The Bean Belt has arrived in the Beltway big time, and we don't mean by way of foreign embassies. Coffee is nothing new to the caffeine-hungry capital (places like Kramerbooks and Afterwords Café have long been supplying brew), but in recent years, D.C. has sprouted a burgeoning boutique coffee scene that's keeping its new demographic of hipsters caffeinated in style. Some of these designer coffee emporiums are purists devoted to nothing but perfectly pulled shots of espresso; others have additional perks like absinthe and cupcakes. But these five top spots all share a reverence for the best possible beans.
Baked and Wired is exactly what you’d expect from a café run by hipster graphic designers: Hot-rod espresso machines and chic coffee (courtesy of Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Intelligentsia Coffee, no less), along with a baked-goods display that looks like something off the front page of Etsy. The team of cool-kid baristas does a bang-up job with specialty espresso drinks and single-origin, pour-over coffees, but don't miss the divine handcrafted "cakecups" (parchment-wrapped cupcakes with cutesy names like the "Elvis Impersonator" and "Unicorns and Rainbows").
D.C.’s skinny-jeaned set congregates in this sunny coffeehouse — aka a performance space, gallery, bookstore — to listen to poetry readings, click on their MacBooks, swap radical ideas and browse the oh-so progressive titles stocked in the onsite indie bookstore. Of course, at Busboys and Poets, the beans are direct trade: It has partnered with the award-winning boutique roaster PT’s Coffee Roasting Company to create a proprietary dark-roast blend that's as delicious as it is conscious of the environment and the farmers.
The minimalist surroundings at Chinatown Coffee Co. keep the focus squarely on the painstakingly prepared coffee. Offerings come from a variety of boutique roasters (Intelligentsia Coffee, Heart Roasters, 49th Parallel Roasters, Ritual Roasters and Novo Coffee) and from all regions of the Bean Belt (check the website for the current week's countries of origin). You can choose from brewed, pour-over or French-press preparations. And if the caffeine fix isn't quite enough for you, there's also beer, wine and absinthe on tap.
Tucked away in a brick row house on a quiet street, Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar specializes in single-origin, pour-over coffees — which, be warned, take five or so minutes to prepare. (Espresso drinks and French-press coffees are also available.) The carefully chosen varietals have the added appeal of being roasted locally by Ceremony Coffee in nearby Annapolis, Maryland. It's a low-key place to relish your brew on a break (though perhaps not to linger for hours — laptop usage has been banned in the Foggy Bottom location).
At Peregrine Espresso, the duo behind this gourmet-coffee chainlet boasts an impressive barista pedigree that's made them preoccupied with the finest seasonal beans (roasted by Counter Culture in Durham, North Carolina) and meticulous preparation techniques. In addition to espresso drinks with foam art, seasonal macrobrews are made each morning for an on-the-go drink, while microbrews are prepared by the cup all day long. Bonus for locals: You can have a bicyclist deliver fresh-roasted beans to your home or work.
The Purple Passport is a web-based collection of chic, one-stop-shop guides to experiencing the world's cities in style. The site provides the full range of urban-travel planning needs, while its eBook guides package handpicked recommendations into a user-friendly mobile format. Scattered throughout the globe, The Purple Passport team personally visits every spot that they review and blogs about their adventures on the Diary of The Purple Passport. Follow The Purple Passport on Twitter @purplepassport.
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