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Nine Hot Spots for Coffee Tastings

Where to explore the complexities of the bean

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With plenty of new coffee roasters and independent coffee shops in town, coffee tastings are becoming more popular than ever.

And much like tasting beers at a brewery, tasting coffee at a shop gives its drinkers the opportunity to both taste and contrast a number of different coffees, and to try ones that have been brewed with consistent and proper technique.

Most coffee shops utilize the pour-over method for tastings, as it is one of the easiest brewing methods to use for a number of coffees and typically provides the most balance. Some coffee shops may use the term "cupping" to refer to tasting. But Joel Finkelstein, owner and main roaster at Qualia Coffee, notes a difference in this terminology. "Cuppings are a coffee industry standard method for assessing coffee (not necessarily for enjoying it). It requires a very precise brewing and sampling technique that is not readily accessible to the person off the street. In contrast, a tasting simply presents an opportunity for the public to try several different coffees side-by-side."

For cuppings, Finkelstein notes, the coffee is slurped from a spoon to help distribute the coffee all over the mouth. This same technique can be used for tastings, in which coffee is swished around the mouth in a way similar to wine tasting. "The flavors of the coffee change as it cools, so we usually urge folks to take small sips as the coffee cools," Finkelstein explains.

More cupping options in the area are on the way: Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters in Arlington plans to host them starting in January. La Colombe also periodically hosts public cupping events at its various location, though no dates were immediately available.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Counter Culture Coffee

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3504 13th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
Durham-based Counter Culture has a number of training centers around the country to teach its vendors and other dedicated coffee lovers all the mechanics of making coffee. Though the roaster doesn't have a shop, the general public can join in for free tastings of three different coffees each week.
When: Fridays, 10 a.m.

2. M. E. Swings Coffee Roaster - Del Ray

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501 E Monroe Ave, Alexandria
VA, 22301
(703) 370-5050
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ME Swing is the grand dame of coffee in D.C. It upgraded and moved to larger digs in Del Ray to expand its business. Each week, the tastings focus on coffees from a single country, enabling tasters to gain a deeper understanding of the beans and terroir for that particular area.
When: Fridays, 10 a.m.

3. Qualia Coffee

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3917 Georgia Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20011
(202) 248-6423
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Qualia Coffee's Joel Finkelstein leads tasters through a selection of three single-origin coffees. Finkelstein's intimate knowledge of the beans and the process he went through to roast them makes for an informational tasting session.
When: 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month; 2 p.m.

4. Slipstream

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1333 14th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20005
While not offering tasting classes, a flight of three different single-origin coffees roasted by Madcap can be ordered, as well a sample of three styles – drip coffee, espresso, and macchiato (espresso with a touch of milk).

5. Vigilante Coffee Company Roastery

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4327 Gallatin St
Hyattsville, MD 20781
For a cupping experience, Vigilante Coffee reserve a spot and stop by the roastery at 1 p.m. on Fridays. Additional classes on coffee, espresso, brewing, latte art, and iced coffee are offered occasionally.
Owner Chris Vigilante distributes a form during his cuppings that asks tasters to evaluate coffee on the following criteria: fragrance, aroma, flavor, aftertaste, body, acidity, and balance. These help not only guide them, but help them understand what to look for in specialty coffee. When: Fridays, 1 p.m.

6. Zeke's Coffee of DC

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2300 Rhode Island NE
Washington, D.C. 20018
(202) 733-2646
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The Baltimore-based roaster expanded its presence into D.C. with a second roastery. They schedule periodic public events are ultra-specialty, rare and unusual coffees. The next scheduled event is for January 9, featuring coffees from Dominican Republic, Cuba, Java, and the Galapagos.
When: Approximately monthly, check website for events

7. Ceremony Coffee

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1228 31st St NW
Washington, D.C. 20007
Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee, hosts a tasting each week at their Georgetown-based workshop. They also offers courses on making espresso, latte art, and machine maintenance that are intended primarily for wholesale partners, but are also available to the general public.
When: Thursday, 11 a.m.

8. Rare Bird Coffee Roasters

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230 W Broad St
Falls Church, VA 22046
One of the area's newest roasters, Rare Bird Coffee Roasters in Falls Church, does not have regularly scheduled coffee tastings. However, it does try to host tastings approximately once a month. Check their Facebook for tasting events.

9. Songbyrd Record Cafe

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2477 18th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 450-2917
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Songbyrd offers a Swings Coffee cupping the first Friday of each month from 10am to noon. Those who can't make those hours can request a personalized tasting. When: Friday, 10 a.m.

1. Counter Culture Coffee

3504 13th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
Durham-based Counter Culture has a number of training centers around the country to teach its vendors and other dedicated coffee lovers all the mechanics of making coffee. Though the roaster doesn't have a shop, the general public can join in for free tastings of three different coffees each week.
When: Fridays, 10 a.m.
3504 13th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

2. M. E. Swings Coffee Roaster - Del Ray

501 E Monroe Ave, Alexandria, VA, 22301
ME Swing is the grand dame of coffee in D.C. It upgraded and moved to larger digs in Del Ray to expand its business. Each week, the tastings focus on coffees from a single country, enabling tasters to gain a deeper understanding of the beans and terroir for that particular area.
When: Fridays, 10 a.m.
501 E Monroe Ave, Alexandria
VA, 22301

3. Qualia Coffee

3917 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20011
Qualia Coffee's Joel Finkelstein leads tasters through a selection of three single-origin coffees. Finkelstein's intimate knowledge of the beans and the process he went through to roast them makes for an informational tasting session.
When: 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month; 2 p.m.
3917 Georgia Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20011

4. Slipstream

1333 14th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20005
While not offering tasting classes, a flight of three different single-origin coffees roasted by Madcap can be ordered, as well a sample of three styles – drip coffee, espresso, and macchiato (espresso with a touch of milk).
1333 14th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20005

5. Vigilante Coffee Company Roastery

4327 Gallatin St, Hyattsville, MD 20781
For a cupping experience, Vigilante Coffee reserve a spot and stop by the roastery at 1 p.m. on Fridays. Additional classes on coffee, espresso, brewing, latte art, and iced coffee are offered occasionally.
Owner Chris Vigilante distributes a form during his cuppings that asks tasters to evaluate coffee on the following criteria: fragrance, aroma, flavor, aftertaste, body, acidity, and balance. These help not only guide them, but help them understand what to look for in specialty coffee. When: Fridays, 1 p.m.
4327 Gallatin St
Hyattsville, MD 20781

6. Zeke's Coffee of DC

2300 Rhode Island NE, Washington, D.C. 20018
The Baltimore-based roaster expanded its presence into D.C. with a second roastery. They schedule periodic public events are ultra-specialty, rare and unusual coffees. The next scheduled event is for January 9, featuring coffees from Dominican Republic, Cuba, Java, and the Galapagos.
When: Approximately monthly, check website for events
2300 Rhode Island NE
Washington, D.C. 20018

7. Ceremony Coffee

1228 31st St NW, Washington, D.C. 20007
Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee, hosts a tasting each week at their Georgetown-based workshop. They also offers courses on making espresso, latte art, and machine maintenance that are intended primarily for wholesale partners, but are also available to the general public.
When: Thursday, 11 a.m.
1228 31st St NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

8. Rare Bird Coffee Roasters

230 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046
One of the area's newest roasters, Rare Bird Coffee Roasters in Falls Church, does not have regularly scheduled coffee tastings. However, it does try to host tastings approximately once a month. Check their Facebook for tasting events.
230 W Broad St
Falls Church, VA 22046

9. Songbyrd Record Cafe

2477 18th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
Songbyrd offers a Swings Coffee cupping the first Friday of each month from 10am to noon. Those who can't make those hours can request a personalized tasting. When: Friday, 10 a.m.
2477 18th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20009

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