Jump to content

Kefa Cafe, Lene and Abeba Tsegaye's Coffee House in Silver Spring Featuring Space 7:10 Art House

Recommended Posts

Driving home this evening, I spied a place just off Georgia Ave in Silver Spring on Bonifant called Gelato! (Yes, the exlamation point is part of the name)

I've either been napping every time we pass by this place, or it is relatively new. Not even sure if it's open yet--anyone know anything about it? Good, bad, indifferent?

Feel free to add to the list other places that you've spotted and may be wondering about...

Edited by DonRocks
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is Kefa Cafe that has the big gelato sign. haven't been there in years and never tried the gelato, but there usually seems to be a small growd outside. We usual flock to Moorenko down the street instead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kefa Cafe is one of my favorite coffeehouses in the DC area. The owners are wonderful, and the sense of community here is palpable. One sip of the Cafe Breve ($3.05 for a large) reminded me that this is a perfect place to pick up some Ethiopian Harrar coffee beans. I was recently talking with Doug Rosen of Arrowine about my newfound romance with Ethiopian Harrar. "Enjoy it while you can, and don't get used to it," he told me. "The current crop of Ethiopian Harrar is the coffee equivalent of the 1982 Bordeaux Vintage."

Ethiopian Harrar beans have been fantastic in recent months, and I drink it every chance I can.

Please click here to read details about Kefa Cafe's canned food drive taking place this Saturday, September 26th. If you have cans of food just sitting in your pantry, why not give them to people who really need them?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is the second time in a month I've been surprised and delighted to find that a topic already existed for a spot that I thought surely must have escaped attention by donrockwell members. So plus a point for that and minus a point only that this place doesn't appear in the Dining Guide for Silver Spring; though that may be because the last post was 2.5 years ago and we've been more enthusiastic about highlighting coffee spots more recently (or that's one theory anyway).

I LOVED discovering Kefa Cafe earlier this week. I was in Silver Spring, a neighborhood I don't know very well but one about which I've always held a somewhat indifferent though very uninformed view. Walking around just a bit on a sunny day made me see past the 70s architecture, congested traffic and waves of retail chains. Three spots, all first time visits for me, made me better appreciate this 'hood. One is probably a candidate for that other "oldest restaurant in the area" topic or whatever it's called. Another was a first visit to a spot that everyone else already knows and mostly love. But, the biggest factor that changed my mind about Silver Spring was, without a doubt, Kefa Cafe.

I'm old enough to remember when authentic was just an adjective without ulterior motives. Now, it's primary color on the palette of any would-be food writer. Nevertheless, that was the word that sprang into my brain within 5 minutes after entering. Kefa is a real--and very good--experience as few are, even among all my favorite coffee spots in the District.

Maybe Mayorga and Quartermaine are of similar or even older vintage than Kefa, founded in 1996. But, the former feels as if has totally sold out. And the latter is coasting.

Anyway, getting to point, I really loved my 20 minutes at Kefa because:

- The amazingly sincere enthusiasm and hospitality were unlike anything I can remember on recent visits to food and drink service establishments anywhere. It reminded me of traveling the local roads of New Zealand except this was a small coffee shop in downtown Silver Spring and the hostesses weren't kind Kiwi sheep ranchers but, rather, Ethiopian sisters. All it took was for me to show a bit of interest in their coffee and Lene Tsegaye couldn't repress her smile, explaining everything about the small local roasters supplying her beans currently, the Ceremony policy she loves that prohibits shops from putting any kind of foreign syrup in the coffee and on and on. Because I ordered a macchiato, she insisted on bringing out a comp'ed espresso so I could fully appreciate why she was excited about it (I did).

- A venue that makes you smile just by looking around. The shop is colorful, bright and cute but also with enough room for maybe 6 or 7 tables in the main room and a few more in a small side room. Next to the self-serve refrigerator left of the registers are hundreds of photos of family, friends and locals. Menus are colorful, hand-written and hanging over the cases, counters and coffee bar across the back of the shop. In a corner, next to a window looking out to the sidewalk on Bonifant, is a book case with books donated by customers. Take a book. Leave a book. Just a few newspaper clippings about the shop's history with more about prominent and less prominent members of the community. And, the several letters from customers posted in the front window might bring some to tears. Writers young and old proclaiming how much they love Kefa and how it enriches their lives and community. Those are unlike and solicited testimonials--online or off--most commonly found today. Those letter come from genuine hearts. Lots of other examples about support Kefa has provided to local community groups, sports teams and the like.

- Varied but high-quality products with a clear emphasis on and passion for coffee. We all know places that try to ride a nostalgia horse without doing right by the product. They let things slide , put out mediocre whatever and generally expect customers to pay for what they were versus what they are. Not Kefa. Lene and her sister Abeba care about coffee. When I was in, they had beans from Orinoco and Nagadi. I'd never heard of either and loved Kefa even more as Lene explained:

* Nagadi is a specialty, Silver Spring based, roaster that distributes directly or through four MoCo locations. For coffee buffs like me, their website is a lot of fun to spend some time exploring.

* Orinoco is a four-generation, family-owned roaster HQed in Columbia. Also with a cool, content-rich website.

Beyond the whole bean coffee for sale, Lene explained that she likes Ceremony (the old Annapolis-based Caffe Pronto brand) and also appreciates the quality and investment that Counter Culture has made in our area. My macchiato, made with Ceremony, was excellent. And, the single shot Lene gave me was surprisingly good; a different Ceremony espresso blend from others I've had at spots like Filter in Dupont or Society Fair in Alexandria. The Tsegaye family cares about good coffee as much as they care about supporting local operators.

Finally, in addition to all things coffee, Kefa also offers a menu of interesting-sounding sandwiches and ice cream but I didn't try any of those.

This is a warm, wonderful family business where they really do make you feel like family. I was a first timer and Lene couldn't have been more interested in me, what coffees I know and like, etc. Others who came in while I was enjoying my espresso and reading the walls got hugs and questions about their families, etc. Lene knew nearly all of their names.

WaPo called it "quirky, welcoming and multi-cultural" in 2005. That's it in spades though WaPo didn't hit the great-coffee part of the story since that article was more about gentrification. Kefa's a local treasure. it's incredibly encouraging a shop like this perseveres and seemingly thrives despite the threat from coffee chains written about nearly ten years ago. Long live Kefa Cafe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kefa Café will leave its location in the Silver Spring Library and open a café in the new Wheaton Library, while Bump ’n Grind will take over the Silver Spring spot. “We have been honored for the past five years to operate the coffee shop located on the grounds of the Silver Spring Library,” said Kefa’s co-owner Lene Tsegay in a statement, “and we are proud to have established a precedent for creating a welcoming and supportive community space for library customers.”


  • Like 1
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
  • Create New...