emissary washington dc counter culture coffee build-outs of summer cafe sprudge

In this crazy coffee world of ours, there’s a new story to tell every single day. Take your mind’s eye to the American capital, Washington DC, where a coffee pro with experience in Scandinavia has been tasked with turning former karaoke bar in DuPont Circle into a European-inspired specialty coffee hub. The space is just walking distance from a cluster of international embassies. Its name? Emissary Coffee.

As told to Sprudge by Reggie Elliott of Emissary. 

For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?

I was approached a little over a year ago by my employers to help them flesh out the concept they had in mind to turn a former karaoke bar into a European-influenced cafe. Coincidentally, frequent Sprudge contributor Dawn Shanks actually was the one who arranged our meeting. In talking to the ownership team early on it was pretty obvious that there was an overlap of what we felt a cafe should be due to my experience of working in cafes in Gothenburg and Stockholm, Sweden and their experiences visiting cafes in Europe.

emissary washington dc counter culture coffee build-outs of summer cafe sprudge

Can you tell us a bit about the new space?

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Located near DuPont Circle and surrounded by many of the embassies here in Washington DC, which is where Emissary takes its name. It sits on a major conduit between the popular areas of DuPont Circle and Georgetown. As mentioned above the space used to be occupied by a once popular, but more than a little shady, karaoke bar that suddenly closed down a few years back, one can imagine why. Emissary hopes to cleanse the space of that aura and shares the space with its upstairs neighbor and sister company DuPont Circle Yoga but isn’t necessarily a “health cafe.” We really hope to live up to our name by giving those visiting the city a literal “taste” of DC by trying to use as many local, or regional, products as possible. That includes a cocktail and beer program featuring only spirits and beers produced in the Mid-Atlantic region, the first program of its kind in the area.

What’s your approach to coffee?

Our approach to coffee is that we want to appeal to the coffee nerd without catering to them and more importantly we want to be approachable by the average coffee drinker, just looking for a pick-me-up. But more than anything, hospitality and service are what we are focusing on. I’ve got nearly a decade of working in cafes here and in Sweden so we can’t help but be nerdy about it! But at the same time, we’re very conscious of the stigma of the “hipster barista” that still lingers over the industry. So our approach to coffee is that we love the coffees we’re serving (thanks, Counter Culture Coffee!) and we want to share it with everyone here in the community. There is a branch of a certain major coffee chain that shall remain nameless directly across the street from us so we feel if that’s what people want then they are more than welcome to get that product over there. We also feel that once people step inside Emissary—and if we’re doing our job correctly—then they should instantly be able to see the difference between our product and theirs.

emissary washington dc counter culture coffee build-outs of summer cafe sprudge

Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?

We’ll be pulling shots on a three-group La Marzocco GB5, we’ve got a lovely white Mahlkönig EK 43 that we’ll use for batch brew, decaf, and decaf espresso drinks while a Nuova Simonelli Mythos Clima-Pro is our primary espresso grinder. We will also offer by-the-cup options brewed via Yama Hermiston brewers sitting atop Acaia scales. And all of our beans, training, and equipment comes via the ever-dependable Counter Culture. I started at Murky Coffee nine years ago so when it came time to choose a coffee provider, Counter Culture was the obvious choice. Even if they’re based in North Carolina, no roaster has had a larger impact on DC’s rapidly growing specialty coffee scene than Counter Culture. That doesn’t even take into account their dedication to sustainable sourcing and their focus on training and education. It was a no-brainer.

emissary washington dc counter culture coffee build-outs of summer cafe sprudge

What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?

August is where things kick into full steam… pun intended.

Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?

The bar was designed in house, actually, and build by Streamline Construction LLC.

Emissary is located at 2032 P Street Northwest, Washington, DC. Visit their official website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Photos courtesy of Reggie Elliott.

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