bar hopping, visiting friends, the Verizon Center, or the Goethe Institut (to learn German). In the heart of Chinatown, lives a Starbucks bustling with people on laptops staring out on the Friendship Gate. I feel like a traitor to my fellow coffee lovers when I buy something there because of the convenience factor. Today, I demanded of myself to search for a new coffee shop, and found Chinatown Coffee Company located on the outskirts of Chinatown at 475 H St NW. For all the non-metro area readers, DC's Chinatown is approximately 2x2 blocks. Not that big. Before I hopped on the bus into DC, I quickly looked over their website, and was pretty excited. Before my impressions, one can read the history of how Chinatown Coffee Co. came to be. Sorry for all the links, but I want to give everyone an education about Chinatown and their coffee!
Atmosphere: When first walking in, one realizes how long or deep the cafe is. What it lacks in width, there is plenty of room along the walls for seating. I peered in and the comfy industrial feel welcomed me in (Is that possible?) with wooden benches and tables spaced throughout the store. Old-school funk played in the background with noise rarely rising above a loud quiet. I visited off hours so it could differ from the morning and lunch rush. Most people were chatting, and a few laptops were out, but the majority seemed engaged in conversation. Seating was ample for a DC cafe, but during the rush it might be hard to find. The temperature was surprisingly pleasant. It wasn't frigid, but comfortable as to not cool off the warm coffee drinks (or at least I think so). A sweater is not needed to spend an hour or two there.
Service: They take their coffee very seriously! If one wants a humorous story, please go back and read the article I linked to about the dreaded triple espresso over ice. Ordering my coffee drinks, I asked a few questions about what coffee they used in their espresso, (Intelligentsia's Black Cat), and what their favorite drinks were. One barista followed up after I finished my coffee to ask how it was. Overall, the baristas offered quality service and personableness for my first visit.
Coffee: Looking through their menu, they have one for to-go and one for staying. You can get your typical espresso-based drinks, but they offer French press, pour over, and free leaf tea in a tea pot. So if you don't want espresso or drip coffee, there are other coffee and non-coffee-options. I ordered a single espresso and macchiato. In a few minutes, I picked them up on the counter in stylish black and white cups matching the industrial design to the cafe. My macchiato was very good. I could discern the strong espresso through the milk with neither the milk or espresso overpowering each other. The single espresso was a classic 1oz affair, so it may be better to order a double knowing that you wont get a 4oz espresso monstrosity. It tasted quite bright with many flavors coming through, namely a syrupy taste, yet lacked a substantive body to it. That could be due to it being a single rather than a double, but my palette isn't necessarily the sharpest. The Intelligentsia Black Cat has a bold flavor packing a really strong taste. Next time, I drink espresso there, I will get a different blend or bean, if possible.
Price: Here is the link for the menu. 2.00 for a single espresso without tax seems expensive, but Chinatown Coffee's baristas know what they are doing, so one is paying for the the extra experience and knowledge (perhaps). They also sell organic bananas for a dollar. Sorry, I thought that was interesting for some reason.
Free Wifi: Yes!
Conclusions: Talking with a friend who works in the area, he loved Chinatown Coffee Co., especially the tea. Looking over the Yelp reviews and knowing how fickle their reviewers are, I can't help but feel a special cafe lives in Chinatown. With that said, you will have to deal with their coffee policies, and an elevated price. I will certainly be headed back to try out the various coffee blends, beans, and concoctions passing by the Starbucks in the heart of Chinatown. And you should too!
Did I miss any aspect in my coffee house review? Please tweet me at Metroespresso, or leave a comment below. I want to thank all my readers for following and commenting on Metro Espresso making this blog fun and enjoyable. I do this because it gives me something to do, and an excuse to chat about coffee.