Thinking about Washington, D.C., politics, transiency, and a high crime rate have generally been the things that come to mind, but the US capitol is slowly growing into its identity as a high-flying food and drink hub. Flagship restaurants from top chefs, pockets of breweries, and brand new cafes are shifting the debate away from whether or not good food & drink can be found, and more towards the internal debate of “who’s doing it better?”—and better yet, “who's doing it better with great coffee, too?” Stepping right into the middle of that debate is Cory Andreen, with an exciting new coffee service at Mockingbird Hill, a “sherry and ham bar” in DC's Shaw neighborhood.
Mr. Andreen is a stylish man, an occasional Sprudge contributor, and winner of the 2012 World Cup Taster’s Championship. Though he's spent the last few years running Cafe CK in Berlin, Germany. Mr. Andreen is originally from the DC area. His new cafe is a collaboration with Derek Brown and the folks at Mockingbird Hill, and aims to bring a slowed-down coffee service to their bar featuring top roasters from around the world.
While it’s no secret that the coffee scene in DC has been steadily growing for a few years now, the city now seems ready to explode into the abundance of its coffee-friendly siblings up the coast. Mainstays like Peregrine Espresso, Filter, Tryst, Blind Dog, and M.E. Swings have set the stage for others to open their doors over the last few years, including a Counter Culture Coffee Training Center, The Coffee Bar, La Mano, and a La Colombe–as well as the presence of Madcap Coffee at cafes in the area. The increasing onslaught of coffee services around the city is both exciting and telling of the fact that DC is ready for even more, and Mockingbird Hill aims to deliver just that.
Andreen’s concept for the coffee service at Mockingbird Hill is unique for the DC area in that it isn’t a cafe. Rather than taking a standard approach, Andreen is using the reputation and layout of the sherry bar at Mockingbird Hill to create something intimate and new—a service-oriented approach that focuses on presenting the inherent characteristics of high-end coffees in a unique coffee experience.
Mockingbird Hill has an ambitious and exciting global coffee menu, with a rotating selection of 10-15 coffees from reputable roasters like Norway's Tim Wendleboe, Denmark's Coffee Collective, Portland, Oregon's Heart, and Berlin's Five Elephant, with plans to add Workshop and others into the mix in the near future.
For now, Andreen says that all pourover coffees will be prepared on black steel Hario V60’s and served in a whiskey tumbler alongside a small glass decanter, while iced coffee will be brewed over ice and served on tap from a keg. Mockingbird Hill’s unique (non-alcoholic) “mixed coffee drink” selections will include things like the “Cola” (Coffee Collective’s Kenya Kieni, soda water, bitters, and sugar), an Addis Tonic (Ethiopia Chelelektu and tonic over a block of ice), and a “White Colombian” that falls somewhere in between a “Caffe al freddo” and a White Russian.
Andreen will also offer tasting flights of coffees brewed with the Espro Press and served in stemless wine glasses. While most everything at Mockingbird Hill's coffee bar is intended to be consumed on-site, Andreen's brewing up different batches of large format coffee each day as well as iced coffee for to-go options, at approachable price points (and served in Happy Cups). In a move currently to trend in North America, cream and sugar will be available on request, but only to be added by the barista. By design, Mockingbird Hill features no espresso machine, with all the focus on Andreen's filter-brew creativity.
You can also expect no visible menu, and no line. The idea is to sidle up to the bar, place a drink order, and sit comfortably as a barista makes drinks and serves them to be consumed on site in glassware. According to Andreen, the concept was designed to intentionally pull customers out of their rituals and traditions, and cause them to stop and think about what they’re drinking. The glassware and bar creates a mental pause for the guest, if only for a second. It's meant to help change the culture of the city, to get District dwellers to slow down and think about their beverages.
There’s no doubt that Mockingbird Hill faces a daunting goal, and culture change doesn’t come easy; indeed, it is more often a lofty, tedious, and often unrewarding task. Thankfully, Andreen and Co. aren’t alone—they’re be working alongside an already outstanding DC coffee scene that has laid the framework for what Mockingbird Hill hopes to accomplish.
Mockingbird Hill‘s coffee bar opens for full service on May 21st at 1843 7th St NW, in Washington, DC, ending nightly as coffee transitions over to the Sherry Bar at 5 pm.
Ben Blake is Sprudge.com's staff cartoonist and contributor based in Washington DC. He draws frequently at DrawCoffee.com.