Washington DC: It’s beginning to taste a latte like Christmas

By: Andrea Burton

December 19, 2018

Washington DC © Shutterstock

Washington DC © Shutterstock

After landing into a wintry Washington DC I was ready to seek out the city’s specialty coffee scene. I had 24 hours to sip my way around the US capital while on a mission to find warming holiday specials bursting with seasonal flavours. Night had fallen and it was a frosty 7°C. Street lights flickered. Pine wreaths hung from every front door. Garlands twirled around lamp posts like candy cane, as I shivered my way to my hotel. And like a child on Christmas Eve I fell asleep dreaming of the adventures to follow…

Waking in a Washington wonderland

Compass Coffee seemed like a good starting point. The company was founded by two former marines who developed a friendship while learning to use a compass. After drinking lots of “bad instant coffee” during their deployment, the idea to start a coffee company was brewed. Beans are roasted in DC at their downtown cafe and roasting site in the Shaw neighbourhood, and there’s a choice of nine blends sourced from regions all over the world.

I came in from the morning chill and warmed up with an eggnog latte. Silky, creamy hazelnut milk and spiced foam topped a shot of the Emblem espresso; a blend of beans from Guatemala, Sumatra and Brazil with sweet buttery notes of milk chocolate and a hint of festive cinnamon. This seasonal treat is also available without the espresso.

Eggnog latte at Compass Coffee © Andrea Burton

Compass Coffee, 1535 7th St. NW Washington, DC

Nutcracker time

I’m going to sip straight to the point and tell you about a latte called the Nutcracker, which I discovered on the Winter Seasonals menu at Bourbon Coffee in the Foggy Bottom neighbourhood. Apart from the obvious ingredient of espresso, my latte was layered with homemade nutmeg syrup and brown sugar, with a finale of steamed milk. Bravo indeed and not just to my Nutcracker latte, but to Bourbon Coffee on the whole. This Rwandan coffee company first opened its doors in Kigali, Rwanda in 2007, and today there are eight sites between Rwanda and the US. Bourbon Coffee’s ethos as an international specialty coffee brand is “naturally crop to cup”. Their production is supported by ethical relationships with coffee farmers, including sustainable practices such as direct trade, meaning the beans are purchased directly from Rwandan farmers and cooperatives. Bourbon Coffee certainly bring good tidings to the Washington DC coffee scene.

Nutcracker latte at Bourbon Coffee © Andrea Burton

Bourbon Coffee,

Move over coffee… it’s hot chocolate time

The winter sunshine came out to play so I wandered through the tree-lined streets of Dupont Circle towards Emissary DC, one of Washington’s best independent coffee houses, where speciality coffee is served in an airy and relaxed space. The beauty of the mid morning made me forget how cold I felt, but I still ordered a warming lavender hot chocolate from the seasonal offerings and asked to have it with a shot of espresso. A merry mocha it was too, and it arrived with two dark chocolate discs in a large cosy cup.

Hot chocolate at Emissary DC © Andrea Burton

Emissary DC, 2032 P St NW, Washington DC

Coffee for all seasons

After spending the year flying around our fabulous network enjoying coffee in all our destinations, it was time to reacquaint myself with Georgetown. This riverside neighbourhood is full of super charming cafes, restaurants and bakeries that make the perfect pitstop when exploring the waterfront shops and boutiques. If a seasonal holiday drink isn’t quite to your taste, I’d highly recommend a cortado at Grace Street Coffee Roasters. I’ve always enjoyed their superbly crafted specialty coffees and single origin offerings. The smell of freshly roasted coffee greets you at the door as they roast the beans on-site.

Grace Street Coffee, 3210 Grace St NW Washington DC

Georgetown, Washington DC © Shutterstock

A cup of festive spirit

It had been two years since I last visited Slipstream in trendy Logan Circle, so I sipped my way into the season’s spirit with a turmeric and peppercorn latte. The gentle heat of the spices and creamy steamed milk made for a perfect wintry hot drink to warm my cold palms. Slipstream also serve a great collection of signature coffee using specialty coffee roasters Madcap Coffee beans, and if you’re here post 8 p.m there are seasonal offerings on the cocktail menu too.

Slipstream, 1333 14th St NW, Washington DC

Slipstream, Washington DC © Andrea Burton

From the bottom of all my festive coffee cups in Washington DC and all around our route map, I wish you all a happy holiday season, a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2019.

Virgin Atlantic operates flights to Washington DC from London Heathrow.


Andrea Burton

Londoner and coffee connoisseur Andrea is a member of our cabin crew and has worked at Virgin Atlantic for more than 13 years. Reporting from our destinations around the world, her mission is to share the best coffee and coffee shops discovered on her layovers.

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