Tag Archives: DC

Woof News: Winter 2010 Update

2010 is upon us and what began as a graduation gift idea between professor and scholar has now evolved into a means of stimulating interest in the specialty coffee industry and in its entire supply chain –

– from farm level decision makers who must decide how to react to how global climate change is impacting their growing season and yields;

– to cooperatives who must decide how to integrate IT solutions into their business processes;

– farmers who must choose between numerous certification choices;

– exporters who must decide what price is a ‘fair’ one at which to sell their prized beans;

– importers who must navigate an increasingly competitive specialty coffee market;

– specialty roasters who must communicate their value proposition to a growing market segment;

– shops trying to differentiate their brand and product from the Starbucks baseline and from other shops claiming to provide the ‘gourmet’ experience;

– to end-consumers who seek clarity and consistency of quality despite all of the contingencies that must occur before the latte art is disturbed by the first sip.

Cafehound.com was launched early this fall as an online medium for Krislert Samphantharak and Matthew Maher to communicate and share their knowledge and experience with each other more than anything else. It began as an incremental journey to explore various portions of the supply chain in detail and encourage participation and collaboration with some of the major actors in the specialty coffee industry.  Before long, Café Hound was able to secure interviews with roasters, importers, shop owners, professional baristas, farmers and people involved on the academic/research end of the soft commodities market.  Given the very positive response that the website has received and as a consequence of very promising content in the future, Café Hound has decided to begin institutionalizing some processes.

1. Custom blend releases on occasion to generate publicity and raise funds for charity

2. Regular café reviews  spanning the globe with occasional guest postings from our friends and associates abroad

3. Spotlight pieces that investigate particular segments of the supply chain with specific attention to farmers, importers and roasters.

4. Academic themed reviews of literature empirically evaluating aspects of the soft commodities market, especially coffee and specialty coffee

5. Newsletter updates

6. Creating a non-profit organization to provide a legal basis for managing funds and further enhancing our ability to provide value to entrepreneurial agricultural producers and children in the developing world.

Regards,

– The Hounds

Cafe Hounding: Peregrine Espresso – DC

Peregrine Espresso – Eastern Market

660 Pennsylvania Ave SE (between S. 6th St & S. 7th St)
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: (202) 629-4381

peregrineentrance

The illustrious Peregrine Espresso was my first real impressive specialty coffee experience in the Washington, D.C. area. It was quite a weekend for Cafe Hounding.  Upon my first visit to this Eastern Market located shop I was admittedly distracted by catching up with an old friend currently working at Commerce but I was quickly brought back into focus when I entered this fine establishment and saw the fresh roasted bags of coffee sitting at the entrance.

The ambiance is a pretty straight forward hipster look with chopped up doors hung on the wall for decor.  The lighting is good and it was packed with people taking up all of the available seating with their laptops (and there is a pretty decent amount of seating too!).  Granted, this was a Saturday at Eastern Market in the summer so this is probably about as crowded as it gets.

Peregrine Menu

The menu selection was very limited — a positive for me meaning that they do COFFEE here.

Latte Art at Peregrine Espresso

Latte Art at Peregrine Espresso

Let me emphasize the quality of the coffee here.  I entered and was able to choose between my very own personally drip brewed coffee from either Papa New Guinea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya or Honduras.  All of these were roasted within the previous few days by Counter Culture down in NC and shipped same day up to DC.  I can attest that the quality control in that process seemed superb to me. One, because the Kenya AA that I drank in the store went down pretty good although not as delicious as the Kenya AA that Caribou carries (sorry guys :-/).  I’ll make a separate post on my experience with Kenya AA’s since it is probably one of my favorite single origins so I’ve tasted a lot over the years.

I also sampled an espresso to get my palate around their custom blend of espresso.  I must say, both the preparation of the espresso and the blend were sort of underwhelming on this visit.  I have heard so much good about Peregrine Espresso AND I was very happy that the baristas were both very knowledgeable of the entire industry and of competitive barismo  AND unpretentious.

They have free wifi and a decent amount of indoor and outdoor seating.  This is a great area of DC and thus, I’m sure they’ll do well for quite some time.  It’s a must check out if you’re passing through The District.  Thanks to David Flynn for his time and conversation while I picked his brain about specialty coffee.  Flynn came in 3rd this past Feb 2009 in the Mid-Atlantic Barista Competition along with other local area talent.  Peregine just opened in late 2008 and looks to have a lot of room to grow and prosper in the region.

Overall Rating: 3.4

Coffee Quality: 4.3, Cafe Ambiance: 3.6, Food: 1.8

–Maher Hound

Chinatown Coffee Co. Opens This Week!

UPDATE: Chinatown Coffee Co. set to open Monday July 27th!  After emailing with Max Brown (he and his wife will manage the store with Nick’s help) and stopping by in my car today (Sunday, July 26th), I came up with the news.  Friendly competition among Chinatown Coffee Co. (CCC) and Peregrine Espresso will ensue.

I talked to David Flynn of Peregrine on Saturday to hear what he knows about specialty coffee out here on the East Coast and he’s as excited about CCC as the rest of us.

My only worry is the location.  It seems a bit out of the way for most people and if I am correct (which I may not be), there was a Juan Valdez on E Street not too far from the CCC location that couldn’t hack it.

Chinatown Coffee Co. (CCC)

Chinatown Coffee Co. (CCC)

The back story:  For those of you who didn’t know the coffee experience of Murky Coffee (formerly located in Clarendon and in DC), owner Nick Cho had a great thing going.  But, like so many amazing people who are head-over-heels passionate about people and coffee, they don’t fully appreciate the importance of cash flow management in this business (won’t mention any names but even the true pioneers of this entire industry are guilty of this).  That said, those who are knowledgeable, passionate and determined often survive.  This is the story behind Chinatown Coffee Co. set to open this week in the Penn Quarter of Washington, D.C.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickcho/sets/72157608469379875/

Above is a link to some photos that track the development of the place.  If all of the buzz of local residents, the Washington Post and Yelp have anything to say, the coffee looks to be as amazing as ever.  The ambiance appears to slightly mimic a combination of Blue Bottle (off of Mint in San Francisco) and the Espressamente Illy located at the Palazzo in Las Vegas.

I’m looking forward to checking it out by the end of this week and hopefully get to at least chat a bit with Nick Cho before I write up a review.

I’ve never explored the specialty coffee scene in DC and now have a great excuse to do so.

Stay tuned!

– Maher Hound

New Scents in DC: Calling Suggestions!

I’m looking for places with extraordinary coffee in the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland vicinity.

A recent arrival from Southern California, I’ve been spolied by the tremendous fruits of the labor of the wonderful ladies at Elan Organic as well as a generally robust artisian roaster specialty coffee scene.  Shout out to Arnie Holt at Cafe Calabria (introduced me to cupping), Karen Cebrero at Elan Organic (introduced me to … well her business, and the best samples of coffee I’ve had the pleasure of tasting on the house), Chuck Patton at Bird Rock (read: cool ass dude), the Ryan Brothers (who are cool, though not great coffee), and anyone else I’m leaving out that gave me a hand back in Day-go.

So far, here in DC/VA I’ve managed to locate the following places to check out:

Chinatown Coffee Co.
Juan Valdez
Peregrine Espresso
Counter Culture?
(they have a training center here… I guess?)
Beanetics
Caribou Coffee
(I know it’s a chain but they’ve got great whole bean coffee and over half the White House staff take their coffee breaks here!!!)

Taken from Peregrine Espresso’s blog:

WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! Give us hints and suggestions so that we can start spreading the word about where coffee hounds like us must go.

Buzz: Murky Coffee Has Murky FinancesBuzz

On Capitol Hill, Back Taxes Lead to Caffeine Deprivation

By Elissa Silverman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008; B01

For many who live on Capitol Hill, Murky Coffee seemed to be the type of conscientious, mom-and-pop-owned business that helps build community. Owner Nicholas Cho purchases socially responsible, fair-trade beans, offers a teacher discount and gives away coffee grounds for use as organic fertilizer.

But on Feb. 26, agents from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue placed bright red “seized” signs in Murky’s windows and padlocked the door. The closure provoked shock and outrage in the neighborhood.

One patron posted an online petition titled, “Tell D.C. Govt. to Stop Hurting Small Business/Re-open Murky Coffee,” complete with a printed copy posted on the door of the coffee shop, which is steps from Eastern Market.

Another neighbor wrote this reply: “Idiot! Nick is a tax cheat!!”

Murky Coffee, according to the tax office, owes more than $427,000 in sales and franchise taxes. A lien filed against the business shows that Cho paid sales tax to the government in only three of the 24 months from November 2004 to October 2006. Officials with the tax office said Cho missed payments in 2007 and 2008 as well.

The tax, which is 10 percent for takeout foods such as coffee, is due on the 20th of every month and is based on the previous month’s revenue. The store, which has been open on Capitol Hill since fall 2003, generally owed $4,000 to $5,000 a month.

Although tax officials said numerous warning letters had been sent to Cho, the news came as a surprise to his devoted customers as well as his dozen employees. In his four years in business, Cho, 34, had become the D.C. coffee connoisseur and a favorite among local foodies, a caffeinated equivalent to Cakelove’s Warren Brown.

Many patrons consider Cho, who also owns a Murky Coffee in Arlington, as a David going up against coffee goliaths Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Cos¿.

While conceding that he has been irresponsible, Cho chalked up the tax bill to “poor cash flow management.” He disputes the tax office’s assessment of what he owes, estimating it at about $200,000. And he said he also owes Virginia about $20,000 for sales tax at his Clarendon shop.

“In a nutshell, we’ve gained a pretty good reputation for our coffee quality. That’s the side of the business I’ve done pretty well at,” Cho said. “The financial management side I haven’t.”

Cho, who initially called his tax problems a “hiccup” in operations, said he never tried to evade authorities and always intended to make the payments.

“It’s not that I went and bought a sports car or a horse. It’s just general financial mismanagement,” he said.

More than three weeks later, the neighbors are missing their coffee.

“I was thinking, the ripple effects of this will be felt all across the city, because cranky people will show up at work without their coffee,” said Jamal Kadri, a Capitol Hill resident who said he patronized the business every day on his way to his office at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Either way, it’s sad that an independent coffee store is being shut down,” said Joy Bridy, a Capitol Hill potter who regularly brought her handmade mugs to get filled.

Bill Day, a 10th-grade math teacher at Cesar Chavez Charter School who enjoyed $1 teacher coffees, called the closing of Murky Coffee “a terrible thing,” adding, “The coffee was good, and you feel better about buying it here than at Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.”

But Murky Coffee of Capitol Hill won’t be reopening. In addition to the back taxes, there’s the matter of the eviction notice on the door.

Cho said that the tax office is unwilling to negotiate a payment plan and that he is unable to make the large payment necessary to reopen.

And then there’s the rent.

According to court records, Cho has been sued several times for nonpayment of rent. Morris Battino, a lawyer representing Cho’s landlord, said Murky Coffee is behind on payments.

“I like the coffee business, because it brought people together and it was a community-building tool,” Cho said in a phone interview this week.

“I thought coffee would be up my alley, because I’m a people person.”

But now he’s also alone. His haphazard approach to finances has cost him his marriage, he said.