The Grape and Bean, a wine and coffee shop located in Old Town Alexandria, offers high quality direct trade coffee in a quaint atmosphere. Soon, they will be offering wine by the glass and small plates of food.
Awhile back, I wrote a post on Fair Trade Coffee. Being a caffeine addict, it concerns me that so much of the coffee imported to the United States is produced by companies who exploit their workers and the environment. Recently, I heard a statistic that coffee is the number 2 import in the United States (after oil, of course) which makes the need for coffee with a conscience even more relevant.
After writing about fair trade coffee, Susan told me about Grape and Bean in Old Town Alexandria. I visited their charming shop on South Royal Street a few times, each time having a very positive experience. Employees were willing to answer my questions, and even gave me reading recommendations (God in a Cup- which I discuss below).
Now, I am no coffee expert. That is, aside from understanding the difference between a light roast and a dark roast, I'm not likely to detect hints of chocolate or cherry when I sip my daily joe. However, I willtell you that the cups of coffee I drank there were memorable. My husband John, the constant skeptic (though willing supporter) of my enthusiasm for these sorts of things, was completely sold after drinking a cup of la Golondrina: a coffee that is direct trade certified by the company Counter Culture.
The direct trade coffee model takes fair trade a step further. With the idea that the search for sustainable coffee has become "confusing" as of late, Counter Culture's model of direct trade seeks to set high standards for the beans andthe coffee farmers. They also value transparency:a value that is all too easy to ignore when the people consuming the product are thousands of miles away. Take my cup of la Golondrina. Counter Culture describes it on their website:
We decided to name the project "La Golondrina," or "The Swallow," because, in Latin American culture, the swallow is a symbol of communication between people separated by distance and borders. The swallow crosses borders easily and carries messages of goodwill between friends, no matter how far away. Also, the swallow returns every year, just as we plan to return to Cauca every year to visit our partners there.
Following this description is a list of each farmer who participated in the la Golondrina project this year. Now that's transparency. You can read more about it here.
David Gwathmey, owner of the Grape and Bean, told me that they are looking to offer more direct trade certified coffees on their list of excellent brews. Also on the horizon: the Grape and Bean will be (soon!) offering wine by the glass and small plates of food.
For those of you who are really interested in the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee, the author of God in a Cup, Michaele Weissman will be signing her book and talking at a coffee tasting at the Grape and Bean tomorrow night, July 24th at 6:30 PM. If you can't make it, she will also be signing books at Politics and Prose on Monday, July 28th at 7PM.
Now, if only I had the Grape and Bean's single cup brewing Clover machine at my disposal and some la Golondrina beans so I could enjoy my morning cup of coffee as much as I did this one.
The Grape and Bean is located at 118 South Royal Street in Alexandria, VA. Their hours of operation can be found at their website: http://www.grapeandbean.com/.
Much thanks to my friend Kate of kate headley photography for the great photographs.