south american knockout round!

Brasil v. Chile @ 2:30PM on the wall of the coffeehouse today!

Parking Woes **UPDATED**

Well, it just so happens that the District of Columbia has no jurisdiction over the strip of dirt next to the woods; it is, actually, part of Rock Creek Park, and, therefore, under federal jurisdiction. Nick Gill, our landlord, has an agreement with the Park Service - allowing cars to park in that area (as long as it remains reasonably maintained). Carry on.

on 6/23/10, I wrote:
"A parking enforcement officer visited our parking lot today to inform us that PARKING ON THE GRAVEL/DIRT ABUTTING THE WOODED AREA IS ILLEGAL. I would suggest parking on the paved lot or on 36th St. while we, along with the other businesses on the block, try to appeal this decision since using those spaces has been an accepted practice for several years. I will keep you informed of any developments."


¡mas futbol mañana!

EEUU v. Algerie 930a
Germany v. Ghana 230p

(assorted found video in between)

World Cup Today!

We will be streaming the World Cup TODAY in the coffeehouse! Korea v. Nigeria @ 2:30PM ET. (Various internet-found video art before and at half time.)


a nod from the new yorker

I just want to point out, that Hendrik Hertzberg's heartfelt post about the future sale of Politics & Prose on The New Yorker website, included a wee mention about getting espresso at the store: "P&P is not just a place to buy a book or sip an espresso, though I make it a point to do both every time I’m in the vicinity." Read the full post here.


what's the deal with iced coffee?

We've been serving cold-brewed coffee for a few years now, but ever since last summer the notoriety of iced coffee has skyrocketed. Convenience stores, fast food joints, and corporate coffee chains are marketing iced coffee as the cheaper, but just as delicious, alternative to an iced latte. (Iced lattes are more expensive for this reason: they involve the barista pulling regular espresso shots to order, then a full serving-- usually 8 oz. or so of milk and sometimes a flavor shot is added.)

We were highlighted briefly in the Express last summer about cold-brewed iced coffee, and then the Post followed up with an article, quoting awesome food scientist Harold McGee on the flavor marriage of milk and coffee; also highlighted was the cold espresso-based drink the "shakerato" (which for you oldschoolers-- we actually used to serve at MTC).

Also mentioned was an incident with a now-defunct coffeeshop where a customer was refused espresso over ice (and threatened, via a blog post, with a very specific form of punishment) because the establishment wouldn't serve a coffee beverage where the form/quality of the espresso was compromised.

Why all the hullabaloo? Coffee beans for espresso are roasted and blended to preserve unique flavors that bloom under the intense pressure and temperature of the espresso machine. When that hot, concentrated shot of liquid is shocked with ice, it tastes completely different than the fragrant, savory, sweet, and creamy treat that it was meant to be. Most of us agree that taste is well, bad. We also don't like to see those carefully roasted espresso beans covered up in a drink with tons of milk and most likely, sugar.

Lurking in the background is another reason why some people have been known to order espresso over ice-- they simply use the "free" self-serve condiment milk to fill the rest of the cup up, essentially making their own iced latte for the cost of just ordering a regular espresso. There's even a pejorative term for it, but I don't like to use it. One can understand the motivation behind this-- but considering that vast majority of people only use 1-2 ounces of milk in their coffee, someone taking 8-10 ounces of milk for their on-the-sly iced latte cuts into the bottom line of a business. At our store, the additional dollar you pay for the iced latte vs. a double espresso accounts for the milk, the ice, and the barista pre-mixing it for you.

Cold-brewed coffee tastes completely different than say, hot-brewed coffee that is just leftover and then stuck in the fridge until cold. It can be enjoyed on its own, or with a little bit of milk or simple syrup (sugar that has been pre-dissolved in water) to enhance the natural flavors. If you like your espresso unaltered or like to drink regular hot coffee black, you'll probably find cold-brewed coffee a refreshing, flavor-packed substitute when you need a cold jolt on a hot day. And if you usually drink iced lattes, try iced coffee with milk-- you will be surprised of the flavor difference.

For the record, there are some specific methods out there for brewing coffee directly over ice to actually capture flavors at the point of chilling-- notably the Japanese method, which uses a pour-over brewing style, filtering the concentrated coffee directly onto ice cubes; or Vietnamese-style iced coffee, which brews a single serving of coffee over ice and sweetened condensed milk.


Many thanks!

As you might have read already, Barbara and Carla are looking to move on and are currently in the process of looking for a buyer who will continue their legacy and preserve Politics and Prose Bookstore as a D.C. institution.
I am forever indebted to them and have nothing but love and good wishes for both in their retirement. The coffeehouse, as it exists today, could not have happened without their continued encouragement and patience.
Thank you, Barbara and Carla, for taking a risk on a bunch of business greenhorns! I feel proud to have had you as mentors and to be a part of the P&P family.


SIZE of our drinks

Recently, an "Anonymous" commenter had this to say regarding our decision to eliminate the larger cup sizes:

"I, too, do not understand how an "efficient supply and consumption of both materials and space" affect getting a large regular coffee. Non-espresso coffees do not require more time to prepare, and only marginally more materials. I regularly buy a large coffee, drink some on site, and take the rest with me. Taking away the ability to do this for the reasons stated not only seems ridiculous, but may drive me to other places. Very user-unfriendly."

I understand how our decision, originally-presented, can be confusing and disconcerting for some people. For the sake of brevity in my original blog post, I did only mention the quality of espresso drinks as the impetus behind this change. Questions arose, and, subsequently, Anna added that efficiency of materials and space, and streamlining the flow of our movements and those of the traffic within the shop, also influenced our decision. She also stressed our ability to adjust specific orders - i.e. adding extra shots or even filling larger sized non-disposable travel mugs.

If that does not make our decision clearer, let me add a few more reasons that were not explicitly stated. Our menu is now easier to read. Our storage space is very limited and, as a small business, our margins thin: inventory is now much easier to manage and maintain in order. Furthermore, keeping larger cups behind the counter and not using them for espresso drinks would only lead to confusion, misunderstandings, subsequent lengthy clarifications interrupting our otherwise efficient workflow, and would, perhaps, add conflict to our otherwise peaceful coffeehouse. We still offer coffee refills, unlimited quantities of them, even! Sit a while, enjoy what you are drinking.
Also, remember how the coffeehouse used to serve 20 oz hot drinks and people's reaction to eliminating that size drink?
I didn't think you would.