Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
D.C. isn’t a coffee town—it’s a Counter Culture town. The coffee is served in a majority of the city’s boutique shops, despite being the product of a Durham, N.C.-based roaster. No wonder: Counter Culture provides a package deal that adds training and equipment maintenance to its coffee distribution, a boon to small businesses for which rent can be a serious setback. But there are exceptions. Dupont Circle’s Filter, which we deemed Best Coffee Shop in 2011, serves coffee by Ceremony, which is headquartered in Annapolis. Better still is Qualia Coffee. The Petworth joint doesn’t just serve coffee; owner Joel Finkelstein has also set up a roasting operation there, so the beans Qualia grinds are as fresh as they’ll ever be. Finkelstein is firmly committed to using sustainable, ethically sound, single-origin coffee—which appeals, certainly, to D.C.’s obsession with all local everything—but most importantly, Qualia’s brews also taste delicious without hewing to Counter Culture’s hegemony.