America’s Best Coffeehouse National Championship

In February 2013, we sent a team of three of our staff to Coffee Fest New York to compete in the Eastern regional of the America’s Best Coffeehouse competition. After two rounds, our team wound up winning the competition, a cash prize and a spot in National Finals happening this weekend in Portland, OR.

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Our team for this weekend is Jeremy Sterner, Dawn Shanks and Monique Sommer- all longtime members of our Eastern Market staff. They will be competing against some of the best coffeehouses in the country- Klatch Coffee (LA), Ipsento (Chicago), Slate (Seattle), Cafe Grumpy (NY) and Palace Coffee Company (Canyon, TX). The first round of the competition begins this morning and continues tomorrow before the finals on Sunday.

The America’s Best Coffeehouse competition is a team competition as “dueling coffeehouse teams of three employees each will be filling roles such as barista, bar back, and greeter/cashier, who will serve attendees and judges.” (from ABC website) The performance is scored on drink quality, efficiency, cleanliness and customer service and this weekend’s national champion will receive a $10,000 cash prize as well as some intense bragging rights. Wish our team luck!

Staff-Selected Menus

Last winter, we had an opportunity to have our pick of some small Ecuadorian lots Counter Culture Coffee had brought in and used it as an opportunity to have two giant staff cuppings to taste and vote on the coffees that would be served at each of the coffee bars. We were happy to bring our staff together again last week to taste 22 (yes, twenty-two) fantastic coffees and make some tough decisions about which ones to serve our lovely customers.

cupping pic

All shops will also be serving Concepcion Huista (Guatemala) and our espresso coffee will be Sipacapa (Guatemala). Here are the results for the rest:

Eastern Market: Kambarari (Kenya), Elias Benata Sundried (Ethiopia), Finca Mauritania (El Salvador), Olke Birre (Ethiopia)

MidCity: Muso (Kenya), Aleme Wako Sundried (Ethiopia), Olke Birre (Ethiopia), Finca Kilimanjaro (El Salvador)

Union Market: Thiriku Peaberry (Kenya), Aleme Wako Sundried (Ethiopia), Olke Birre (Ethiopia), Los Alpes Peaberry (El Salvador)

These coffees are all available now but many of them are very small lots so don’t wait around long to get your taste.

Happy Six Years!

On August 29, 2008, Peregrine Espresso first opened on Capitol Hill. This year, to celebrate our anniversary, we decided to feature a coffee from one of our former baristas, David Nigel Flynn, at Belleville Brulerie in Paris.

Hunapu, Antigua, Guatemala

Cup= $2.50   Bag= $16

David (pictured below) was one of our opening day baristas and worked for us for just over a year as he finished up college and decided his next move. His next move ended up being to Paris, France, where he continued a part-time coffee job while working at a marketing firm. Eventually, he decided to pursue coffee full-time again and, after stints at two cafes, started Telescope with a friend in spring 2012. After about a year of operation, David decided to start a roasting company and sold his share in Telescope. Belleville Brulerie opened a year ago in Paris and have been roasting some of the finest coffees in the city and growing the Paris specialty coffee scene. We are excited to offer their Antigua Hunapu from Guatemala and are proud of all that David has done in the last five years since moving on from Peregrine. Enjoy this taste of Paris in DC.

Recognize this guy?
DavidFlynnTTlive

 

 

Reflections on Eleven Years in DC Coffee

About a year ago, I realized that I had passed the ten year mark in the DC coffee scene, which caused some reflection and nearly resulted in a blog post titled, “Reflections on Ten Years in DC Coffee” had I not been too busy to sit still and record my thoughts. Now that I have a few minutes to write, I realize that the current appropriate title for this may be, “Why I Love the Current State of DC Coffee.” As the global specialty coffee world has grown, DC has been a unique coffee city in a nation where many of our cities now have companies clawing and fighting with each other to get the most press, attention and daily traffic. Up to now, the upper echelon of DC coffee has been populated by hard-working, passionate and friendly individuals or families, which has created a community that supports one another, cares about the communities we serve and is more focused on creating wonderful coffee than creating profit for investors.

Over the past eleven years, I’ve seen and experienced countless examples of businesses helping one another succeed. When one could say that we should be fierce competitors looking to exploit weaknesses, time after time support and selflessness has won out. Your paper supplier didn’t deliver? Here’s a case of cups. UPS only dropped off half your coffee order? Here’s 20 lbs to get you through. Your pre-opening health inspection is coming up? Here are the pitfalls we ran into. I’ve personally been on both the giving and receiving end of all of these (and so many more) scenarios. We are a community that is full of caring individuals, dedicated to each other’s success rather than hopeful for each other’s failure. We speak well of one another, refer customers to one another and respect and celebrate each other’s strengths.

While not every neighborhood has a first-rate coffee bar yet, I’ve been so happy to witness great cafes sprouting up across our city. It’s apparent that, as a community, we open shops where we live, where we like to hang out or where we find an intriguing community- not necessarily where we can make the most money. Why is downtown DC somewhat underserved at the moment? Its just a theory, but I think its because the high-volume, high-profit locations haven’t been as attractive to DC’s coffee entrepreneurs when they have an opportunity to invest into—and create—communities for a much lower investment and much lower monthly rent but experience a much greater personal reward. Personally, I have a dedication to my staff to ask myself about any potential location, “Would I enjoy working here? If I wasn’t working, is this an area where I would enjoy spending time?” If no, then maybe it isn’t the right fit for Peregrine. Many of the opportunities that we’ve had downtown up to now would’ve been high-profile and high-traffic and probably “great for our brand” but failed this simple test. DC’s neighborhood cafes invest in communities, usually attracting employees from within their neighborhoods, pour money back into other neighborhood businesses and help build communities rather than location portfolios or bank accounts.

The fact that our coffee scene is dominated by passionate coffee people rather than investors or nationally expanding brands keeps these coffee-focused businesses focused on the coffee. We love investing in our employees and training them from scratch to be professional and knowledgeable coffee people. Personally, I love being able to promote staff from within and reward hard work and dedication to our company goals.  The companies that have expanded have done so slowly and organically, usually gauging the existing staffs’ ability to fill new management roles and the owners’ personal capacity to add responsibilities without swallowing up hobbies, family or sanity. Since we all love coffee, we attend, host and support monthly Thursday Night Latte Art Throwdowns, which enjoy great participation and attendance from a wide range of shops. Baristas across the city can be found visiting cafes where they don’t work and actually buying cups of coffee because they want to taste what everyone else is serving and, usually, coffee people love hanging out at coffee shops. We’ve learned together, pushed each other and enjoyed friendly competition without any need to keep secrets or create alliances.

Other cities like New York, LA, San Francisco and others have become battlegrounds for nationally expanding companies like Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, Stumptown and others. Who knows why they’ve largely ignored DC up to now. Do they see DC as a second-tier city? Is DC not quite hip enough? Not quite dense enough? I’m not entirely certain but I’m thankful that we’ve had the time we’ve had to develop a great community of businesses, owners and baristas that support one another, invest in our communities and love serving people lovely coffee. I’m sure this won’t last forever but, up to now, it has been pretty great and I’m grateful for the coffee community we have.

Ryan

USBC, USA Today and Epicurious

The 2014 United States Barista Championship was held April 25-27 in Seattle, Washington. This year, we were proud to send Dawn Shanks as our Peregrine Espresso competitor after she placed 3rd place in the Southeast Regional Barista Competition and earned a place in the US Championship. There were only 36 baristas from across the United States that qualified for the national competition.

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This was Dawn’s first year competing and she did a fantastic job. She served Idido Sundried from Ethiopia roasted by Counter Culture Coffee and her signature drink included Aloe, raspberry and cherry juices. Dawn placed 13th of the 24 baristas in the 1st round (12 baristas had already pre-qualified for the semifinal round) but had a wonderful, professional and inspiring performance.

Union Market Shop Manager Travis Beckett (still the only DC resident to ever make USBC Finals) volunteered as a judge for the first two rounds of the USBC and Eastern Market barista Ben Blake cartooned (Sprudge link here) and was knocked out in the first round of the US Aeropress Championship. Seattle offered up wonderful food, coffee and friends as always.

Recently, we were featured in a couple of articles that didn’t get blogged about:

USA Today: USA Today did a feature titled 10 Best Coffeehouses Across the USA and included us. Find the link here.

Epicurious: Epicurious.com compiled a list of America’s 25 Best Coffee Shops and we were honored to be included there as well. Click the link for that one here.

Both of these lists feature some of our nations best and most progressive coffee companies that we are always excited to be mentioned alongside.

The Daily Meal and Washington City Paper

Two recent media mentions to cover:

Yesterday, The Daily Meal revealed its annual list of America’s 50 Best Coffee Shops as chosen by their esteemed panel. Last year, we ranked #14 on their list and this year, we were bumped up to #5! While all these lists can be pretty subjective, we are honored at the mention. Also, if you’ve ever wondered where to drink coffee when traveling around the US, this list is definitely worth consulting.

WUSA9 visited and here is the footage: click

Last week was the annual Washington City Paper Best Of issue. We’ve been voted in the top three for Best Coffee Shop in each of the past four years and were voted #1 in 2013. This year, City Paper readers voted us #3 Best Neighborhood Coffee Shop behind longtime favorite, Tryst, and newish neighborhood shop, The Coffee Bar. Thanks for the love, DC!

New Menus- Barista’s Choice

Since opening our second shop on 14th St NW in 2011, we’ve pretty much had the same menu at each of our shops at any given moment. You like that Finca Mauritania at our Eastern Market shop? Odds are pretty good that it is on the menu at the other two. We consider the options available to us from our good friends at Counter Culture and then generally decide on a company-wide menu.

This month, we tried something different. Two weeks ago, we ordered 18 different coffees, held two giant cuppings and let the baristas from each shop decide on the menu they’ll be serving. On the table were seven small lots from Ecuador, as well as one or more coffees from Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, Bolovia, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Papua New Guinea. Essentially, these are the best coffees available during this season of the year.

The coffees were cupped blind, votes were submitted and the results will be rolled out at the shops in the next couple of days. There were a couple of company-wide favorites (Mpemba and Los Alpes) but also a number of coffees that will only be available at one of the shops so feel free to travel about the city and taste them all. (There are also two coffees at Eastern Market that can’t be found anywhere else as we’ve secured the entire lot.)

Eastern Market:
Remera, Rwanda
Mpemba, Burundi
Bertha Dolores Ruiz Castillo, Ecuador (Peregrine exclusive)
Robert Antonio Jarmarillo Camacho, Ecuador (Peregrine exclusive)
Finca Los Alpes, El Salvador

MidCity:
Baroida, PNG
Mpemba, Burundi
Nueva Llusta, Bolivia
Segundo Benjamin Ruiz, Ecuador
Finca Los Alpes, El Salvador

Union Market:
Remera, Rwanda
Tsheya, DRC
Tairora, PNG,
Mpemba, Burundi
Finca Los Alpes, El Salvador