Arguably the most important hallmark in an average undergrad’s life is a new, if not enhanced passion for coffee. Around October of freshman year, what was priorly bitter becomes heavenly. The occasional morning cup transforms into a 3-times-a-day lifeline for survival. Pretty soon you are looking up if anyone has patented cold brew IV drips, and have to run to the dining hall to use a full meal swipe for a single, probably shitty 16 oz, and perhaps a pastry to go, just to cope with the fact that medicine, unfortunately, has not advanced to that point. After a year of rationing your 14 meals a week to accommodate your 3 p.m. crash, you realize that beyond Georgetown’s gates is a magic meadow of potential to turn your survival-fueled passion into a conniseurhood.
I’m Katie Woodhouse, and I love coffee shops. The hipster ones that make you wait 15 minutes just to prove their authenticity, the cozy ones that I can study in for hours until I guilt-buy a muffin just to feel like I’m not wasting space, and even the ones on every corner that all sort of look the same inside yet each has a purposeful subtle identity. This year I have made it my goal to review the coffee shops in and within walking distance of Georgetown University on five criteria: coffee (I know, shocker), baked goods (perhaps my favorite category), ambiance (including studiability, which no, I don’t know if that is a word), location (relative to Georgetown), and finally overall experience. Think of it as the classic reality show Four Weddings, except with way more than four weddings, except there aren’t actually any weddings at all, weddings are a metaphor. For coffee shops. Got it?
Any recommendations for coffee shops? Want them yourself? Comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org. DC is a beacon of great joe, as the experts call it.
SoHo Tea and Coffee
For my first chat, I decided to stop by a hidden favorite of mine, SoHo Tea and Coffee in Dupont Circle.
Coffee: 3 beans out of 5
I have agonized over how to compare the coffees of coffee shops when there are so many different, uniquely beautiful ways to ingest it. Who would compare a soy mocha to your basic drip? Me, deal with it. I have decided that fuck direct comparison, I’m getting what I want in the moment. At 8:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning, that was basic iced coffee, black, and I am pleased to say it was perfectly average. I mean really, it was refreshing and smooth coffee, medium roast, and that is pretty much all I can say about it (hopefully my descriptive vocabulary will grow as this column continues). I consider this a win because bad coffee, I can tell you, is really bad. Extra half point for serving iced coffee in a mug! Yay sustainability. 3 beans out of 5 beans.
Baked Goods/Food: 2 muffins out of 5 muffins
This menu is honestly kind of a meme, just in its basicness. If someone asked me to create a menu of all the things I could make, it would look similar– toast and eggs, avocado toast, plain bagel, and the likes. I went for the toast and eggs, and guess what, I got toast and eggs. The eggs were a lil on the salty side but were hot and clearly fresh, $5.99 is steep for something I could make myself, but in terms of DC breakfast prices is unfortunately on the low to average end. I didn’t partake in the plethora of baked goods because my roommates and I (really just me) had succumbed to the fall flavors display at Trader Joe’s and made pumpkin chocolate chip bread the night before. (fernandez-vega.com) I had downed a slice and a half that morning, but what was offered looked delicious. 2 muffins out of 5 muffins.
Ambiance: 2.5 chairs (thinking of physical representations of ambiance is hard) out of 5 chairs
First of all, a huge part of coffee shops are their soundscapes. Yes, I just did the impossible and used a term from an Ignatius seminar, but in this case that knowledge is actually quite applicable. Coffee shop music needs to be played at a volume that sets the tone for the shop itself, but does not dominate the soundscape to the point that customers (especially those trying to convince themselves to study) cannot form their own via earbuds or headphones. SoHo’s main indoor space is just what it needs to be for an average coffee shop, if a little underwhelming, but I found its music had just enough volume to be distracting when using earbuds. The redeeming factor is its outside patio. On a nice day, the shop’s outdoor area is perfectly shaded, breezy yet protected, and has enough seating/space for studying. Particularly on weekends, it is a great dog-watching spot. Also, extra points for the kind man that has served me both times I have been, Sami, even though he told me I will be carded my whole life because I look like a child. Thanks, Sami. Inside 2 out of 5, Outside 3 out of 5.
Location: 1.5 maps out of 5 maps
So here’s the thing: SoHo is a while from campus, about a 30 minute walk down P Street, but the value of the trip is particularly significant on Sunday mornings thanks to Dupont Circle’s farmer’s market. Though as inanely overpriced as any of your other farmer’s markets, it is a little haven of joy. The walk, the free samples, the dozens of perfect puppers, combine for one of the best parts of my week. SoHo’s iced coffee and practical, homey menu has become a staple in my Sunday routine. Admittedly, this is partly because I can’t afford anything at the market, but also just to get out of the Georgetown bubble and get through (skim?) a few readings. So for me, and for anyone who needs to let out some pent up energy, this location is perfect. Relative to Georgetown, however, this probably isn’t a place you would head to for a study session on an average Tuesday. So although in general this is a great location, relative to Georgetown and our future coffee stops, it is probably a 1.5 out of 5.
Overall Experience: 4 hearts out of 5 hearts
SoHo might be your average coffee shop, but it is far from mediocre. It owns its averageness, and thrives in its neighborhood coffee shop identity. That is all that it is and all that it aspires to be. There is something beautiful about that, especially compared to your average Georgetown storefront. This is the place that you can, and trust me I do, roll up in your ratty T-shirt you may or may not have slept in and buckle down to get shit done or have a chat with a friend.* SoHo is a homey, comforting place that is especially great on a nice day, and lucky for me (and them, I guess, not that they care about an upstart coffee connoisseur, but one day, one day…) I have only been on supremely nice days. I feel like the best way to sum up SoHo is exactly what I had there—black coffee, eggs, and toast. Incredibly simple, yet all you need. Is it worth the hike up to SoHo for a half hour stay mid week? Probably not, but if you need to jump off (the Hilltop) for a while and study in a place where not everyone is so tense they look like they would shatter if you pushed them over, this is the place. Overall experience, 4 hearts out of 5.
*Just a note – people drink coffee because it is magical bean juice that heals all of their wounds, but people go to coffee shops for community in one way or another. “Meeting for coffee,” even if it isn’t coffee, is applicable to so many walks of life; meetings, dates, interviews, study sessions, and just the overall celebration of friendship. That brings me to another part of my challenge – every week I am bringing a friend to study with me. This week I brought one of my dearest friends Ray. He and I sat next to each other as sweet innocent freshmen in Lamm’s PoG class, and became study buddies, as you do. Now we kayak and go to the gym at ungodly hours together (he goes, I say I’ll probably go), and on move-in day this year he took his lunch break to help my mom and I carry all of my (way, way too much) stuff up to my fourth floor Henle. God Bless Ray, and yay the joys of friendship!