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Coffy Cafe, 14th St NW Columbia Heights - Felicia Harris' Community Coffee Shop

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On other coffee threads, we've been talking about preferences and criteria one might use to assess or "vett" a coffee shop. Personally, I overweight coffee quality relative to pastries or food on offer, comfortable seating, free wifi or whatever. But that doesn't mean I don't care about those other things. I do. I imagine we all do to some extent.

Coffy Cafe, which I checked out for the first time this weekend, helped me to refine how I think about this. Cutting to the chase, there's a minimum quality bar that, if not surpassed, I won't return a second time to a shop. That bar, for the most part, is just about having some decent beans from which coffee is brewed with extra points for all the other stuff (well trained baristas using good equipment, onsite roasting, yada, yada).


A coffee shop with heart, soul, a real sense of community and some good joe


Felicia Harris (who I didn't have the privilege of meeting when I was in) is behind Coffy Cafe. This Columbia Heights blog post is one of the better sources of background that I could find but the key things are that she founded this place with a primary focus on community, reflective of her upbringing and tastes, while also providing some good quality food and drink.


Coffy Cafe is pretty large with lower and upper levels. It has lots of comfortable seating (Ms. Harris told the blogger is was about 'bringing her living room to the community') that is, in part, retro 60s and 70s, colorful and reminded me some of Snooze, the Colorado breakfast spot I like. Wingback, Wassily and other funky chairs, mis-matched leather sofas and plenty of tables for cups, laptops and ipads. It's very bright thanks to the windows and lots of different lamps and lightling. As much as any other description, Coffy Cafe is just very comfortable. The place screams community as soon as you enter; a great thing IMHO as it's sometimes hard to find spots that offer very good coffee and a great comfortable place to find a seat, read or work. This is that.

There's a big Marzocco espresso machine behind the counter along with a 3 or 4 station pourover rack and some large crepe flats.


Right now, Coffy Cafe is exclusively using Ceremony and that's a good thing. While currently no onsite roasting or choice of roasters, Ceremony is local (Annapolis) and a quality producer. According to Coffy's website, they may bring in other roasters over time. Ceremony recently won the national brewers championship and their beans are carried by Filter, Dolcezza and the Armstrongs' EatGoodFood Group (Restaurant Eve, Society Fair, etc), among many others. I think they're also the only local roaster to go regional and now national. I saw them in some better shops in Portland (OR) recently. Full slate of espresso drinks, drip coffee from pitchers or pour overs. I ordered an "Antithesis" pour over and really enjoyed it. Perfectly brewed, medium roast with all the notes easily discernable.


Evidently, the owner was formerly a teacher in a DC charter school and was raised in a military family. The barista who served me, Michael, couldn't have been nicer. Ex Army and really passionate and knowledgeable about coffee. I was pretty hooked before even getting my cup.


The other central thing on offer are crepes. I didn't try these but they looked good and there are several different kinds, sweet and savory, from which to choose. Also some other pastries and more typical coffee shop fare.


Pricing is all reasonable. People are wonderful. Close to metro right in the middle of Columbia Heights. Good coffee made by people who know what they're doing and are friendly and welcoming. Lots of seating, plenty of light. What's not to like? This is the kind of place that should make anyone happy just by virtue of its existence. Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks as we know it, wrote in his book "Pour Your Heart Into It" about creating a "3rd place" when he first set out to introduce premium coffee shops to America. Starbucks long ago lost any claim to that distinctive role in communities, giving way to the independents like Coffy Cafe. May it enjoy a long and very successful run as a cherished member of the Columbia Heights and DC communities.

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I used to get coffee here every Saturday morning. It was good, not amazing. Some staff better than others. And it was yet another place where when I asked for 2% milk in my latte, so often I would get "We have whole and skim." Or sometimes, I would just end up with skim in my coffee, because the person didn't know what 2% is. Having to explain that I wanted half whole and half skim was often too much for them. Also generally had to ask for it to be made extra hot. Eventually, they would learn. Then they would leave and it would start all over with the new person.

But it was good coffee, and very convenient to my Saturday morning grocery routine (Giant and farm market).

Well, they have not been opening until 11 AM. So, that didn't work. I get coffee early. Before lunch. I hear now they will be opening at 10 AM. Still not quite early enough. I'm watching to see when breakfast hours come back! 

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