A couple of years ago I decided to rank the DC coffee shops, since I’d been to pretty much all of them. It turns out there was something of a demand for this, because it’s held up as one of my more well-trafficked posts (it’s the #1 Google result for “DC coffee shop reviews”). However, the coffeehouse offerings in DC have changed considerably since then, and so I feel like I owe the internet gods an updated version. I also feel like I should make the ranking a little less arbitrary this time — but how?
Here are a few changes I’ve considered:
-Using categories and weights in the rating, e.g. coffee quality, ambiance, accessibility. Sociability? Crowdedness? This will invariably be at least somewhat subjective, but no way around that. For example, I will almost certainly (a) include some measure of internet friendliness and (b) rate coffee shops more highly for being net-friendly even though some people think this is a negative, because it’s my rating and I heart laptop access. I’m torn about whether food service is a pro or a con — thoughts?
-Some minimum threshold to get on the list. I’m toying with at least three criteria: (1) it can’t be a multi-city chain (disqualifying Starbucks, Caribou, Au Bon Pain, and Cosi, off the top of my head), (2) it has to be making at least a minimal effort to attract customers who hang out for a while (sorry, kiosks), and (3) it has to exert more effort in coffee preparation than the local gas station (100% machine preparation + styrofoam cup = FAIL). Should I hold to a higher standard — a Starbucks-quality threshold, for example?
-In addition to my authoritarian personal rating (editor’s prerogative, of course) having some sort of feature where visitors can rank order the coffeehouses on their own, perhaps even being able to do queries. Note that this depends heavily on whether I find rating technology I like.
I’ve already begun to revisit the surviving coffeehouses from my first tour, after which I’m headed to the shops I failed to visit last time and the new kids on the block. Big Bear Cafe, Boccato Gelato and Espresso, Columbia Heights Coffee, Grape and Bean, Jacob’s Coffee and Tea, Java House, Java Shack, Mocha Hut, Modern Times, Peregrine Espresso, Sidamo Coffee and Tea, SOVA Espresso and Wine, Saxby’s, and St. Elmo’s are all on my to-do list.
I feel like there should be some sort of criteria to distinguish businesses that care about coffee from restaurants that happen to serve coffee, but what would the line of demarcation be? I’ve already pretty much decided to exclude bakeries even if they also advertise themselves as coffee houses, as I have no comparative advantage here and I don’t want to tank a bakery for not being something it never claimed to be. Yelp gives high rankings to places such as Firehook, Cakelove, Leopold’s Kafe, and Best Buns, to name a few. Using a no-bakeries criteria, does Buzz fail to make the cut?
What other criteria, rules, or suggestions would you like to see? And what coffee shops am I missing?
Finally, no I’m not overthinking this. The best hobbies are the ones you can entertain yourself with for the longest period of time, and I intend to have some fun with this one!