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Chinatown Coffee Company, 5th and H Streets in Chinatown - Artisanal Coffee and Light Fare


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So last weekend I took Nick Cho up on his offer . Had a blast. Learned a lot. Drank a lot of espresso, most of it pretty bad. Now that I have a real taste for it, where do I go to get the good stuff? Is there any in DC? Where are your favorite places, and why do you like them? [Murky coffee has its own thread. Starbucks need not apply] ...help?

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The following posts have been split into separate threads:

Big Bear Cafe (marketfan)
Bourbon Coffee (DaRiv18)
Tynan Coffee and Tea (DaRiv18)
Mayorga Coffee Roasters (hillvalley)
Restaurant Eve Bistro (goodeats)

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well, sadly, it looks like murky is closing either way. according to their website, they are moving to chinatown and opening up 'wrecking ball coffee' and the owners of liberty tavern will be taking over the space, renovating, and opening a coffee shop in the old murky space in clarendon.

i hope that the new owners will keep the same sort of ambience. i love liberty tavern's food and service, but if they duplicate that same decor and ambience, its going to ruin it.

also, i while i hope this turns out to be an april fools day joke, i sincerly doubt it is. nbc 4 has picked up the story and claims it is not a joke. sad.

http://www.murkycoffee.com/2009/04/letter-...-customers.html

Real coffee and Bakeshop DC cupcakes will available a block from home!?!? YAY! A welcome addition the neighborhood. I hope no one tries to order an iced espresso . . .

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Real coffee and Bakeshop DC cupcakes will available a block from home!?!? YAY! A welcome addition the neighborhood. I hope no one tries to order an iced espresso . . .

Sounds like we're neighbors. I'm excited to check it out once it opens. Can't picture which building they're moving into.

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I work half a block from there.... am looking forward to it. Though 5th and H doesn't quite sound right.... barring a major renovation.... SE corner - church parking lot; SW corner - Red Roof Inn/Irish Channel; NW corner - Li Ho, Momiji, Full Kee; NE corner-assorted row houses. Maybe it's one of the retail options at the bottom of the new building at 6th and H?

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Just a quick FYI, and a little DR.com scoop.

Ya heard it here first: the shop will be called "Chinatown Coffee Company" (go figure), and we're planning a June opening. You can indeed see the building here (old website revised a bit). Working with some new partners, we're excited to bring our coffee service to the neighborhood. Went with "Chinatown Coffee" in direct contrast to the general trend in the neighborhood toward very un-Chinatown-y chains and such. Most of the baristas from murky coffee arlington are making the move with us.

No. As a matter of fact, I'm not Chinese.

Feedback/comment from the neighborhood folks is definitely welcome either in this thread or via PM.

"Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters" will be a separate venture that we're working on. Hope to have some developments on that soon. Could come with some interesting surprises. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

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Ya heard it here first: the shop will be called "Chinatown Coffee Company" (go figure), and we're planning a June opening.

No. As a matter of fact, I'm not Chinese.

The real question is whether all establishments in Chinatown central have to have silly Chinese sounding and written characters to them??? And who does them?????
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The real question is whether all establishments in Chinatown central have to have silly Chinese sounding and written characters to them??? And who does them?????

I'm sorry that an entire culture's language is silly to you.

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I'm sorry that an entire culture's language is silly to you.
It's not that, as I am Chinese, if I'm understanding your response correctly (although we have some silliness to our language, I like to think). It's just that the translations used don't make sense phoentically or any sense to me at all. For example, PNC is translated phonetically, yet the individual characters are P = numberical use for cattle or house; N = Grace and C = something - I forgot. Wouldn't it have made more sense to translate it into Pittsburgh National Bank? That part of Chinatown translations have always confused me. Or better yet, the Hooters Restaurant is translated as "Owl Restaurant." :D

ETA: I just hate to think of some sort mistranslation will occur by whomever would be translating your shop's name.

Edited by goodeats
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The real question is whether all establishments in Chinatown central have to have silly Chinese sounding and written characters to them??? And who does them?????

Since you asked, yes, there is a law pertaining to this issue. See also:

Signs in the Chinatown Overlay District are subject to review by the Chinatown Steering Committee pursuant to 10 DCMR, Chapter 24. Signs and streetscape elements using Chinese characters and design elements are encouraged in this district.

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ETA: I just hate to think of some sort mistranslation will occur by whomever would be translating your shop's name.

I hear ya. Sorry for the somewhat knee-jerk reaction.

The (semi-funny) thing is, we're not technically in Chinatown. The "Chinatown Overlay District" that dcs points out actually ends at 5th St. NW., about 50 feet from where our shop is.

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Just a quick FYI, and a little DR.com scoop.

Ya heard it here first: the shop will be called "Chinatown Coffee Company" (go figure), and we're planning a June opening.

Hi Nick,

Any word on an opening date yet? My emergency rations of murky coffee are running low!

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My second visit to CCC. I like it with two exceptions:

It's expensive. My iced latte (large which is about 12 oz here - I'm guessing though) and muffin were $7.60. I'm willing to pay a little more to support a local business, but the prices will probably keep me from a daily drop in.

It's loud as hell. All hard surfaces, no apparent soundproofing. If there aren't many people present, no problem, but I'm presently trying to drown out two loud laughers and one ridiculous shout-talker with my ipod.

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Planning to check it out tomorrow - anyone know the extent of food offerings (either breakfast-y and/or lunch items)? Thx!

The hand-poured coffee is excellent -- worth going out of your way for. My sense is that they're experimenting with various purveyors of pastries and other baked goods. The muffins and croissants now are perfectly fine (not St. Michel caliber), but way overpriced (more than $3 for a croissant).
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The hand-poured coffee is excellent -- worth going out of your way for. My sense is that they're experimenting with various purveyors of pastries and other baked goods. The muffins and croissants now are perfectly fine (not St. Michel caliber), but way overpriced (more than $3 for a croissant).

My understanding is that the cupcakes are from BakeshopDC.

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I'm looking to make a change in my career and want some locals advice on the best places for amazing espressos and coffees. A restaurant atmosphere is nice but not a must. Any and all suggestions are welcomed.

Thanks!

Oddly, I think coffehouses are lacking in DC which is surprising based on the population, and amount of freelancers. In DC I like:

Mid Town Cafe: Since management and ownership changed shortly after opening, the atmosphere rocks. The coffee is as good as Counter Culture can be. They have a really nice variety of pastries and other snacks. My favorite indie shop in DC.

Peregrine: Just don't dig it. They too serve Counter Culture but the music has been uncomfortably loud everytime I've been, regardless of time of day or day of the week. They also have a nice selection of pastries and snacks.

Big Bear Cafe: Stopped going due to low quality of coffee, uncomfortable seating and poor lighting.

Politics and Prose: Love this place in theory and from time to time. Coffee is superb, have real food options and many of their pastries are good. It's in a basement and it feels that way after a while. Also could use a really, really, thorough cleaning as it is grungy.

The Indie Shop that Roasts its own beans in Petworth (I think): Nice cup of coffee but wasn't that great and not worth the hassle to go back.

Tryst, Open City and the Diner: I really do not like their coffee. Other people I know love these places and use them as second offices. Me, not so much because I don't like their coffee.

Here are my, unsolicited, thoughts:

This city needs more independent coffee shops that are not beholden to Counter Culture.

Places like:

Octane Coffee (minus the Counter Culture)

Dancing Goats

Jo's Coffee

Cafe Grumpy

Think Coffee

Gimme Coffee

would be great...

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Personally, I am partial to the Java Shack. They have been able to hang in there over many years against the creeping (rampant) corporatization of coffee in America and have been an exceptionally good member of the community. We need more places like this.

Although I frequent it far less, Misha's in Alexandria is worth checking out as well.

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The hand pours from Chinatown Coffee Co are consistently the best cup of coffee I've had in...well, maybe ever. The brewing process they use brings out much more flavor and nuance than I can usually taste in coffee. Yes, it's 3 bucks for an 11oz cup of coffee, but I really feel it's worth it.

I second your opinion about Chinatown Coffee Co. I also think they make a fantastic cappuccino. In the States the best coffee shop cappuccino I've had has been at Abraco in New York City. Chinatown Coffee Co's is a close second.

For atmosphere + good coffee, I like Politics and Prose's cafe.

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Oddly, I think coffehouses are lacking in DC which is surprising based on the population, and amount of freelancers. In DC I like:

Mid Town Cafe: Since management and ownership changed shortly after opening, the atmosphere rocks. The coffee is as good as Counter Culture can be. They have a really nice variety of pastries and other snacks. My favorite indie shop in DC.

Peregrine: Just don't dig it. They too serve Counter Culture but the music has been uncomfortably loud everytime I've been, regardless of time of day or day of the week. They also have a nice selection of pastries and snacks.

Big Bear Cafe: Stopped going due to low quality of coffee, uncomfortable seating and poor lighting.

Politics and Prose: Love this place in theory and from time to time. Coffee is superb, have real food options and many of their pastries are good. It's in a basement and it feels that way after a while. Also could use a really, really, thorough cleaning as it is grungy.

The Indie Shop that Roasts its own beans in Petworth (I think): Nice cup of coffee but wasn't that great and not worth the hassle to go back.

Tryst, Open City and the Diner: I really do not like their coffee. Other people I know love these places and use them as second offices. Me, not so much because I don't like their coffee.

Here are my, unsolicited, thoughts:

This city needs more independent coffee shops that are not beholden to Counter Culture.

Places like:

Octane Coffee (minus the Counter Culture)

Dancing Goats

Jo's Coffee

Cafe Grumpy

Think Coffee

Gimme Coffee

would be great...

This is exactly the comprehensive list I was looking for. Thanks for the insight.

Any others in the Northern VA area?

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Gosh, I'm reading your list as basically saying there are almost no good coffee shops in D.C. Is that truly the case?

I'm coming in for a visit from Maine - a coffee-less landscape if ever there were one - and had delusions of aromatic bowls of cafe au lait into which to dive.

Nope?

Really?

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I'm coming in for a visit from Maine - a coffee-less landscape if ever there were one - and had delusions of aromatic bowls of cafe au lait into which to dive.

(Where in Maine? Portland has awesome local coffee -- Coffee By Design and Breaking New Grounds in Particular.)

I happen to be a fan of Peregrine here (the one NCPinDC thinks its loud, but I've always found it manageable, and in nice weather it's got a patio -- then again, I don't go there to work.) And their coffee is fantastic -- full of flavor, never burnt (in my experience). I like the individual cups, though; I don't get espresso drinks often, so I can't personally comment, but companions of mine have always loved their lattes there. If you're on the Hill in particular, it's the place to go.

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Espresso sleepers:

Illy Cafe in Foggy Bottom at Renaissance M Hotel

Quartermaine in Bethesda

Pitango in Reston Town Center

Cannot speak for coffee, lattes, etc. Not factoring in atmosphere. Based on flavor and crema. Porcelain cups a given. Window bars a plus.

...and memorable NON-LOCAL espressos:

La Colombe - Philadelphia

Monorail Espresso - Seattle

Cafe Capriccio - San Francisco

*Sant'Eustachio - Rome, Italy

Again, pure espresso only; flavor, crema, porcelain cups - that's the ticket.

*sugar is routinely added so you have to ask for it without if that is your preference. Also, crema is ridiculously thick here and I'm still trying to decide if I like that better....need more data!

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I've always thought onsite roasting was a pretty good--if not determinate--indicator of a good coffee shop. Of course, to be sure, there are great coffee spots that don't roast on site because the machine is expensive and it takes up significant space (places like this would include Filter, Pegregrine and Chinatown here in the District).

When it comes to opening up a coffee shop, the proprietor has to be at least a bit obsessive (and a bit capitalized) about the beans and the process to invest in a full-on roaster; hence decent litmus test on place to grab a good cup. My current favorite coffee shop in America is a place called Noble Coffee in Ashland, Oregon where they devote some pretty significant square footage to a glorious roasting room glassed in for all to see in front of the store.

So, I thought interesting to list out those local coffee places that roast. I don't know them all but some include:

- Qualia Coffee (3917 Georgia NW, DC)

- Sidamo (417 H NE, DC)

- Caffe Amouri (107 Church St NW in Vienna)

All three of those serve excellent, better than most in this area, coffee. There are at least two more I know but can't think of now.

P.S., How 'bout renaming this board "Beer, Wine and Caffeinated Wonders"? :)

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...and memorable NON-LOCAL espressos:

La Colombe - Philadelphia

Monorail Espresso - Seattle

Cafe Capriccio - San Francisco

*Sant'Eustachio - Rome, Italy

I didn't realize you could get espresso in glassware at Monorail, it is one of my seattle favorites but I thought they had no facilities for handling dishes. Will have to look into this.

Just back from New York City and had an excellent espresso @ Stumptown in the Ace Hotel. Very different experience from my Portland Stumptown visits, but was perfect. They roast in Brooklyn.

Also, La Colombe has an operation in SoHo that always makes me happy. My espresso was perfect, and the aesthetics of the place are ideal - I prefer the layout to the shop in Philadelphia near Rittenhouse Square.

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Also, La Colombe has an operation in SoHo that always makes me happy. My espresso was perfect, and the aesthetics of the place are ideal - I prefer the layout to the shop in Philadelphia near Rittenhouse Square.

It would be great if La Colombe opened a branch in the DC area.

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I only saw one mention for Pitango on here so I'll chime in and second that motion. Although it is of course primarily a gelato shop (and a delicious one at that), the coffee beverages I have tried have really been excellent, including their cappuccino and straight espresso. I also am in love with their affogato, particularly when made with the Gianduja gelato. It's my absolute favorite way to cap off an excellent meal when I'm in Penn Quarter.

My three other coffee house recommendations in DC would be:

(1) Swing's, at 17th & G NW. They roast their own coffee, and right now, I'm really into their Embassy Row blend. I know blends are sometimes derided as sacrilege by the coffee cognoscenti but it's delicious, deal with it. The coffee house itself, with it's small high-tops and stools, is more for people who want to get in and get out, no lingering really encouraged, but the coffee and the baristas are simply top notch. Also, a little tip: if you can't make it to their shop to buy the beans you can pick them up at the Whole Foods in Logan Circle.

(2) Peregrine, which I have enjoyed the couple times I was able to pop in. I appear to be in the minority on here in that I do enjoy Counter Culture coffee, so Peregrine was always good for me.

(3) Chinatown Coffee. My neighborhood favorite! I just desperately wish they could find a way to expand the physical space, since it seems like it's always a zoo in their tiny place. These people take their coffee seriously and it shows. The pour over is perfection.

Honorable mention to Pound in NoMa. The people are friendly and the coffee I tried was good. For someone who is really into coffee and wants DC's coolest/best coffee house in terms of highbrow coffee, this isn't it, but I enjoy the drinks and the scene whenever I go here.

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I only saw one mention for Pitango on here so I'll chime in and second that motion.

(2) Peregrine, which I have enjoyed the couple times I was able to pop in. I appear to be in the minority on here in that I do enjoy Counter Culture coffee, so Peregrine was always good for me.

FWIW, I really enjoy Pitango for gelato and sorbetto and have thought the coffee there respectable. Also, I too would give a thumbs up to Counter Culture (and Peregrine) though reserve my highest enthusiasm for spots that don't typically source from them like Qualia, Filter, Quartermaine, Amouri and Chinatown. We once took a class at Counter Culture's training center in Adams Morgan designed for non barista-aspirants and featured a world champion barista (didn't realize there was such a thing). Great fun.

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though reserve my highest enthusiasm for spots that don't typically source from them like Qualia, Filter, Quartermaine, Amouri and Chinatown.

Chinatown was getting mostly from Intelligentsia, but I have seen beans from Counter Culture as well recently. I like Intelligentsia beans very much, Stumptown's expansion I think means we'll see more of their stuff here - they are all over New York City now.

Pound Coffee is expanding to Capitol Hill which is a great - a nice addition to Peregrine which I love but where I can never get a seat outside even in the rain.

Overall, I think we are doing very well - not the case a few years ago when it was Murky and ... well not a whole lot else.

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Chinatown was getting mostly from Intelligentsia, but I have seen beans from Counter Culture as well recently. I like Intelligentsia beans very much, Stumptown's expansion I think means we'll see more of their stuff here - they are all over New York City now.

Pound Coffee is expanding to Capitol Hill which is a great - a nice addition to Peregrine which I love but where I can never get a seat outside even in the rain.

Overall, I think we are doing very well - not the case a few years ago when it was Murky and ... well not a whole lot else.

Agree across the board. Chinatown's Counter Culture percentage is small but they tend to mix it up with Intelligentsia the main supplier as you write. They also source some from a smaller Colorado outfit called Novo. Very cool news about Pound and Capitol Hill. And, we are definitely doing much better on the coffee front these days--I liken it to where we were with restaurants circa 2001 or so.

I don't see what's wrong with Counter Culture. Anyone?

Nothing at all wrong with CC. Quality product and an organization behind it with serious commitment to building awareness and appreciation for good coffee--to wit, the Adams Morgan training center they operate. I think sometimes coffee obsessives knock CC because it's the most common and maybe easiest source for independents with a serious quality bar. That said, you have to appreciate the shops that find unusual and tougher-to-access sources. Quartermaine, for example, deals directly with growers/small distributors but their story and history are a bit murky (no pun intended). I know they sourced from Peets years ago but then there was some falling out and, fast forward, now they're supplying other shops. Sometimes need a scorecard to keep track :)

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