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 email@example.com. DC is a beacon of great joe, as the experts call it.
As each semester begins to wrap up, we delve into a dark period (literally dark, WTF daylight savings why is 5 p.m. the new midnight) of late “midterms,” scrambling lectures because professors are weeks behind, and of course, finals season. The granddaddy, or big bean, of them all however is the fucking nightmare that is planning for live registration. In my humble and correct opinion, there is literally nothing more stressful. However, it must occur. To talk out the inevitable hot mess of our potential lives come spring, a friend* and I went looking for a high-end cup of comfort (the caffeinated form) on a Tuesday afternoon. We found ourselves at Blue Bottle Coffee.
Coffee: 1 bean out of 5 beans.
Ugh, my first 1 for coffee. A few things. First of all, there is hot coffee, and there is iced coffee. Anywhere in between *cough cough* LUKEWARM *cough cough* is wrong coffee. So yes, somehow in between the pouring of my Bella Donovan (notes of raspberry, chocolate, and molasses) and it reaching my hand in a slightly uncomfortable but aesthetic-so-it’s-ok glass mug my drip brew became soooo unfortunately lukewarm that it was practically cold. Also, although I could taste all the aforementioned notes, it just was not overwhelmingly enjoyable. It was quite average, but not in a good way, especially because it cost $4, the most expensive I have tried so far. Also, ordering is a struggle unless you have better than 20/20 vision due to the miniscule, size 20 font menu high on the wall. Luckily, the staff is extremely kind and were very helpful with ordering, as ya girl was struggling with her corrected-to-normal vision and below-average height. All in all, I was a little disappointed, but my darling guest* did seem to enjoy her iced sweet milky drink that neither of us can remember the name of, so props there.
Food: 2 muffins out of 5 muffins.
There were a variety of beautifully-arranged options at Blue Bottle, both the regulars—croissant, almond croissant, chocolate croissant, a delish looking pumpkin loaf—and some exciting looking seasonal options. I went with the seasonal offering that stood out to me as the most unique and fancily on brand, an apple-buckwheat teacake. It was good! It tasted like apple, it had sugar on top, it felt weird on the spoon I ate it with because I couldn’t find forks and Blue Bottle is a place with oddly-shaped silverware. Although I enjoyed it, it again felt average, and I just expected more. It was also the cheapest option on the menu, for $4! $4 is too much for a tiny lil’ teacake, especially when the bougiest thing about it is the name.
Ambiance: 3.25 community tables out of 5 community tables.
Again, you have to appreciate a vision. The thing that stands out the most about Blue Bottle is its wide open, bright, pale wood-dominated space. This layout simultaneously appeases all of your needs for order and beauty and also kind of makes you want to slowly walk backwards out the door the second you step inside. Blue Bottle subscribes to a Scandanavian minimalist style, which, as pretty and aesthetic as it is, I find slightly off-putting. It gives off the vibe that you always have to whisper to not mess up the zen of the place, which throws a wrench in coffee shop conversation. Just because the inside of Blue Bottle is so unique and so “them,” I do feel like I was primed for a very high-end coffee experience. Seating wise, there are a few two tops, a large community table as always, and a nice high bar area facing windows that open wide on nice days. They also have an excellent outdoor brick patio in front of the shop, right behind the old Dean and Deluca. When the weather is nice, this area just-removed from the hubble-bubble of M street and overlooking the canal is truly a prime location in the neighborhood. All in all, ambiance-wise Blue Bottle is cohesive, well put together, and just screams “boujee.”
Location: 3 maps out of 5 maps
Blue Bottle is a quick 15-minute-or-so walk just past Potomac and M. On weekends, it is a little too close to the buzz of the Georgetown neighborhood to make it an excellent study location, but it’s definitely close enough to be a nice Tuesday afternoon spot or for a quick productive Friday morning (LoL if you have those). Overall, relative to the university the location is excellent. Also as I mentioned previously, relative to the popular areas of the neighborhood, it really is in a prime coffee shop position.
Overall Experience: 1.75 hearts out of 5 hearts.
As a coffee shop, I was a little underwhelmed by Blue Bottle for a few reasons. First of all, I think the stark ambiance kind of overshadows the coffee? It just seems like a place that is described by its surroundings rather than its brews, I have literally already described it as “the one coffee place that kinda looks like a morgue,” and people have understood. Perhaps the specialty coffee drinks say different, but the drip coffee and food itself is just not compelling enough to make it memorable for me. Also, it was easily the most expensive stop I’ve made in my many (seven) adventures. Finally to round out the negatives, I could not, for the life of me, connect to their WiFi, which is a serious killer in the coffee shop game. Regardless of all of these things, I did enjoy my time with my lovely peer advisee and we had a great, if slightly inevitably stressful chat about scheduling. Also, the staff was extremely kind and knowledgeable, you could tell they wanted to provide the best experience possible.
*This doll to your right is none other than the Class of 2023’s Kayleigh Coppinger! She is also a member of the very best peer advisor squad to exist (that’s me! I was the peer advisor!!). Yes, Kayleigh and I have broken the Advisor/Advisee tradition by actually talking to each other productively post-NSO, spending our little stop both posing with coffee drinks and planning out next semester scheduling. Sometimes friends come out of the most fateful of circumstances—Kayleigh and I are fellow Hoosiers and Brebeuf Jesuit alumni, and out of all the PAs I was lucky enough to be assigned her! What does she think makes a good friend? A good friend listens to your rants, really listens, even if they don’t care. According to this definition, I find the need to say thank you to each and every one of you readers :).