Photo by Rey Lopez
From a press release:
“Panama’s premier specialty coffee company Café Unido is opening a roastery and retail shop in Northeast Washington, D.C., and will become its headquarters of operation in the United States.
Unido Roastery DC will complement the Café Unido coffee shop inside the nearby Latin lifestyle market, La Cosecha.
Café Unido is committed to roasting and serving exclusively Panamanian coffee beans, including the exclusive and coveted geisha variety. The team develops deep relationships with farmers across the country, sourcing beans from volcanic, oceanic, and highland climates for a diverse array of flavors.
They’re also market disruptors. Where commodity coffee’s price hovers around $1.25 per pound, Unido pays at least triple that. As founder and head roaster Benito Bermúdez says, “We’re changing the business model. We’re willing to pay more for this quality.” This is not just an economic justice issue; it also reflects a commitment to the environment.
Geisha, the native Ethiopian varietal that thrives in Panama’s soil and climate, is lauded for its rare and exquisite flavor with notes ranging from floral and fruity to jasmine tea and lemongrass. It also is happiest under the shade of Pamana’s citrus and avocado trees. Instead of farmers clearing forests, geisha encourages reforestation. As a buyer, Cafe Unido boosts both the farm’s bottom line and its natural resources. Because the question is, asks Bermúdez: “Do we want coffee to be sustainable 100 years down the line?”
Beyond the cultivation of beans, Panamanian producers are playing with innovations around natural processing (drying coffee inside the coffee cherry, yielding complex fruity coffees); anaerobic fermentations (fermented without oxygen in tanks); and carbonic maceration (the use of yeast to ferment, borrowing a tactic from the wine industry to reach new coffee profiles).
The Roastery, inside the former Dolcezza Factory, is being redesigned by Bermúdez’s wife, the Panamanian-based architect Daniela Manfredi. The centerpiece will be a 12-seat cupping station. When the weather warms, the garage-door front will open to picnic tables.
There will be two drip coffees available, Unido’s signature blend and a rotating single varietal. Food comes from Mario Castrellon, whose Panama City-based restaurant Maito, won him a spot on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Castrellon riffed off the burgers he made for Unido’s cafes in Panama, fine tuning this one to play off the classic with American cheese. The burger is accented with a cascara ketchup–it’s fruity, but also savory like a barbecue sauce–made from the dried skins of coffee cherries.
The team plays with cascara in its hot sauce, too, and sells it in the shop. Cafe Unido developed two: Señor Lechuga Hot Sauce .507 ($9.50), featuring habanero, coffee and cascara and Señor Lechuga Hot Sauce .098 ($13.00) with habanero, geisha coffee and passion fruit.
Photo by Rey Lopez
The retail shop also sells the freshly roasted bags of coffee and its Geisha Drip Kit, an on-the-go, and more affordable way, to brew the famed bean. There’s also branded merch: water bottles, tumblers, totes, T-shirts and mugs.
Cafe Unido plans for a late spring opening at 550 Penn St NE, Washington, D.C., DC 20002.
Roastery: 550 Penn St NE, Washington, D.C., DC 20002
La Cosecha, 1280 4th St. NE, Washington, DC 20002″
3211 M Street, NW Billy Reid opened in the former Pizzeria Uno space back in 2013. Stay tuned for Todd Snyder. This has been Dan Silverman reporting.
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