Jump to content

Mid City Caffe, Mid City


Recommended Posts

Oh how I want to love this awesome new coffee shop. It has great light, good pastries and sweets, Common Culture coffee. So many things going for it. However I won't be a regular because of the following reasons:

1) the prices. ($8 for an iced coffee and yogurt/granola seems high to me)

2) the no refill on coffee at a discount (doesn't have to be free, but full price doesn't seem right either.

3) for a newly renovated space there are not enough outlets.

I do not begrudge the owners for the choices they make about prices. I just think it is not customer friendly to charge full price for refills on coffee. I also think their base prices are higher than comparable coffee shops.

I will have to continue my hunt for the perfect local coffee spot... so bummed that the New Orleans shop in Clarendon fell through.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1) It's "Mid City Caffe"

2) It's "Counter Culture Coffee"

3) Some of the best quality coffee available in the country... isn't going to cost the same as at your local Dunkin' or even Starbucks. Mid City is paying more than 6x what Starbucks does for their whole bean coffee. You don't think they'll need to charge a little bit more?

4) When's the last time you got a discount for a craft microbrew beer, or a nice glass of wine... refill or not?

5) How many outlets does one person need?

Mid City, from day one, is among one of the best coffee shops in the city. Their commitment to quality and training of their baristas results in great coffee that may command a higher-than-average price.

I totally understand that the bottomless-cup tradition leads you to some of the assumptions you've made, but please understand: that's all based on a completely unsustainable economic model, even more so when compared with the Direct Trade sourcing model that Counter Culture employs in importing green coffee. There's true value in what Mid City Caffe is doing. Don't compare apples to oranges.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As another reference point, the DC office of Counter Culture hosts tasting events (aka "cuppings") in their regional training center in NW. Everyone I've ever met from that company offers incredible knowledge and passion around all things coffee and sustainability:

http://washingtondc.counterculturecoffee.com/

Per their online calendar, their next cupping is Thursday of this week.

And as for tying this back to Mid City so this does not get bopped over to another thread, an increased understanding of the Counter Culture product might make for a reinterpretation of the Mid City experience.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First, sorry for the misstating the name of the Counter CULTure coffee company. I find there coffee to be good but not the best in the country by far. If it was wouldn't you be using it in your new shop Nick?

I have no problem paying more for good coffee, and if you notice I actually give a nod to the fact that free refills would not be appropriate. However, in my experience, refills for drip coffee are at a percentage of, and not, full rate. Again, I'm cool with paying for refills but at Mid City Caffe the costs add up quickly.

I have no problem paying for the experience of a indie coffee shop, I do it almost every single day in DC and on my travels. I just think the pricing at Mid City Caffe does not reflect the quality of product they offer.

ETA: Nick makes a great point about why one should pay for refills based on the concept of beer and wine. It is a good point and one that could sway me over to paying full price for a refill of drip coffee. However, it might also make me consider my habit an addiction... (in full disclosure, I generally stop at two cups of coffee in a coffee shop so its not that bad of a habit... for some it might be really expensive!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the little-known facts* about Starbucks that very few people know (even within the professional specialty coffee populace) is that if Starbucks didn't roast their own coffee, they wouldn't be profitable. Knowing approximately what Starbucks then pays for their green coffee, if you do the math, for an independent coffee shop that buys high-quality whole-bean roasted coffee at typical wholesale prices, they can't possibly compete with Starbucks on price. That said, even Starbucks doesn't (generally) do free refills, and the only normal discount is for re-using a cup or supplying your own.

This DR thread finally got me to take a trip to visit the fine folks at Mid City today. Owner Mick has a wonderful staff over there, who along with super-star manager Judith, is doing a great job of presenting the coffees. You'll notice that shops like Mid City are displaying a relevant trend: moving away from large-volume batch coffee brewing (1 gallon or more) in favor of using a by-the-cup brew bar and a french-press-ready-to-serve service. This all goes hand-in-hand with not only the economic realities of running a shop, but a commitment to top quality in the cup for every customer to enjoy!

All said, when it comes to different coffees, coffeeshops, baristas, etc., I always remember what a wine podcast host used to end his shows with: "Drink what you like, and keep trying new things."

(*-3rd hand, but from a reliable source who heard it directly from a company executive)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After disclosing that I manage the coffee operation for a Counter Culture account here in DC, I'd like to back my friend Nick up about the value of great coffee, which I've had at Mid-City. Green coffee has historically been ridiculously cheap, as has coffeehouse labor. These factors have affected our conceptions of what a cup of coffee should cost. Great coffee can provide an amazing culinary experience if we open ourselves up to it, having far more aromatic complexity than anything else we ingest. The more we focus on coffee for pleasure rather than for fuel, the more we can appreciate all the hard work that goes into growing, processing, roasting and brewing coffee.

Good coffee takes a lot of environmental input and labor to produce. Inexpensive coffee pretty much insures that farmers at the bottom of the pay chain don’t make much money and that the environment isn’t being looked after. I contend that much of the price difference between a great coffee and a great wine doesn’t have to do with the sensory experience they provide or the cost to produce them, but rather is due to wine being grown by people who live in places like Napa or the Rhone Valley, and coffee being grown by people like the tribal members of Papua New Guinea’s Waghi Valley. If you want to get all political, an argument could be made that coffee is cheap in part because we’re willing to perpetuate the economic dynamics of colonial exploitation.

Also, as long as we treat coffee like fast food and pay baristas like fast food register people, coffee quality will be low. Fast coffee is not good coffee, and our expectation for fast coffee means that shops making good coffee need to be heavily staffed with good baristas, like those at Mid-City who spent many hours learning about coffee and practicing making drinks before the shop opened. Good baristas are rare. They are skilled craftspeople and should be paid like one. That’s going to affect the price.

The purpose of good coffee is not to be used as a paper weight to hold down papers claiming a space in a business being treated like a public library or state park. In order to find value in great coffee it needs to be appreciated for being pleasurable to drink and not for fueling an addiction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can't it do both?

Oh, definitely. I drink coffee for both reasons, and sometimes for one or the other. You'll definitely catch me shaking the cobwebs out with some McD's coffee if that's what's available but I'm not carefully brewing $30 a pound coffee at home because I don't have Red Bull in the fridge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good baristas are rare. They are skilled craftspeople and should be paid like one. Thats going to affect the price.

I'll agree good baristas are rare and that they have skills other people do not have, but I'm having a hard time making the leap to "skilled craftspeople". My plumber is a skilled crafts person and worth the 100 dollars an hour or so I'll pay him. I've pulled shots, am not a barista, and while not the greatest in the world, produced passable espresso. I would not try to weld a water pipe or work with the mains in my electrical box.

While I would support a good wage for anyone doing good work, I don't think 100 an hour would be applicable to a barista.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll agree good baristas are rare and that they have skills other people do not have, but I'm having a hard time making the leap to "skilled craftspeople". My plumber is a skilled crafts person and worth the 100 dollars an hour or so I'll pay him. I've pulled shots, am not a barista, and while not the greatest in the world, produced passable espresso. I would not try to weld a water pipe or work with the mains in my electrical box.

While I would support a good wage for anyone doing good work, I don't think 100 an hour would be applicable to a barista.

It would probably cost you $100 an hour if you wanted a barista to bring an espresso machine to your house, plumb it in, and make you coffee while your toilet is backing up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It would probably cost you $100 an hour if you wanted a barista to bring an espresso machine to your house, plumb it in, and make you coffee while your toilet is backing up.

I remained unconvinced that the moniker "skilled craftsman" is applicable to the barista, but your usage is noted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting. It is certainly good coffee and the option to order a small or large french press brings the price down to the reasonable range.

But it wasn't the vibe I was looking for this Saturday morning when I was out and about and looking for a place to spend 30 minutes with my book and a cup of coffee. The music is too loud and the chairs are too uncomfortable. (God, I feel old just typing that!).

In the early-mid 90s I spent a lot of time in indie coffee shops trying to write. Mid City Caffe has the same shop worn feel that many of the places I frequented back in the day had. Hard to believe they've only been open a few weeks.

If I'm in the neighborhood, I would certainly stop in for a cup of coffee to go. But I wouldn't linger.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remained unconvinced that the moniker "skilled craftsman" is applicable to the barista, but your usage is noted.

As the chairman of the United States Barista Championship, Board member of the World Barista Championship, and a cardholding member of the Barista Guild of America (of which I'm a former executive council member), you'll understand when I say that it CAN BE a skilled craft, whether you're convinced of it or not.

The function of a coffee-server is most often an unskilled position that has more to do with fast food than anything most would consider a craft. However, the craft does exist and is a growing phenomenon that, thanks to new shops like Mid City Caffe, is helping elevate DC's coffee experience beyond the push-button-automatic-grande-skim-vanilla-latte.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow. I'm glad I decided to revisit Mid City Caffe last week. I had not been back since my earlier post but decided to revisit because I did really like the airiness of the space. I resolved to pay a lot for my coffee and not complain.

Well, times have changed at the Mid City Caffe. The prices seem to have been brought in line with other indie shops. They offer a great range of pastries and a variety of bagels, all sourced from great local vendors. In fact the pastries are from Cacao and include yummy looking macaroons.

They added electric outlets so now there is no shortage. The music is really pleasant and so is the staff. It's a great place to spend a few hours, even on a rainy day.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...