Sipping and Tipping

April 26, 2014

Our resident caffinologist, John Flemming, pursues perfection.

It’s inconceivable to him that we who have bought a $12,000 espresso machine hesitate before spending another $1,500 to buy a reverse osmosis water filter (whatever that is).

IMG_0788   Can you imagine my not wanting to dig into our marble front counter a hole for his spray rinse for coffee cups?  But we’re doing it.

Or about two $1,200 dosing grinders that will dependably dump exactly the right number of coffee grams into the espresso baskets ?  (“Dosing,” he calls it.)

Although he prefers that people not contaminate his perfect latte with a sweetener, “People are going to sweeten it anyway.  So I want to make that experience better than anywhere else.  Vanilla is a good medium, but I want to complement it with other compatible flavors like whisky, oak, maple sugar.”

What is the line between passion and obsession?  And why are we doing this?

I remember when Starbucks was thought to be great coffee.  Indeed, I remember when Maxwell House was perfectly fine and the percolator was the accepted method of brewing.  My coffee baseline is lower than John’s.


God knows I don’t want to go back to those days but how far do I want to go?

I admit that in spit of his nature John has compromised.  He’d prefer to do “pour-overs” in the morning but bowed to General Manager Perry Plybon’s insistence that as they walk to the Van Ness Metro at 7:30 am customers won’t want to wait for seven minutes to watch hot water dribbling slowly through a paper filter.

And John also yielded to my insistence we not adopt the inherently unfair system of tipping those who make espresso drinks.  I find it subtly coersive that in so many food stores customers are presented by cashiers with a bill that has a tipping line to be filled in while the cashiers look on hungrily.

There is no question that our coffee program will be superb; John will see to it.  But I am a child of the 1940s and ‘50s and while I love coffee and drink it all day, I have been fantasizing about the soda fountain largely lost for the past four decades.


We’re going to attempt a modest revival of that old institution by offering egg creams.  And as we will be making ice cream for sale in cones and cups, we use our ice cream to make milk shakes, ice cream sodas, and root beer floats.

And John will turn his caffeine-saturated mind to juice drinks and teas, chocolate drinks and soft drinks that we make.

John is going to be the founding sodologist, master of non-alcoholic drinks.




  1. judith lichtman says:

    egg creams! – you know the way to this New Yorker’s heart!
    Using fox’s ubet chocolate syrup- for absolute authenticity– I presume
    My sister is a world class expert on how to acheive the exactly right amount of foam
    Can’t wait for you to open for so many reasons and now I have one more grand reason
    what an extraordinary gift to our neighborhood and all of our DC region

  2. Annie says:

    We’re getting so close to being able to enjoy the best baked goods and coffee in the Mid Atlantic, quite possibly on the East Coast! Can’t wait to try one of everything and the incredible sounding coffee. Thanks for perservearing to bring us the very best of everything.

  3. wmcp4short says:

    John was right about the reverse osmosis water filter. I assume he’s using that water to make the coffee and not just rinse the cups. It’s so good that you’re back in business—and with root beer floats, yet! When you opened Marvelous Market it changed the food scene in Washington. It hasn’t been the same since you sold it. (And Bread Line, too.)

  4. Mark Kreitman says:

    Anxious for opening. Two block west resident foresees hang in.

  5. Ted Pochter says:

    It looks like you are almost ready to swing open the doors. Looking forward to the “pour overs” and croissants.

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