Here we go.

on the wireless front:
I have covered both outlets along the Coffeehouse's south wall (longest wall). There are more outlets along the east and west walls and one can plug in while sitting at the bar. Please, gravitate toward the communal tables if using your computer.

on the beverage front:
Small batch production of our chai concentrate has returned! The award winning "Cha cha chai" Masala blend from Serendipitea (available loose) along with fresh ingredients and careful preparation makes for a vibrant, aromatic, spicy cup. With the right amount of dairy or substitute (I usually go for the added nuttiness soy milk provides) this makes a wonderful chai latte.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Thank you much!

(That's Coleus blumei and Rex Begonia in the window box)


a new tea addition

We are happy to offer a new tea choice to you-- rooibos. This tea is made from the "red bush" plant, and hails from South Africa. It is best known for being caffeine-free, having high levels of antioxidants, and a sweet, vanilla-like flavor. It is a reddish brown hue and delicious either plain or with a little honey or sugar. It is not traditionally served with milk, but I think the addition of steamed soy milk (a "rooi soy latte"-- you heard it here first!) makes a very fine, slightly sweet and nutty drink.


Review: Dark Horse Espresso, Toronto

Background: Located in Toronto's diverse Chinatown neighborhood, Dark Horse Espresso is one of two locations of this popular native-Toronto indie coffee bar known for its communal seating, one-size-only beverages, and top-notch latte art. Smart options include standing and sipping espresso by the counter, sitting at one of two large communal tables (laptop central) at the front of the store, or resting in comfy chairs with low tables in the upper "lounge" area.

Flavor: I stayed right across the street (a joyous coincidence) and went straight there every morning I was in town. I sampled the plain espresso, cappuccino, and the Canadian version (if there is one) of the London Fog-- which uses Earl Grey, milk, and vanilla syrup. The espresso was rich on the tongue and more floral and sweet than the citrus/toast flavors I'm used to with our shop. Combined with milk in the cappuccino, it was smooth and very aromatic. The Earl Grey tea in the London fog was also very fragrant and floral, with just a hint of bergamot.

Source: The coffee comes from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, located in British Columbia. According to their website, they have a "direct relationship program" with their coffee farmers. In addition, each farm's name, producer, size, and landscape details are listed. The tea is provided by David's Tea, a fairly new company with locations in Toronto, Quebec, and Vancouver, whose motto is "Premium tea for all".

Rating: A true test to a barista's skill isn't latte art, it's the temperature and texture of the milk. One should not have to blow repeatedly over a drink before sipping, nor should the cup be too hot to hold in your hand. And if you can't get a nice full sip of milk froth and espresso all over your tongue without burning it, then why drink it at all? You might as well just order a cup of boiling water. Every time I got a cappuccino at Dark Horse, it was the perfect temperature and texture. And I'm not sure what's in the food that those Canadian cows are eating, but the milk also had a grassy, sweet flavor that surely would have been killed by overheating (or the addition of sugar). Cheers to Dark Horse Espresso!


Wireless options

Since I just posted something regarding an interruption of wireless service this weekend, I want to get your thoughts regarding our current policy.
We get so many comments and complaints every day from other non-laptop users - customers who have been visiting this space for 10+ years - about how computers take up most of our tables throughout the day. Of course, it is unquestionable that computers have become ubiquitous inside most coffeehouses. In fact, I believe that they have become inseparable and that in order for a business like ours to be viable and attract customers, this service has to be provided.
So, my question is this: is it possible to create a good balance between our different demographics? What makes this space so amazing and great and comfortable is the fact that there is much history, a strong community, and the people who come here are usually aware, participating, and in dialogue with a larger world outside of these walls and this city. It's a shame that some folks feel that they are being pushed out by a new technology - one, that, honestly, I'm still coming to terms with myself. I understand that this sentiment is partly derived from a slight fear of the new and perhaps a manifestation of an increasing generational gap, but, nonetheless, it is a valid concern that creates conflict, worry, much argument and division. I must also note that many laptop users - writers, students, those working from "home"- here are aware of our spatial (and economic) limitations and try their best to share tables and purchase something every hour or so.
I guess the spectrum of possibilities range from not offering wireless at all, limiting it to certain times of the day or days of the week, limiting it to certain tables, charging an hourly fee (!), plugging up all the electrical outlets and have people rely on their batteries, to not changing anything at all. I don't want you - laptop users - to feel that we are waging a war against you, but want you to understand this ongoing concern of ours and that we want you to be part of shaping our new policy in this ever-changing landscape and environment. If you'd rather not comment on the blog, you can always reach me at javier@moderntimescoffeehouse.com

a recent NPR story on the subject

CNN on tech etiquette (from 2005)

Lastly, a poem from A Brief Description of the Excellent Vertues of that Sober and wholesome Drink, called Coffee, and its Incomparable Effects in Preventing or Curing Most Diseases incident to Humane Bodies (London: Paul Greenwod, 1674):

The RULES and ORDERS of the Coffee-House
Enter Sirs freely, But first if you please,
Peruse our Civil-Orders, which are these.
First, Gentry, Tradesmen, all are welcome hither,
And may without Affront sit down Together:
Pre-eminence of Place, none here should Mind,
But take the next fit Seat that he can find:
Nor need any, if Finer Persons come,
Rise up for to assigne to them his Room;
To limit mens expence, we think not fair,
But let him forfeit Twelve-pence that shall Swear:
He that shall any Quarrel here begin,
Shall give each Man a Dish t’Atone the Sin;
And so shall He, whose Complements extend
So far to drink in COFFEE to his friend;
Let Noise of loud Disputes be quite forborn,
No Maudlin Lovers here in Corners Mourn,
But all be Brisk, and Talk, but not too much
On Sacred things, Let none Presume to touch,
Nor profane Scripture, or sawcily wrong
Affairs of State with an Irreverent Tongue:
Let Mirth be Innocent, and each Man see,
That all his Jests without Reflection be;
To keep the House more Quiet, and from Blame,
We Banish hence Cards, Dice, and every game:
Nor can allow of Wagers, that Exceed
Five shillings, which oft-times much Trouble Breed;
Let all that’s lost, or forfeited, be spent
In such Good Liquour as the House does vent,
And Customers endeavour to their Powers,
For to observe still seasonable Howers.
Lastly let each Man what he calls for Pay,
And so you’re welcome to come every day.

No Wireless during the member sale

Due to increased traffic through our space and as per bookstore's management request, there will be no wireless internet service provided during the holiday member sale this weekend. Thank you for helping us accommodate our varied clientele.


NEW Photography Exhibit

Larry Ponsford, a Washington architect and urban designer, will host the opening reception for an exhibition of his photographs on Sunday, November 29th from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at Modern Times Coffeehouse. The show will run from November 27th to January 30th, 2010. The reception is free and open to the public and refreshments will be provided.

Mr. Ponsford has chosen 22 images from his career archive of some 8000 photos, many taken to help him teach architecture, and later to document certain aspects of his extensive travels. More and more, his photos allow—even suggest—a wide range interpretations by both the photographer and the viewers.

The theme of this show is “Looking Up”. Mr. Ponsford demonstrates how, in an image-oversaturated world, we select what our eye will record: we routinely focus on the thin layer of world between our feet and our head, blithely ignoring whatever wonders, surprises or delights may be “soaring” just overhead. A Japanese proverb says, “Looking up knows no boundaries”.

Closing Art Reception (No wi-fi)

Join us for a closing reception with the current featured artist Tuesday, Nov. 24th at 8pm. Please note that the wireless internet access will be turned off at 8pm to accommodate the artist and guests.

About the artist:
Nebahat Noyan was born in a small coastal town near the Black Sea in Turkey. Her first drawing experience was with chalk, drawing rectangles of hopscotch - although her later works did not reflect any form of cubism influence, but some raw sketches.

Neba's pursuit of art, primarily drawing and painting, emerged mostly through disciplined individual study. She attended the Istanbul Art Academy for a short period. She has shown her art at student group shows in Istanbul, Unlikely Stories Magazine, and the District of Columbia's Artomatic 2008. She has also published poetry in Objet d'Art Magazine. Neba lives in DC, and works at an organization that specializes in local economic development nationwide.

All pieces are available for sale by the artist.


New local filmmaker screening series at the coffeeshop

We're very happy to announce that in January, the Coffeehouse will begin hosting a new film screening series, showcasing the work of local filmmakers. The series will offer an opportunity for filmmakers young and old, professional and amateur, to show and share their work in a creative, supportive and engaging environment. We're planning to make this a regular monthly or bi-weekly event, celebrating all the great independent film and video produced in DC, be it big or small projects.

So...that means we're on the lookout for films to build up our initial lineup!

Documentaries, shorts, animations, avant garde and narrative film are all welcome. Student filmmakers are strongly encouraged to submit too. If you're interested in submitting, contact:

Lance Kramer

Screenings will be advertised in local media, in the bookstore's E-newsletter, and on the Women in Film & Video DC website. Admission for viewers will be free, though we will suggest a donation to all who attend. Films will be projected on the wall of the coffeehouse. Stay tuned for more info on dates/times for our opening night — and spread the word to your friends!


featured drinks for fall

here's some of our special cold weather drinks that will warm you up anytime of the day:

hot chocolate - made with our housemade chocolate sauce and steamed milk. the sauce is basically the concentrated base of a drinking chocolate: chopped imported dark bar chocolate that has been slow-cooked with a little cream, sugar, and butter. If it sounds too unhealthy for you, just order a small and think about all the antioxidants you're getting from the chocolate :)

classic cappuccino - the traditional way that a cappuccino is served pretty much everywhere else in the world besides american coffee chains. double shots of espresso combined with a little heavily steamed milk (no extra-hot requests please!), so that about the top third settles at the top of the 6 oz cup.

mocha - espresso, our housemade chocolate sauce, and "microfoamed" milk. very flavorful, and you get your caffeine/chocolate fix all in one.

the london fog - i'm not exactly sure who came up with the name, but it stuck and people like saying it. perfume-y earl grey tea, steeped in steamed soy milk and a drop of honey. fans of sweetened milky tea should try it.

yerba mate latte - another fun name to say. yerba mate, a staple beverage in many south american countries, tastes very grassy and has caffeine. we combine it with steamed soy milk and honey, which brings out the plant flavors.

note: if you don't partake in caffeine or dairy, we offer decaffeinated espresso and soy milk as options.


Express Night Out - Best Indie Coffeeshop & Best Place to Get Work Done

Put us down as a write-in candidate for Best Indie Coffeeshop and then VOTE for P&P as Best Place to Get Work Done (don't know why we weren't the official candidate for that), Best Indie Bookstore, and Best Spot for Readings. Come on, let's sweep all four categories! Vote here until Oct 16. Here's a couple things we do here that makes us different from the other candidates:

1) We make our own chocolate syrup for hot chocolate: just cooked chocolate, cream, and sugar.
2) Our pastries are baked in a single batch, by hand, next door every morning. Just for you, and no one else.
3) Our coffee is sourced organic and fair-trade, and we use a small roaster in VA that produces the lovely espresso, dark roast, and single origin medium roast coffees that are sent to us fresh every few days.
4) the classic grilled cheese sandwich!
5) our awesome staff of tattooed, be-spectacled, hat-wearing, music-loving, droll-humored baristas.


have you noticed anything different about the coffeehouse?

It's so amazing that this is happening right now! 1140p, an hour into phase 1 of the installation of a new counter. It felt so good to give that old counter a karate kick once the crew had cut it from the wall. I have never witnessed an actual work crew in here; so surreal to see plastic sheets covering furniture and uncovering parts of the floor untouched for I don't know how many years.
I mean, for those of you who have not been here for the last 3 1/2 years, this is huge! We came in here the day Sirius Coffee Co. ceased to exist, stayed up all night scrubbing and moving in our equipment and opened the next day. Not a seamless transition but nonetheless pretty close - we made it work. This is the first time any big structural changes have been made to the shop. The wood for the counter comes from a site Sandor Slager (Slager, Inc.), our designer/builder/contractor/long time customer/winner of the Murch School Auction year of free coffee/friend, is working on - old floor boards, I believe, from a property on Jenifer St. Thanks to him and his crew for making this happen.
The next phase will probably be the back wall, where the espresso machine sits, and finally the front counter. We believe it feels warmer and more inviting in here already.


New Single Origin Coffee

The new single origin coffee that is brewing is Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. This washed-bean, fragrant coffee is known for clean, sweet acidity and berry tones. I think ours smells and tastes and a bit like jasmine tea. Enjoy!


Pollystyle's Rugelach named "dish of the week"

The City Paper's Young and Hungry blogger Tim Carman has chosen Pollystyle's pecan and cranberry rugelach as his "dish of the week."
We're so happy for Polly, who has been baking and delivering her pastries to Modern Times since our first year and wish her continued success. She's gotten press and much praise for her graham crackers in the past, but I feel her mocha pound and lime chiffon cakes are the best desserts we carry. She also prepares our granola - also loaded with cranberries and pecans and perfect for that "healthy" breakfast.
I'm planning on sitting down with her and doing a small piece for the blog, so stay tuned!


Vote for us TODAY Best Indie Coffeeshop!

Best Indie Coffeeshop. We deserve that title, right? So go VOTE for us right now in the Express Night Out Best of 2009 poll. Voting ends TODAY. Thank you and see you at the Anniversary party on Sunday!


25th Anniversary Party!

To celebrate the bookstore's 25th year anniversary, P&P will be closing the parking lot all day Sunday, September 20th, to host a party beginning at 4pm. The coffeehouse will remain open throughout the day, and we will set up a table outside during the festivities, serving some of our specialty beverages (cold brewed iced coffee, Arnold Palmers, Agua de Jamaica, and Horchata) and the very famous Pollystyle cookies and desserts. Some of the other restaurants on the block will also be providing food, and DC's own Little Red and the Renegades will be doling out heaping spoonfuls of Zydeco and Cajun blues for those with dancing feet.
I'd discourage driving in that day, but, if you must, there's parking available along 36th St. or Nebraska Ave.
I do hope you can join us for this special celebration of community and history.


Special Wi-Fi Notice

In respect to the patrons that will be visiting Politics & Prose for the 25th Anniversary Member Sale, we will be suspending wireless service at times throughout the weekend. We encourage you to sign up to be a member to also take advantage of this great sale. If you are looking for another location with wi-fi during these hours, the Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library is just up the street. We thank you for your understanding.


friends in far away places

Julia Goldberg (you might recognize her from behind the counter - not only a great barista but also a talented artist) sadly left us earlier this week to go back to school. Joe Wills, builder, steel shaper, good guy, took this opportunity to leave his studio, located in the back of Comet Ping Pong, get behind a diesel powered machine and see some of the country.
Along with Julia's worldly possessions and her bird, Henry, Joe packed his motorcycle in the back of a U-Haul. Outfitted with electronic gadgets, a GPS device, several power sources, secret compartments and a can do attitude, Joe is making his way back to DC.
Modern Times Coffeehouse has decided to sponsor their alertness, and we wanted to share with you some of their updates from the road. We'll miss Julia and can 't wait to have Joe back. And remember, Modern Times can go with you wherever you go!

1st coffee break

Location: Rest area No.8-40, I-70W, just before Indiana

2nd break

Location: Last rest stop in Kansas, just outside of Colorado

"The blue dot is where the brewing of the coffee took place. Almost to CO!"

"All it takes to make great french press coffee on the road: some water, a Jetboil, a handsome mug, and of course the finest coffee DC has to offer."
"Despite the appearance of this photo, no sinister plots were perpetrated after the consumption of this coffee."
(captions are taken from Joe's Facebook album)


art reception

join us for a reception tuesday, aug 25th from 8pm-10pm in the coffeehouse. patrick donnelly's pieces will be on show for another month-- all are for sale and all are very affordable. enjoy free munchies, step away from the computer (the wi-fi will be shut off anyway), and stop by to chat about the art!


Mugs Redux

We've restocked the periwinkle and black MTC and P&P coffee mugs and want to remind you of the stellar deal and benefits of them. Upon purchase, you'll receive one FREE prepared drink in the mug-- hot or cold, espresso based or not. Every drink thereafter you order/use with the mug is 50 cents off. (Stay in OR carry out, exception is the 50 cent coffee refill). P.S. - coming soon - MTC t-shirts!


Farid Fellag, Artisanal Baker

As promised, an introduction to the hands that bring us such joy in the morning. Farid Fellag has worked tirelessly ever since moving into the kitchen at Buck's Fishing and Camping. I don't have to tell you how difficult it is to walk over from across the parking lot early in the morning with a sheet pan overflowing with freshly baked pastries and not be tempted to take a bite out of every one of his warm creations. Enjoying a pain au chocolat in the morning with my cappuccino is a definite joy, and a warm slice of focaccia in the afternoon has become a necessary pause during most of my afternoons.
Farid learned the art of baking in Parisian patisseries after moving from his native Algeria in 1988, where he had pursued a career in accounting. Abandoning the cold world of numbers for one of textures, flavors and shapes, he developed the basic techniques for creating simple, delicious pastries. He often wonders why it's so difficult to find quality baked goods in this city, to which he moved in 2001. To him, it's a simple process of combining basic ingredients, working with your hands and having patience, curiosity and creativity. He has taken the lessons and experiences working in Paris and improved upon the process, utilizing a technique requiring up to four days.
The butter is added to the dough only after it has rested for a day. He then shapes the pastries on the third day; finally, baking them the morning after. As you might have already noticed, his hand is visible in each of his creations: each unique in shape and form but all sharing an irresistible texture and richness (even though he has assured me he uses less butter than his french colleagues).
I feel fortunate to have met him and glad that he has joined our extended family. It's always a pleasure seeing him in the morning and sharing dreams and plans for a continued friendship and hopes for even greater things to come.


Exhibit Opening in August

Patrick Donnelly produces original silk screen prints blurring the lines between the digital arts and painterly process. The prints capture moments from his life, transcribed into stylized illustrations, then combined into a new compositions that captures the emotions of those events. Broadcasting personal keepsakes of his secrets, common occurrences, and daily enlightenments in combinations of codified and tactile forms.

His background is as integrative and juxtaposed as his compositions. Patrick graduated with an interdisciplinary degree in Chemistry and Art from Carnegie Mellon University, and is currently pursuing his MBA at The George Washington University. Patrick works professionally as a graphic designer.

All pieces will be available for purchase.


District's Top Iced Coffee - get yours here!

Do you shy away from drinking cold coffee, thinking all it will taste like is the last third of your morning mug after it's been sitting on your desk for three hours?

The Washington Post Express daily wrote an article on the merits of cold-brewed coffee, naming ours one of the best places for the "District's Top Iced Coffee". Add in a nice quote from Javier, and bingo, we were asked by more than a large handful of customers today to take the challenge and try their first cold-brewed iced coffee. We use freshly ground Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans and make the concentrate every day. Steeping the coarse grounds slowly in cold water overnight reduces the acid and bitterness that is produced, allowing the wonderful chocolate and mild roasted flavors to shine through very strongly instead. I've seen many customers drink their iced coffee straight, no sweetener or milk is needed. Some add milk or cream and a small splash of simple syrup or vanilla syrup to make it a little more rich. We don't recommend adding sucralose or raw sugar-- all it does is clump up in the bottom and/or float around as gritty specks in the drink. I prefer lots of ice and a big splash of soy milk, which adds some nuttiness and slight sweetness. And for goodness sakes, no whipped cream or syrup dribbles on top. Save those for an ice cream sundae over at Comet.

UPDATE: for those that would like to try the cold-brewing method at home, check out this recent NYT article on the small wonders of iced coffee.


CityPaper review of our croissants & focaccia

although I'm not quite sure why we the writer said we were an "unlikely" source for good croissants, he nonetheless became enamored of them and the focaccia, two of our newest baked goods from our new pastry chef and friend, farid. he crafts them right next door, every day, just for you. more about farid in a later post, but in the meantime, treat yourself to what has become for me a 15-minute daily ritual-- one of his croissants, pain au chocolat, or a round cream danish, and a classic cappuccino. we would love to hear your reviews. the best time to get your soon-to-be buttery hands on these are at 8am-- as soon as they come out of the oven every day.


flower power

we've brought back iced hibiscus/ginger tea infusion for the summer. the hibiscus plant is known throughout tropical climates for its beautiful flowers and vitamin and medicinal properties. we steep the deep, deep red dried flowers with freshly grated ginger (also known for digestive properties) to create a juicy, somewhat tart, cranberry-flavored drink. try it as a healthy and caffeine-free alternative to iced coffee.


upcoming wireless changes

In a couple of weeks, we will be instituting a new wireless internet policy.

We will be shutting the router off between the hours of 1130a - 2p. The router will remain on the rest of the day, and free wireless will be provided for patrons of the coffeehouse. With purchase of an item, a password will also be provided to access this service, which will be reset every few days and will be printed on the bottom of your receipt.

It is something that we have tried before and believe it to be a good way of accommodating our diverse clientele. In fact, we have arrived at this compromise prompted by a request from Politics and Prose Bookstore's owners and management, who have found their own space compromised by the increased volume of laptop users - namely, folks sitting in the "Remainder Room," which primarily functions as a space for browsing large art books, book group meetings, and for author events, and, secondarily, as an overflow space for coffeehouse customers.

Of course, we are not robots behind the counter and feel that we can be flexible with the new policy. If we feel that we can have the router on during lunchtime then the service will be available without interruption.

Thanks and we welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.


New Exhibit, Opening Reception June 13

This month's featured artist is Matthew Davis. Check out some of his work here and save the date of June 13 for a fun and fabulous reception we're holding in the coffeehouse. You may know Matthew if you frequent the coffeehouse during the day on the weekdays-- he's often behind the counter.

Matthew is deeply influenced by his family, his spirituality, music, literature, and fine art; from Jack Kerouac and Richard Farina to M.C. Escher, Jim Dine, and the Renaissance style. His modern inspirations include Shepard Fairey, the guerilla art movement/philosophy and the conviction that drives the people of Washington, DC.
UPDATE: Several of you have asked about Matthew's work already. YES-- it is for sale, and you can pick up his card at the counter or stop by when he's working to inquire about prices.


Review: Roasting Plant, NYC

Background: Roasting Plant has a handful of locations around NYC, founded by a former Starbucs exec and engineer. He developed a trademarked machine called a "Javabot" (no joke) where the beans are roasted on site, sent to vertical hopper tubes for storage (pic here), and then upon ordering, are shot across the store into the all-in-one Egro brand Swiss Coffee machine that grinds the beans and brews them to order.

Flavor: Customers are prompted to pick which beans they want in their drink, no matter what type of drink you order. I was a little overwhelmed by the bean choices (approx. ten) and after tiring of trying to read over each one, settled on the Kenyan in the middle of the row (beans are arranged from raw to roasted, lightest roast to darkest). In mere seconds, a full cup of coffee appeared before me, complete with a thick crema. The coffee was clean, with berry tones and low acidity and the crema was rich and fresh. I admit I was a little jealous of the machine to produce the perfect crema sitting on top of the brew.

Source: The beans available were sourced from locales in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia and the website describes "an eye towards organic agriculture and fair trade practices".

Rating: Having a cup of coffee brewed individually to order seems to me like an event that one should savor and feel a bit luxurious about, so ordering from a flatscreen menu and having the coffee appear in front of you untouched by human hands kind of put a damper on the experience. I was too skeptical of the Javabot's tamping skills and milk prep to get a latte, but will definitely try one out next time so I can fully judge the "woman v. machine" battle when it comes to preparing a coffee drink. I wonder if a Javabot that can produce latte art is in the works?


new brew

we are now brewing costa rican single origin in addition to the house french roast. this light to medium coffee has an almond aroma and a slightly acidic finish. david recommends making it in a press pot. if you don't own a press, get thee to a bargain department store and buy one now. I have seen them for as little as $7-$10 on sale. Many companies make expensive speciality press equipment claiming the perfectly designed container for brewing coffee, but really, every press pot I've ever seen looks exactly the same-- glass cylinder pitcher/beaker + metal mesh or nylon filter attached to metal plunger. The most important thing is making sure your beans are ground in a burr grinder, not a blade grinder, to produce evenly ground particles, which in turn will produce an even extraction. There are few readily available burr grinders available below $100, and we'll post a review soon of those. In the meantime, if you buy coffee from us by the 1/2 or 1 lb. bag we can grind it for you in our commerical burr grinder in the back. There's also a handful of other variables such as water type and temp, dosing, and brew time that make a difference when brewing in a press pot and I recommend researching that if you have the time. Here's a link to basic instructions on how to make coffee in a press pot.


NEW yummy salad on the menu

with the change in seasons come a change in the menu. we are now serving a chickpea side salad-- a simple salad dressed with colorful and bright flavors of lemon and cilantro, and ginger, cumin, and red onion for kick. pair it with an iced mint-green tea and a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie and you can just imagine it's almost summer...


Review: Moloka'i Hawaiian Coffee, Trader Joe's

Background: Moloka'i is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago, where King Kamehameha had coffee trees brought in to grow his own "royal" supply of beans. Today these coffee plantations are a source of economic development, tourism, and pride for the islands.

Flavor: Brewed in a press pot, the beans produced a lightly acidic coffee with woodsy flavors and an almond aroma.

Source: This Trader Joe's exclusive of 100% coffee arabica beans lists the product as being grown, roasted, and packed on the island, where "growers control every step of the production process from irrigation and harvest to roasting and packaging."

Rating: The label descibes a dark roast, but the coffee wasn't as full-bodied as I had hoped. For the second pot I used a few more scoops of grounds than normal and it produced a darker brew, but the flavors still weren't coming out (This is supposed to be coffee fit for a king, after all.) Overall, I'm usually a fan of Trader Joe's coffees, for both the price and the variety, but this one doesn't make the cut. Their Bay Blend would be a more reliable choice if looking for a richly flavorful coffee.


what are you drinking/eating right now?

During a recent chocolate craving episode, I visited a corporate-chain coffeeshop for a hot cocoa. What really struck me was the number of non-coffee-related items on the menu boards. The majority were drinks that contained a small percentage of coffee or tea mixed with artificial flavor syrup/flavor powder/pre-made mix, candy bits, copious amounts of milk, and then iced and/or blended and/or topped with more artificial flavor dribbles and whipped cream. This led me to wonder what the most popular purchases are that are happening at our store, so I set up this nifty poll to the right. Of course as standard business practice we do reguarly assess what and how much we are selling and then adjust the menu accordingly, but this is informal and for fun. 


NEW art exhibit is up

Photographer Jacques-Jean Tiziou put the finishing touches on hanging his exhibit in the coffeehouse, and we're excited to have his dynamic images grace our walls for the next eight weeks.

For those of you that favor sitting by the far wall next to the windows, look for the large darkened glass box. Carefully flick the switch on the box sitting on the floor underneath to illuminate some eighty miniature photos inside. According to JJ, that box contains "the most expensive lightbulb I've ever bought in my life" so we ask that you please take caution and not crowd that area with too many electrical cords, bags, papers, or people of any size. We would feel really bad if the box fell and hurt someone or the things inside of it broke.


NEW menu item

We took your suggestions to bring a vegetarian lunch sandwich (without cheese or mayo) to the menu. We are now serving a vegetable + white bean hummus sandwich-- err, wrap during lunchtime hours. Wraps seemed to have reached their peak in the late nineties, but are still seen everywhere from national chains to homespun diners. They have been the starch-friendly star of the low-carb lifestyle, with restaurants using "flatbreads" instead of bread; and much like pizza in this country, are used as a carpet on which poor approximations of various cuisines are laid in an attempt to make a clever all-in-one food item out of what millions around the world simply use as an alternative to a utensil or a plate. (Think tortilla, chapati, injera, pita.) Poor Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In her desperation to be the first to try Wonka's complete meal-in-a-stick-of-gum, she blew up into a giant blue ball when the blueberry pie course went awry. And who remembers the now-defunct WrapWorks in Dupont Circle?

Our version has passed rigorous testing and includes just crunchy raw spinach and shredded carrots with a housemade bean spread. The creamy-yet-light white bean spread is made in the style of a Middle Eastern or European appetizer, with olive oil, spices, herbs, and lemon juice for zest. It's a refreshing addition to the menu and is great for someone who is a vegan or doesn't eat dairy products. Let us know what you think.


shaking it up a bit

We are now brewing Guatemalan Huehuetenango for our medium-roast coffee. Guatemalan coffee tends to be light and brightly acidic, and the Huehuetenango is known for its fruity, spicy undertones. I think of chocolate when I drink our Guatemalan, but then again I think about chocolate about 73% of the time anyway...In any event, try it out, especially with our newest pie selection, the chocolate-oatmeal wonderfulness. The sweetness of the pie is definitely balanced out with a big mug of straight coffee, and the cinnamon-chocolate-red fruit flavors of the coffee just jump right out. Miam!

As for fans of the Ehiopian Yirgacheffe, don't fret! We're still using it for our cold-brewed iced coffee.


We've made it past our terrible twos!

Yes! We made it to year number three and now have renegotiated our contract with Politics and Prose for another five! Thank you to all of you who have been here since the beginning and have watched us pull our hair out and cry so many times, but also have been here to help us reach landmarks and celebrations.
Last few days, I have been reminiscing with Adam and Ryan about those first few days and, honestly, we can't figure out how we pulled it off. Operating on so little sleep, no experience, and teaching ourselves as we went along. We are so lucky that we are in this space and that so many people were there to help the business stumble and then walk upright into what it is now. It is just like watching a being grow and mature, at some point just taking off on its own; the whole process has unfolded organically, for Modern Times is made of people!
We have such a wonderful staff behind the counter and behind the scenes. I am terribly grateful for their commitment and constant efforts to keep the same consistent level of quality and professionalism. With them, the coffeehouse is in good hands and I wish they were all around for good.
Well, again, thanks to all of you who have seen us grow into a three-year-old business. I promise: Modern Times will continue it's constant path of change and improvement, retaining that strong core of quality and a genuine love for coffeehouse culture. I am so glad we are here, within the walls of Politics and Prose; Barbara and Carla have been great mentors along this path. We inherited a great clientele and an awareness of the value of constant involvement and of the importance of the individuals behind the business.
Hope to see you all around for the next five years! I have a feeling I will be seeing the same faces I have seen, sometimes daily, for the past three.


happy snow day

Snow days are the best days to relax in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and bake a dessert. It makes the house smell nice and you have something to show for yourself, since we all know how productive we are when we tell the boss we're "working from home today". I found this recipe several years  ago and it's become a staple for shabby-chic dinner parties and potlucks. It's a good way to use leftover coffee, there's not many ingredients, and it can be made ahead of time. The trickiest part is the bain-marie (water bath). You can serve it plain, with the suggested whipped cream, or with a powdered sugar decoration. (Put a doily or homemade paper snowflake on top and sprinkle away-- you'll get oohs and aahs from your guests when you bring it out.) You could also stick some frozen sweetened strawberries or raspberries in the blender and make a colorful sauce to drizzle on the plate before serving. 

Gourmet, February 1997


Review: Cafe San Ramon, Counter Culture

Background: Cafe San Ramon is one of several "Direct Trade Certified" coffees from this Durham, NC-based company that has a strong presence in the DC-area coffee scene. (On my last count at least 5 shops in the area use their products and they run a Regional Training Center in Adams Morgan.) 

Flavor: Brewed in a press pot, the cocoa-scented beans produced a smooth coffee with flavors of sweet chocolate and brown sugar, with a mild finish.

Source: Shade-grown in the mountains of Nicaraugua's Matagalpa region, the beans are "cultivated, harvested, sorted, pulped, fermented, and washed entirely on the farm where it was grown by the farmer and his family."

Rating: The beans were so chocolate-y smelling (and looking) that I was tempted to pop a couple in my mouth while waiting for the water to boil. With coffee this sweet, there's no need for sugar or a giant muffin to temper just another Manic Monday. I also think this would make a fine cafe con leche for those who prefer an even gentler nudge to wake up.


further phenomenal furniture

The wonders of craigslist! I am sitting this morning on, what is to me, the nicest piece of furniture to ever grace our humble space and the most recent, and final, addition to our shabby-chic, mismatched collection. It only took a trip out to Germantown, in maddening traffic, riding in a diesel-powered monster truck borrowed from our good friend, Joe Wills. The table has some definite character and came with six matching(!) orange-cushioned chairs, two leaves which have not been added (or ever will, maybe), and table pads.
With the help of Matthew, we made a quick job of loading the truck, and the way back took us only twenty minutes (compared to one hour getting there).

I hope you love the table (I think she deserves to be christened something wonderful) and that it is of much use for those wanting to work on their computers. I would urge those of you on laptops to make use of this table and the Ikea "campground-theme" table, especially during our busiest times of the day - mainly lunchtime during weekdays and most of the morning and afternoon on weekends. This will help accommodate the competing needs of the coffeehouse's and the bookstore's diverse clienteles.

With this new addition, it was necessary to rearrange the rest of the furniture. Please let me know if this works for you; your input is much appreciated. Thanks again for your patience as we disturb what is "home" to many of you. Believe me, this is much needed change.


Review: Ninth Street Espresso, NYC

Background: Recently listed as a favorite on the NYT coffee topics blog, and located a few blocks from where I was staying, how could I not try out Ninth Street Espresso before getting on the bus to come back to DC?

Flavor: One of the seven (gods, that's great) items on the menu, the macchiato combines two shots from a semi-automatic machine with a touch of milk froth, to produce dominant citrus and gentle floral notes in just three sips.

Source: Stumptown Coffee Roasters' Hair Bender espresso blend, made from "coffee contents from the three major growing regions of Latin America, East Africa, and the Pacific Rim." Stumptown boasts their own "direct trade" label and lists the exact longitude, latitude, elevation, and farms/farmer's names on their website.

Rating: The tiny, long shop is comprised of one wall of exposed brick with a narrow bar and a couple stools. I got it in the ceramic cup, but by the time I walked to the end of the store to the front window stool and had taken off my jacket and sat down, it had cooled to barely warm-- a good reminder that pulling shots into heated cups is one of those great tricks of the trade that may mean the difference between a mouthful of warm, tasty-bright goodness and cold, bitter, acid-breath. Also a reminder that when it comes to espresso, sip first and ask questions later. Since I prefer nuttier, sweeter flavors in drinks made with milk, I think the Hair Bender espresso blend may be best served on its own for optimal enjoyment of that citrus-y crema.


the ghost of internet past

Ryan Wisnor, who helped establish the current incarnation of the coffeehouse, found the webpage for the coffeehouse circa 1997.

Open til midnight on Friday and Saturdays! Mykonos wraps for $5.99! Shakespeare sodas!

You can also follow the link to an old Bookstore homepage. Remember when "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Bridget Jones's Diary" were the top books to read? And number 12 on the P&P Bestsellers is "The Reader: A Novel," which has now been adapted into a Academy Award nominated film...funny how everything gets turned into a movie these days.

Oh, time......unbelievable that we will be celebrating our 3 year anniversary March 1st!

“Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.” - Jorge Luis Borges

How many lattes = a private jet?

Many members of the service industry transition daily from our places of residence into very different environments to do our work. So I'm always interested in hearing how people describe how "the other half" lives. Enter David Brooks' most recent Op-Ed in the New York Times "Ward Three Morality".

The real question is, will the people in Ward 3 set the standard for coffee consumption in these troubled economic times?


ISO Artists & Musicians

Note the new art on the walls and join us for a reception and talk with the artist at 8pm on 1/31. Details on the previous post here.

If you would like to recommend some local artists to feature, drop us a line or stop by. We'd love to hear your ideas.

If you're an artist of the musical type, please come out to our weekly OPEN MIC night. All types of music are welcome and encouraged! Does anyone out there play toy piano? I can't afford to book Margaret Leng Tan.


coffee is a privilege, not a right. but is to be consumed for healthy living.

because NYTimes is all love when it comes to news on caffeinating.

Coffee Linked to Lower Dementia Risk


New furniture update

You may notice some changes in the furniture of the coffeehouse.

As a way to strike a balance between the those patrons interested in enjoying lunch and those who would like take advantage of our "free" wireless to work or study from their second home/office, we have added one long, communal table and a bench, and have bid adieu to our couch. I really have no idea how long that piece of (furniture) has graced the coffeehouse and still don't know what we will do with the fossilized remains of the coelacanth we found in its depths, but immediately after it left the building one could feel a sense of peace and lightness. Really, I'm starting to believe in that feng shui stuff.

Anyways, this is a work in progress. We will purchase another table and more seating, and, with the other table already in place, we plan to have that area of the shop reserved solely for the use of computers. Believe me, we considered many options, and, together with the bookstore's owners, we feel that this is the best way to accommodate our diverse clienteles.

I welcome your comments and suggestions throughout this whole process. I, also, appreciate your understanding that we are a small business limited by our small space. We are working on keeping our coffeehouse vibrant, while intimate, with the warmth that comes from people sharing a meal or hot drink and a conversation.



Art Opening Saturday, January 31st

The current photography exhibit at the coffehouse will end this Thursday the 29th, Nguyen Khoi Nguyen's colorful photographs from Vietnam, "Districts of Saigon".

The next exhibit, opening this Saturday January 31st, features artist and poet Herb Kells. Kells' deeply personal collages and fine papercuts (shown left) will be displayed with original and carefully chosen text on the walls of the coffeehouse, bringing artwork and poetry together to be viewed in tandem as elements of inspiration for the artistic process and outcome.

We will also be having a free public reception with drinks and food to celebrate the opening this Saturday night from 8-10pm. Kells will appear in person to present a brief introduction to his work and read from some of the poetry that has inspired and has been inspired from his work. Please join us for a glass of wine and snacks to welcome this local artist to our space.


wi-fi 101

You might have noticed the new wi-fi rules in the house. Once you connect to the network and open a web browser, you'll be redirected to an agreement page and be asked to accept the terms for usage of our wireless (don't use us as your base for evil operations, etc.). And just to keep the evil to a minimum, during busy hours where lots of people are looking for a seat AND looking to spend money (yay for economic stimulation and for small independent businesses) we'll probably shut the wireless off. So channel that still-high-on-Obama feeling and share your table with your fellow Americans so we can all rise to meet the challenges that come with a free wi-fi society.


Can DC be "cool?"

well, read this:

Can Obama Make Washington the Capital of Cool?

I was not aware that, from my whole conversation with Alex, he was going to focus on my vague understanding of gentrification and economics and that I was going to sound like the "Debbie Downer" of the article, since the article begins on such an uplifting, "hooray-for-change!" tone. But I call it as I sees it - DC as "vibrant"- maybe, but it lurks just below the surface. Once an open dialogue has started and we can say that we have cohesiveness, acceptance, and a free exchange of ideas within our now-jigsaw-puzzle communities then can we call DC cool.

Maybe we need something like what "The Wire" did to Baltimore to make our "grittiness" cool.


Review: David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee

Background: David Lynch is a coffee fan, so much so that the beverage plays a near-supporting role in several of his works, most notably the television series Twin Peaks, where characters such as Agent Dale Cooper and FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (played by Lynch himself) declare regularly their love of a good cup of coffee.

"DAMN good coffee! And HOT! --Dale Cooper

"I was wondering if I might trouble you for a cup of hot, black coffee." -- Gordon Cole

Flavor: Brewed in a press pot, the Organic House Roast beans produced a light to medium bodied coffee w/ mild, slightly sweet and warm flavors of chocolate, spice, nuts.

Source: Proprietary cooperative in Oaxaca, Mexico

Fair Trade: From the
David Lynch coffee website: "While the Fair Trade Certified label guarantees that certified cooperatives of coffee growers (as opposed to single family farms) receive a minimum floor price for their product, we don't pay to use the Fair Trade label on our packaging. Instead our supplier focuses on building direct relationships with our producers and signing multi-year contracts at fixed prices which they negotiate with the producers themselves."

Rating: Mild and pleasant, this would be a good coffee to have at breakfast, or a la Gordon Cole, with a slice of cherry pie for an afternoon pick-me-up.


that cup

So, we now continue our expansion into this digital sphere, an exciting and vast, possibly endless, digital universe. Here, we'll try to keep it simple; in fact, instead of contemplating the vastness of information and enticing nuggets that await us within the confines of of our computer screens, I would like to have my first post be something of a reminder that every once in a while we need to focus on what is directly in front of us.

Of course, being in the coffee business, my call is mainly for those who frequent establishments like our own, where dedicated, caring individuals prepare wonderful concoctions in front of your eyes. We often forget or lose ourselves in whatever it may be - conversation, music, the glare of the new and the fast - that there is a great-long-chain of people, places, methods and activities, chemical reactions, dirty hands and sweaty foreheads, organic processes,
digestion(?), and obsessions that end up in that cup on the table in front of you. The same can be said of any of the other artisanal products that we are proud to offer like Polly's, no-fuss just GOOD, baked goods or Diane's seasonal pies (believe me, you'll want to write an epic poem about those gorgeous pies!) - folks that hand produce everything from scratch and even have time to stop by and have a chat with us during their deliveries.

We're proud of our growing endeavour and hope you continue enjoying fully all we have to offer. As evidence that we as a society have not only been drinking coffee and tea for quite a long time but also thinking and writing about it, I leave you with a few of my favorite quotes and musings from times past.

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.
- T.S. Eliot

Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water. ~The Women's Petition Against Coffee, 1674

The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee by Honore de Balzac

A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell.

The white man has scoffed at our religion and our morals, but has accepted the brown beverage without hesitation. - Okakura Kakuz┼Ź


Trust me, it's all in the coffee

The most excellent Radiolab recently did a show on the topic of choice. In one segment, a study was described where researchers determined that a person's opinion on the "warmth" or trustworthiness of another depended on whether they were holding a cup of either hot or iced coffee. Subjects who held the hot cup briefly before being asked about the likeability of a person unknown to them rated the stranger as being nicer than the testers that held the iced coffee. Of particular note are the implications this has about the relationship between a consumer's behavior in regards to physical interactions that the service provider offers. Are customers more likely to buy your product if you create a warmer environment for them? It's no secret that stores use different types of lighting and sound to create a more sales-friendly environment for shoppers, but hot coffee just makes me think McDonald's lawsuit waiting to happen, not customers blithely adding pastries and sandwiches to their order as they fight the morning caffeine withdrawal shakes. Maybe you'll want to think twice the next time the barista places a drink in your hands before asking if you want to add anything to your order. Or we could just make it painfully clear, the way this cafe in The Netherlands does.