bringing people closer. It can be a remarkably intimate experience to share a moment with someone you care about, sipping a cappuccino and talking about that little town in Italy you’ve always dreamed of visiting. There’s also a bit of science behind coffee as a social lubricant. Psychologists have noted that holding something warm can make you more likely to think warmly of someone else [9], a subconscious connection we have between heat and emotion. There are also links between coffee and mood, particularly among women [10], and we’ve already noted that in Borderstan, coffee is for lovers. So consider it your wing man in the quest for love and you could be inviting some up for coffee in no time.

Resolution #5: Do Good Things

The direct trade model for coffee buying is a growing trend among U.S. coffee roasters that removes the middleman and skips over large certification programs like Fair Trade. It’s gaining steam, thanks largely to demand from consumers who are increasingly keen on sustainability and financial equity of their purchasing decisions. You can do a good deed just by supporting roasters who adopt the direct trade philosophy and invest in the communities where they buy their beans. For instance, Intelligentsia is committed to paying a minimum of 25 percent above Fair Trade prices to farmers and cooperatives, and Counter Culture Coffee and others have made similar promises. The commitment to fair wages, better farming practices and a focus on social issues and sustainability can have a profound impact on people who contribute so much to our daily experiences in coffee.

Whatever you’ve resolved to do in 2013, just know you’re not alone in the endeavor. Coffee is our friend, and we’ll tackle this year one sip at a time.

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[1] Norcross, J.C., Mrykalo, M. S., & Blagys, M. D. (2002). Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reporting outcomes of New Year’s Resolvers and Nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58 (4), 397-405. doi: 10.1002/jclp.1151

[2] Acheson, K.J., Zahorska-Markiewicz, B., Pittet, Ph., Anantharaman, K., & Jequier, E. (1980). ). Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 33 (5), 989-997.

[3] Tarnopolsky, M.A. (1994). Caffeine and Endurance Performance. Sports Medicine, 18 (2), 109-125.

[4] Demura, S., Yamada, T., & Terasawa, N. (2007). Effect of coffee ingestion on physiological responses and ratings of perceived exertion during submaximal endurance exercise. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 105, 1109-1116. doi: 10.2466/pms.105.4.1109-1116

[5] Nehlig, A. (2010). Is caffeine a cognitive enhancer? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20, S85-S94. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-091315

[6] Ribeiro, J.A., & Sebastiao, A.M. (2010). Caffeine and adenosine. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20, S3-S15. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-1379

[7] St. Claire, L., Hayward, R.C., & Rogers, P.J. (2010). Interactive effects of caffeine consumption and stressful circumstances on components of stress: caffeine makes men less, but women more effective as partners under stress. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40 (12), 3106-3129. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2010.00693.x

[8] Strand, O. February 7, 2012. The New York Times. With coffee, the price of individualism can be high. Accessed January 8, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/dining/single-serve-coffee-brewers-make-convenience-costly.html?_r=0

[9] Williams, L.E., & Bargh, J.A. (2008). Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth. Science, 322, 606-607. doi: 10.1126/science.1162548

[10] Lucas, M., Mirzaei, F., Pan. A, Okereke, O.I., Willet, W.C., O’Reilly, E.J., Koenen, K., & Ascherio, A. (2011). Coffee, caffeine, and risk of depression among women. Archives of Internal Medicine, 171 (17), 1517-1578. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.383


by Borderstan.com December 26, 2012 at 8:00 am 3,798 0


Thanks tremendously to Patrick Otthofer for poring his Heart. (Jonathan Riethmaier)

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.

Stop by any of DC’s finer coffee establishments and order an espresso-based beverage (say, a latte, cappuccino or macchiato) and you’re likely see a fanciful decoration sitting atop the drink. This creation, commonly known as “latte art,” adds a touch of beauty and class to the coffee experience. But despite its good looks, latte art is an assurance of quality, or at least that certain conditions have been met that make its presence possible.

Latte art is created using a technique called free pouring, referring to a barista’s ability to pour steamed milk from a pitcher into a cup of espresso to produce a design. Though pretty, the design in your cup is more importantly indicative of three important factors in espresso drink preparation.

Three Factors of Latte Art

  1. The espresso must meet a minimum standard of quality, whereby a layer of crema — the thicker, speckled brown layer of the espresso — is lasting and of sufficient body to hold the milk that will be poured into it.
  2. A trained barista must carefully steam the milk to exacting specifications, as a pre-condition of latte art is luscious micro-foam with thousands of tiny bubbles. Baristas spend countless hours perfecting their steaming technique.
  3. The pouring action itself requires an extraordinarily delicate touch. Through practice, a skilled barista perfects their pouring motion by developing muscle memory and fine motor skills that enable them to carefully dive steam milk into espresso and develop an intricate latte art design.

And while free pouring can yield some impressive results in your morning beverage, most latte art is derived from three basic shapes: rosetta, heart and tulip. The following images show a closer look at these fundamental free-pouring designs.


The rosetta is a traditional floral pattern that’s similar to the leaves of a fern.

This design is created by carefully pouring steamed milk from side-to-side through the drink, creating striations, then pouring straight through the design from top to bottom to “close” the leaves in the pattern.


The heart shape is created by developing a spot of milk in the center of the cup.

The pourer then pushes the milk stream from the pitcher through the spot to drag the spot into a heart shape. Some hearts (as seen above) also include striations similar to the lines created in a rosetta.


At its core, the tulip is a modified heart.

The creation of the tulip utilizes a similar technique as the heart in developing the spot of milk in the cup. Only with the tulip, the pourer pulls up and briefly stops the stream of milk from the pitcher, and then re-enters, splitting the would-be heart to create the tulip design.

Combinations and Variations

Advanced baristas can also create variations of the these three fundamental designs. Advanced designs can include multiples of one, such as two or more rosettas poured into a single cup, or any of the three basic designs combined in the same cup.

Below is a pour that features elements of all three basic designs. In the “smiling man,” you can see the striations of a rosetta that form the mouth, the nose created by a similar stop action as in the tulip, and eyes created from hearts.

You can get a closer look at free pouring and watch many of DC’s most talented baristas each month at area barista competitions. These events, known as Thursday Night Throwdowns, are community celebrations of the barista craft, and free to the public. You can find details on the monthly venues and dates by visiting DMVcoffee.com.

A tremendous thanks to Patrick Otthofer and Donte Gardner for taking a moment to demonstrate free-pouring designs. You can see Patrick and Donte in action at The Coffee Bar at 1201 S Street in DC.

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by Borderstan.com December 12, 2012 at 9:00 am 1,849 0


The gift of giving good taste! (Jonathan Riethmaier)

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.

I like to think of coffee as a way to build community and share something special with folks I care about. It’s often the case, then, my holiday gift giving includes a number coffee-related items for friends, family, and coworkers. I suppose this is my way of sharing a little bit of me and my proclivities.

But coffee has such a universal appeal. What better way to spread the love than by warming the hearts (and mugs) of those on your shopping list? There’s perhaps no better place to do just that than right here in Borderstan. Among the local coffee merchants are an abundance of gift options, from clothing to brewing equipment to just darn good coffee. So consider visiting your neighborhood cafes this holiday season, and be sure to check out Borderstan’s Rachel Nania for other great local gift ideas.

"Coffee"Cafe Chic Apparel

Looking for something classic and comfy for a holiday surprise? Blind Dog Cafe has a set of eye popping guy/gal t-shirts featuring the cafe’s signature “blind dog” (who is real, by the way) on black tees with mesmerizing white stripes. Peregrine Espresso also has a snazzy design on its new blue t-shirt, which coordinates the company’s three DC locations along the U Street-Garfield “90 Bus” line. For something a little “cooler,” Pleasant Pops is selling its paleta-adorned t-shirts, available in pink or blue. Each is available from $17-20.

"Coffee"Coffee Gift Sets

Packaged gift sets are great for office or personal gifts. At Kafe Bohem you can find an assortment of coffee gift sets including items like Julius Meinl coffee, collectable coffee tins, mugs, and other treats. Pleasant Pops is also preparing gift sets for the holidays by packaging its “hot pops” (delectable chocolate squares that melt in warm milk!) with specialty coffee and other goodies. Sets are available from $25-40.

"Coffee"Home Brewing Equipment

For aspiring baristas and avid coffee lovers, Filter Coffee House and Espresso Bar has everything needed to outfit a serious home coffee setup. Give the gift of superior home brewing with an electric or manually powered burr grinder, Hario V60 pour over brewer, or specialized brewing kettle. Peregrine Espresso also carries the popular Bee House coffee dripper and you can find Chemex brewers over at Blind Dog Cafe. Prices vary from $40-300, with electric burr grinders fetching the highest price.

"Coffee"Nothing Says Good Taste Like Coffee!

The Borderstan area features an impressive array of the country’s top specialty coffee roasters, and many coffee shops feature limited-release coffees that are sure to impress. Throughout the area you can find bags of PTs Coffee (Bean & Bite, Blind Dog Cafe, Dolcezza), Ceremony Coffee Roasters (Pleasant Pops, Filter), Counter Culture Coffee (Pitango Gelato, Peregrine Espresso), Vigilante Coffee (Vigilante Pop-up @ Mr. Yogato), MadCap Coffee and Intelligentsia (Bean & Bite, Dolcezza) and Ritual and Verve coffees (both at Dolcezza Gelato).

Can’t make up your mind? Several coffee shops also carry gift cards, or you can treat your friend or loved one to an espresso and croissant! Visit this Borderstan guide for coffee lovers and explore the coffee goodness available at neighborhood businesses this holiday season.

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by Borderstan.com December 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2,190 0

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.


Lowry from The Coffee Bar. (Jonathan Riethmaier)

The Coffee Bar, DC’s latest specialty coffee shop, is expected to open for business on Monday, December 10.

The initial opening day had been December 5, but area coffee drinkers will have to wait while construction wraps up. Cait Lowry, owner of The Coffee Bar, said plans have been adjusted to account for a few final touches on the cafe’s build out.

Upon opening, The Coffee Bar will join the growing list of specialty coffee shops in DC, including several one on the Borderstan area.

The Coffee Bar will open at 1201 S Street, NW. Additional details can be found in Borderstan.com’s initial coverage.

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by Borderstan.com November 28, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,406 0

"Coffee bar"

Cait Lowry from The Coffee Bar at 1201 S Street NW. (Jonathan Riethmaier)

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.


Coffee seekers are about to have a new spot to get their fix on, as The Coffee Bar becomes the latest cafe to bring specialty coffee goodness to the District. Pending city inspections, The Coffee Bar, located at 1201 S Street NW, intends to be open for business on December 5.

The product of DC resident and veteran barista, Cait Lowry, The Coffee Bar will be a neighborhood-centric cafe that takes its coffee seriously. She’s brought in three well-regarded, specialty coffee roasters, including Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee Roasters, Handsome Coffee Roasters and Batdorf & Bronson. The Coffee Bar will serve a combination of espresso-based drinks, drip coffees and manual pour over brews.

The Coffee Bar becomes the latest addition to an already strong and growing list of coffee purveyors in the Borderstan area. The cafe’s location, just two blocks from the bustle of 14th Street, is intended to attract neighbors from the surrounding U Street, Logan Circle and Shaw communities.

“It’s a great balance of being close to the action, yet slightly off the beaten path,” said Lowry, who, aside from taking a very hands on approach to the cafe’s build out, has been busy introducing herself to her new neighbors. “Between hitting the streets and talking to our local community officials, we’ve received such a warm welcome and we’re so happy to be in the neighborhood. Really developing those relationships with your customers is what resonates with me and why I am in this business.”

A highlight of The Coffee Bar’s “coffee bar,” an area specifically dedicated for slower, more personal service, is the manual brewing station where coffee is served by trained baristas stripped of mechanical and automated assistance. The manual, pour over style coffee served at the bar is intended to bring out the maximum flavor potential of each coffee.

Lowry, the product of the local coffee scene, spent times as a barista and manager of several area cafes prior to opening The Coffee Bar. Her previous coffee work includes stints at Pound the Hill, Yola, Baked and Wired and Buzz Bakery. She says she looks forward to contributing to DC’s booming coffee community, this time as a business owner.

“I am just so thrilled and grateful to be part of the specialty coffee community here in DC,” said Lowry. “DC has a great and unique collection of coffee shops, and each one has something different to offer. They’ve been instrumental in furthering the cause of specialty coffee and delivering to the consumer, and I want to do the same.”

The Coffee Bar sits in the former location of a neighborhood market, though it has been empty for some time. The roughly one thousand square-foot space will give a nod to the building’s legacy by showcasing the market’s original sign on an interior wall. Other reclaimed and salvaged materials will add to the cafe’s aesthetic, which Lowry describes as vintage industrial.

“I wanted to use a lot of salvaged materials. Not only do they create a great look, but it’s also fun to talk about the story behind the pieces,” said Lowry, whose been scouring salvage yards and antique spots for decor inspiration. “Our condiment station is a fire mantel from an old Victorian town home in Virginia. We have tin tile panels on the walls from an old textile factory in Pennsylvania. The building itself is from the 1890s, and I felt an obligation to stay true to its historic roots.”

Between the coffee bar, lounge area, communal tables and few two-top tables, The Coffee Bar will have seating for more than 25 customers. Lowry says the seating is intended to promote conversation and socializing between neighbors, as well as the barista staff. Additional outdoor seating should be available in spring 2013.

Upon opening, weekday hours for The Coffee Bar will be 7 am to 6 pm and 8 am to 6 pm on the weekend. Additional details are at The Coffee Bar’s website.

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by Borderstan.com November 14, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,076 0

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.

Whether you’re looking to impress a date, dazzle friends or merely survive the holidays with your family, it’s always a good idea to keep a few solid cocktail recipes in your back pocket. And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not liven up your drink repertoire with these two simple coffee cocktails that put a new twist on old favorites, the Old Fashioned and Brandy Alexander.

These recipes are as easy as can be, but you’ll need to have fresh (and good) iced coffee on hand. If you have reservations about making iced coffee at home, just head over to your neighborhood coffee shop and order an iced coffee, sans ice, and use it the same day.


Old Fashioned. (Jonathan Riethmaier)

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is a timeless American classic that blends whiskey with just a touch of sugar, bitters and a twist of fruit. It’s one of the simplest cocktails to produce, and is perfectly suited for afternoon sipping or cocktail hour. For this recipe, we’re using rye whiskey, which has a grainy, spicy edge that blends well with sweet and bright iced coffee. Use to exercise your inner Don Draper and add a touch of class to the occasion.

The Old Fashioned can be garnished as you please with a Maraschino cherry, lemon and orange or with or without club soda. Just know that any further modification to the Old Fashioned is sure to draw the ire of the drink’s purists, but insist your guests loosen up and give this drink the opportunity it deserves.

You’ll need: Whiskey (preferably Rye), Iced Coffee, Sugar, Angostura Bitters, Club Soda, Lemon, Maraschino Cherry (optional), Orange (optional)

  • In a rocks glass, add 3/4 teaspoon of sugar, 3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters and a splash of club soda.
  • Muddle the sugar and swirl the glass so that the bitters and sugar coat the walls.
  • Add 2 oz of rye whiskey and one 1.5 oz of coffee and stir.
  • Twist a lemon rind and drop it into the glass, along with a large ice cube and optional Maraschino cherry. Garnish with a wedge of orange if you like.

Brandy Alexander. (Jonathan Riethmaier)

Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander is a sweet cocktail that’s luxuriously smooth, creamy and chocolatey. It blends well with coffee to bring about a nice, roasty character. If you have the opportunity, find a coffee that mirrors the flavor profile of the original cocktail, like a Bourbon varietal with deep, sweet chocolate flavor. This particular Brandy Alexander calls for Cherry-infused brandy (inspired by another coffee cocktail from the folks at MadCap), though any brandy will do.

Modify the Brandy Alexander to suit your taste. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top, or remove the creme de cacao if you prefer it without. This is a fantastic drink to serve after dinner with any variety of chocolate desserts. Serve it in a rocks, cocktail, wine or any kind of glass you have on hand.

You’ll need: Brandy (this recipe uses Cherry-infused, but regular brandy is fine), Iced Coffee, Creme de Cacao, Cream, Chocolate (85%+ cacao).

  • Using a shaker, add 2 oz of brandy, 2 oz coffee and 2 oz of cream, 1.0 oz creme de cacao with a few cubes of ice.
  • Shake contents, then strain into a glass.
  • Top the finished drink with grated chocolate.


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by Borderstan.com October 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2,545 2 Comments

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.

Here’s a confession – I’m in an intimate, unadulterated love affair with coffee. It started with careful flirtation for a moment or two, and escalated quickly into an explosion of passion and pure bliss. The best part? It’s a non-exclusive relationship. Coffee doesn’t mind when my eye wanders to that fine new thing I just passed. In fact, coffee encourages experimentation, knowing that each encounter only brings us closer together.

Yes, coffee is for lovers. And this guide is your little black book, for there’s no shortage of coffee-fueled pleasures to be had in Borderstan. What you’ll find below is a carefully curated selection of the very best places to express l’amour du café.


Kafe Bohem, 600 Florida Ave, NW

Kafe Bohem is a delightfully Czech-inspired café that would be as much at home along the streets of Prague as it is on Florida Avenue. The sister space of next-door Bistro Bohem, the cafe serves elegant Viennese-style classics in addition to the standard fare of coffee and espresso drinks. Here you’ll find such treasures as the Großer Brauner, Einspanner, and the Mélange, each adorned with fanciful steamed milk or house-made whipped cream. And the beans are also true-to-form, roasted by Austrian coffee company, Julius Meinl.


"Coffee"Blind Dog Cafe, 944 Florida Ave, NW

Blind Dog Cafe is the cozy transformation of Darnell’s Bar during the morning and mid-day hours. The owners envisioned the pop-up shop as a communal space where neighbors can experience genuine hospitality and strike up a friendly conversation. It was among the first to introduce Topeka-based PTs Coffee to the DC area. Stop by and enjoy a cup of coffee along with in-house made baked goods, and relax on a comfy sofa to steal a moment from a busy day.


"coffee"Peregrine Espresso, 1718 14th Street, NW

For some time, Peregrine Espresso has been lauded as one of the finest purveyors of coffee in DC. Its cast of excellently-trained baristas are as knowledgeable as you can hope to find anywhere, led by barista-cum-cafe owner Ryan Jensen, who encourages staff to engage in industry competition and professional development. Sneak over to the 14th Street shop to find some of the most prized coffees from Counter Culture Coffee, and see if there’s a specialty drink available if you want to get adventurous.


"coffee"Pitango Gelato, 1451 P Street, NW

Pitango Gelato has multiple locations around DC, but it’s the Logan Circle shop that powers the vibrant section of P Street across from Whole Foods. Some folks come for the authentic Italian gelato, but equally impressive is the compliment of espresso beverages. Indulge with an affogato, a heavenly dessert that highlights the intensity of espresso poured over rich, creamy hazelnut or chocolate gelato. Pitango also has an exceptional iced coffee, which is brewed using a Chemex to bring out subtle fruit and floral qualities in the cup.


coffeeVigilante Coffee @ Mr. Yogato, 1515 17th Street, NW

Vigilante Coffee has quickly gained a reputation throughout DC by showcasing its small-batch, locally roasted beans at restaurants, cafes and farmer’s markets. But it took a significant step forward in 2012 when it opened a pop-up shop at Mr. Yogato on 17th Street. Stop by any weekday morning to find freshly roasted beans that the Vigilante crew sources through direct relationships with farmers in Guatemala and Hawaii. You can grab beans for home use, but try them out first at the pop-up’s custom pour-over station or as an espresso.


Pleasant Pops, 1781 Florida Ave, NW

You may already be familiar with Pleasant Pops. The company’s wildly popular paletas – a Latin American popsicle, of sorts – has been sold around town via food truck and farmer’s markets for a while. But after a successful crowd-funding effort through Kickstarter, the company opened the Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market & Cafe this October on the upper edge of Borderstan. The coffee comes from Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee, and you can treat yourself to a cappuccino while relaxing in this sunlit cafe overlooking Florida Avenue.


"Coffee"Filter Coffeehouse & Espresso Bar, 1726 20th Street, NW

Situated along 20th Street, Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar is just far enough removed, yet so close, to the bustle of Dupont Circle. It’s a perfectly pleasant hideout to enjoy excellently crafted coffee. Filter is one of the few locations in DC where you can request a flat white with confidence, and its highly skilled baristas are among the best at coaxing out the intricate profiles of specialty coffee using the pour over method. Enjoy an array of coffees from Ceremony Coffee and watch for ultra rare offerings, like the Panama Geisha, which at $10 a cup is still worth the price.


"Coffee"Dolcezza Gelato, 1704 Connecticut Ave, NW

Dolcezza Gelato is praised for its Argentinian-style gelatos, which span flavors that were both previously unknown and now unforgettable to my palate. But the coffee selection at Dolcezza is just as wide-ranging and delectable as its gelato. At the Dupont Circle location, you can find a roster of some of the country’s top specialty roasters, including the likes of Ritual, MadCap, Verve, Handsome, Four Barrel and Counter Culture. Dolcezza is the perfect spot to grab a coffee and relax at its window seating while you spy on the pedestrians passing down Connecticut Avenue.


"coffee"Bean & Bite, 1152 15th Street, NW

This downtown coffee shop on Borderstan’s southern-most reaches has a service model that seeks to compete head-on with the likes of Starbucks and Caribou that dominate coffee in this part of town. Bean and Bite is a quick-serve concept shop that includes a brewed coffee station serving MadCap, Intelligentsia and PTs Coffee. If you’re so inclined, you can also take the reigns of one of two super-automatic espresso machines. Grab a freshly prepared salad or a cookie on a quick break from the office.

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by Borderstan.com October 17, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,078 0


The MadCap mayhem. (Jon Riethmaier)

From Jonathan Riethmaier @DistrictBean or email him at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com.

I remember when I first heard that MadCap Coffee — a rising star in specialty coffee — had its sights set on DC to open a cafe and roastery, only the second such location for the company. That kind of addition to the city’s coffee scene would certainly add some heft and help separate DC from its regional peers in terms of coffee clout.

I was particularly excited because I knew about the company’s reputation as an innovator and some of the interesting concepts that had gained notoriety at its cafe back in Grand Rapids, Michigan. MadCap promoted concepts like Sunday Service, a table service that includes horizontal and vertical flights of coffee (think, espresso, macchiato and pour over using the same coffee, or espresso-only using three different coffees). And hell, if that was happening in Grand Rapids, Michigan, just imagine what MadCap would bring to DC.

That was just more than a year ago. And to point out the obvious, there isn’t a MadCap cafe or roastery in DC. But that’s not to say the company doesn’t have a significant presence here. The MadCap DC team, which consists of owner Trevor Corlett and barista trainer Colin Whitcomb, have been plugging away over the past year, integrating the company’s coffee and brand with both professional and consumer sides of the city’s coffee scene.

Bringing MadCap to the District

It started with a deal with Buzz Bakery back in May 2011, even before MadCap’s intention to move to DC was made public. MadCap was selected as the roaster of choice for Buzz’s Arlington location and subsequently held training sessions with the bakery’s barista staff. Buzz is owned by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group that operates a number of food service businesses in the area, including ChurchKey and Birch and Barley, as well as the soon-to-open restaurant in the now closed Yola space in South Dupont.

But what about the cafe? The roastery? What about our regional supremacy over all things coffee? Over the next several months I’d gotten to know Corlett, mostly through coffee events that he and Whitcomb frequently attended, including Thursday Night Throwdowns. These are monthly barista competitions, and the MadCap crew fared exceedingly well. On occasion I’d ask Corlett about his plans for the cafe, whether ground would soon break and so on. Always coy, he’d tell me things were coming along well, but there weren’t details to share at the moment.

“We have a lot of exciting things we’re working on for the DC area and hopefully one of those is going to happen sooner rather than later,” he said during a recent exchange.

MadCap Becomes a Favorite in DC

Meanwhile, MadCap has been busy nurturing relationships beyond Buzz and Neighborhood Restaurant Group. You can currently find MadCap coffee at Dolcezza Gelato, Baked & Wired and Bean & Bite in DC. The company has also ventured into the beer scene. It’s collaboration with local favorite DC Brau yielded a coffee-backed porter that infused MadCap’s Colombian San Sebastian coffee with the brewer’s Penn Quarter Porter for a limited release firkin.

MadCap Tastings

But one of the more interesting developments for MadCap to date has been a slate of coffee tastings held each week at its temporary work space, Canvas Co/work in Dupont. There, around eight participants each week attend a free, but exclusive (you must RSVP), tasting with Corlett and Whitcomb. A mix of folks attend, from seasoned coffee pros to foodie types and coffee enthusiasts seeking a more nuanced and intimate coffee experience.

The focus of each tasting is often different, from region-specific tastings to brew method training. I recently attended a tasting that included an array of coffees from Guatemala and one from both Costa Rica and Ethiopia, for good measure. The passion with which Corlett and Whitcomb talk about coffee is, in itself, engaging and their tasting format is incredibly accessible and free of the kind of professional rigidity that one may expect in such a setting. As I was passed a sample of MadCap’s Ethiopian Ardi, I received tasting instructions from Corlett, who said, “Think Double-Bubble.” Sure enough, the description was simple and dead on. Corlett and Whitcomb expressed their desire to create conversations with consumers and that often means connecting with people on terms they relate to.

“The industry has gotten so far ahead from where the consumers are that we have to find a better way to connect that,” says Corlett.

But what was even more enthralling than drinking coffee — which, to be clear, was a treat — were the people behind the coffee, their remarkable stories and the relationships that have been cultivated. The Rodriguez family, I learned, had grown coffee in San Pedro Necta in Guatemala for years, yet the owner, Gabino Mendez, had never tasted his coffee after it was roasted elsewhere. After hearing this, the MadCap team arranged for a delivery of the finished product to be delivered to Mendez. It was also the first time he’d been able to see his estate’s name on a bag of coffee. The relationship grew and the coffee from Mendez’s estate is now back for a second season in MadCap’s offering.

In a more evening-appropriate version of their tasting concept, the MadCap crew held a coffee cocktail event back in late-August. It included a discussion and sampling of three cocktails, each using a different coffee to compliment and bring out a certain quality in the drink. My personal favorite was the Bourbon Kochere Sparkler that combined MadCap’s Kochere Ethiopian coffee with honey bourbon, orange juice, orange bitters and a splash of club soda. The result was a sweet and refreshing cocktail that I’ve diligently sought to replicate at home (with success, I might add).

But when will I enjoy a coffee cocktail inside MadCap’s cafe? And when will that Double-Bubble flavor come from beans roasted here in DC? I cannot say for certain, but if good things truly do come to those who wait, there’s a lot to look forward to.

Learn more about MadCap’s weekly tastings by visiting www.madcapcoffee.com or by sending an e-mail to dc[AT]madcapcoffee.com.

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by Borderstan.com September 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,396 0

From Luis Gomez. Catch his photos at One Photograph A Day. Follow him on Twitter @LuisGomezPhotos.

"Coffee Reithmaier"

Jonathan Reithmaier brings coffee to Borderstan. (Courtesy of Reithmaier)

Borderstan is happy to introduce a new columnist to the team, Jonathan Riethmaier. Jonathan will let us know everything there is to know about coffee. We had a little chat with him and he explained what his new column will be about.

Borderstan: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Riethmaier: Like a lot of DC residents, I’m a transplant of sorts who’s fallen in love with the city’s people, places and culture. My wife and I have been in the area for about four years, and we’re looking forward to raising our son here in the District. I work with a nonprofit that advocates for equity and inclusion for people with significant disabilities and, in my spare time, I chronicle the city’s specialty coffee scene at District Bean.

Borderstan: You have an education that does not normally lead to becoming a coffee connoisseur.  Fill us in on that.

Riethmaier: So my education and professional work has been in public relations, nonprofit management and journalism which has, interestingly, intersected and furthered my love for coffee. It was during my years at a PR agency that I first attended specialty coffee industry events, worked with trade magazines and really came to know and appreciate the folks who work in the coffee business. It’s hard not to be inspired by an industry of people who are so passionate about their craft.

Borderstan: Why is coffee important? 

Riethmaier: Because coffee — specifically, specialty coffee — can make the world a better place. When coffee businesses domestically build relationships with farmers and farming communities, they invest in technology, education and sustainable farming practices that lead to positive outcomes for those communities. In return, the quality of the product increases dramatically. So, when we buy better coffee, we not only create a quality consumer experience, we’re feeding into a cycle that improves people’s lives the world over. How cool is that?

Borderstan: Tell us about what this column will be about?

Riethmaier: DC has a vibrant and growing coffee community, and that’s perhaps no more evident than right here in Borderstan. In this column we’re going to explore the people and places that make coffee in this area so special. I’ll share with readers some insights on where to go for unique coffee experiences and go behind the scenes with local baristas to talk varietals, brew methods and all sorts of coffee geekery. Stay tuned for more on coffee, cafe culture and tips on coffee brewing and consuming! If you have a question or tip, feel free to reach me at jonathan[AT]borderstan.com

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