Recently I found myself on a brief stay in the Chinatown section of Washington D.C. And as the first thing I always do in a city is seek out a unique coffee shop, I consulted Foursquare which immediately suggested Chinatown Coffee Co. Since I like to ask humans as well I checked with the hotel concierge who confirmed that indeed this was the current it place for coffee. Opened in 2009 and located at 475 H St., Chinatown Coffee Co. sits humbly and serenely on the ground floor of a slate toned stone building amongst the chaotic bustle of meandering tourists. The space, while industrial in design and narrow, did not feel cramped or sterile; rather I found it cozy in that urban hub way with people typing away at laptops, exchanging ideas or running in with messenger bags and ear buds hanging from coat pockets all powered by that timeless beverage of philosophers, revolutionaries, politicians and artists…coffee.
As if to challenge our age obsessed with filters and Photoshop to perfect our photos and apps to perfect our bodies and souls, Chinatown Coffee Co. celebrates the beauty of imperfection. Electrical wires in full view coiled in a rectangular box structure. Cracks in the floor remain and are even artfully highlighted. Rust on the front of the counter is showcased. Exposed Brick. Shaped are rectangular and clean and simple. Event the sign to order coffee does not deviate from this elegant directness and simple states in a clean font “To Stay” and “To Go” with items listed beneath. The space seemed reminiscent of the Bauhaus movement. The movement which began as an art school in Weimar Germany founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 and lasting until 1933, favored over ornamentation, placing emphasis on truth in materials and not hiding the inner workings or structure.
I asked the Barista what he would recommend and he suggested the latte. He asked “whole or skim milk?” and seemed relieved when I said whole. A good latte needs milk fat. I have to say this one of the best lattes I have had. It came with heart shaped latte arts with milky caramel colored bubbles dancing around the image. The coffee was not too heavy or overpowering as sometimes it can be. It melded perfectly with the milk in a delectable, creamy beverage experience.
I loved the busy vibe of this coffee shop with its stylish, parade of busy working Washingtonians entering and exiting. After my latte sadly ended I ordered a regular cup of coffee and enjoyed the luxury of time. Chinatown Coffee Co. also serves beer and absinthe for the Bohemians among you so you can unwind and finish your day there as well.