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Kaldi's Coffee Bar, Tsega Hailemariam's Impressive Modern New Shop at 918 Silver Spring Ave in Silver Spring

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The new Kaldi's Coffee in Silver Spring is one of the more significant new shops to open in the DC area in at least a year.  I knew this shop was coming and expected it to be smaller scale; maybe something like the much-loved and quirky Kefa Cafe, which has always been my go-to in Silver Spring.

Wow!  I was pretty floored when I made it to Kaldi's, which opened about a month ago, today.

It's huge with generous seating for about 30 in heavy, interesting, dark wood chairs and comfy modern sofas. It's bright, airy and spacious.  And, one of the first things that catches your interest right upon entering is the display case with many different kinds of baked goods which"¦sit down for this"¦look like they were made by someone in-house who actually knows how to bake! You almost never see that in a better coffee shop.

So, where to begin?

The shop's owner, Tsega Hailemariam, is Ethiopian and a very nice guy.  I wasn't able to talk with him much today but did meet him. His passion for creating a great coffee shop experience is pretty evident.

The baked goods are made by another gentleman who was pointed out to me but whom I didn't meet. I was told by the woman operating the register that he was the baker and "trained in France." The various cakes, cinnamon buns, croissants, danishes, tarts, muffins, pastries and cookies sure seemed reflective of professional training.  I tried some banana bread offered in samples and then just got a blueberry muffin.  Both excellent. The banana bread had virtually nothing in common with the awful sugar loaf posing as the same product on offer in Starbucks.

The Coffee.  Tim Carman beat me to Kaldi's by two days and devoted most of his writeup to the very novel brewing system (called a "SteamPunk") used here for fresh brewing.  When Tim was in, the system wasn't yet operating but today it was so I ordered my Bolivian that way. The system uses filters as part of an automated and pressurized pourover system cum vacuum siphon but they didn't yet have the filters in stock this morning.  Still, encouraged by the barista that it would produce a cup bascially like a "clean french press" I took a chance on it. To be honest, it was a bit disappointingly weak but I didn't have time to request a re-do as I normally would. We also got an espresso shot which was excellent.  I expect that the fresh-brewed SteamPunk coffee here will be excellent once it's fully equipped and all staff fully trained. I have seen higher-tech systems like this on the west coast in Portland (OR) and SFO but Tsega may be right that it's the only shop with it on the east coast.  I love new brewing technology as much as the next coffee hound but it's secondary to the coffee's taste, body and aroma.  I'd like to see Kaldi's deploy a couple of hario/chemex or traditional hand pour units until the steampunk is producing drinks worthy of the shop.

Kaldi's uses CounterCulture though I'm not sure whether this is the usual exclusive deal since I wasn't able to talk with Tsega for long.  I always prefer a mix of roasters in a higher end shop (same as valuing different winemakers/vineyards on the wine list in a restaurant imho) but I also understand the attractive economics that drive some better shops to strike exclusive deals and CounterCulture is a quality roaster. And, of course, shops that roast themselves (like Qualia and Caffe Amouri in Vienna) are an exception to that rule since you don't expect them to bring in directly competing beans.

Finally, for those that care most about the venue (and for Cheezepowder's list ;)), there is free wifi, the seating as already mentioned and soft background music making conversation easy.

It's not on the main drag in Silver Spring but I suspect this shop will become a bit of a destination for coffee lovers and great shop lovers and do fine.

Very cool and impressive shop that looks promising.  I'll be back soon and try to fill in a few more blanks about Kaldi's and to more properly test drive that steampunk system since, for me, it is mostly about the coffee. Maybe some others will add their views here.

Welcome to the growing great DC coffee scene, Kaldi's! It's great you're here.

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Thanks darkstar.  you give great coffee shop reviews.   I'm a fan of coffee shops including the everywhere you turn starbucks and do eat their banana bread loaf.  Now I'd like to get over to Silver Spring and try this new treat!!!!

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