A DAMN FINE SOURCE FOR COFFEE
Recently, Christy, Bryan and I had the pleasure of hanging out with the fellows of Vigilante Coffee Company. We spent some quality time learning about the company, tasting the coffee and having a chat about what DC can look forward to in the near future. It’s a helluva lot folks! Let me break it down.
Vigilante is: Chris Roessler-Vigilante, Antajuan Scott and Joseph Casey. A combination of high school friendships, DC cafe co-workers and good timing brought these three together under Chris’ leadership to help form Vigilante (it’s not just a badasss company name, but his mother’s maiden name too). Chris got his start in coffee working at Downtown Coffee a small, specialty cafe/ roaster in Honolulu, Oahu. Escaping an internship and in between surfing, he fell in love with coffee and ended up staying an extra year in Hawaii, gaining the basis for his roasting knowledge.
A few years later after working in a few DC cafes and roasting on the side, further developing his craft, Chris finally took the plunge. Vigilante is a small micro-roaster, based in the District. They’ve been roasting coffee for a little over a year and in this small time, have already taken two origin trips (to Hawaii and Colombia- Kenya is on next year’s agenda), increased the amount of farm-direct coffee they were purchasing from 20% to 80%, and are determined to reach 100 by the end of 2012.
Initially, they specialized in only Hawaiian coffee, an ode to Chris’ coffee beginnings, but quickly realized the advantages to offering a selection of single origin coffees, while still specializing in Hawaiians. As Antujuan pointed out, “There’s a market for it. People need to taste that there is high quality Hawaiian coffee. More than just Kona. We can offer that.” I must admit, as a coffee professional, I have very limited experience with Hawaiian coffee and felt a bit embarrassed as we cupped 2 Maui coffees (a Red Catuai and a Mokka) and was thrilled taste coffee from this unfamiliar origin. The Mokka (green Maui Mokka pictured below) stood out amongst the Red Catuai (dubbed Maui Red) and the Guatemalan Finca Anono we tasted side-by-side. Although all three were nice and clean, the Mokka was super sweet, with flavors of honey and red fruit in the cup.
What started as a strong following at area farmer’s markets, has grown into a loyal customer base, and is taking DC restaurants and bars by storm. Team Vigilante isn’t rushing into opening a retail space just yet. Instead, they are working strategically with two different concepts to showcase their coffee. The first is a pop-up cafe that opened just this week in Mr. Yogato (the OG of tangy yogurt spots). It will be open from 7-10 am Monday-Friday. District Bean has the full scoop, but look forward to a traditional espresso menu offering 100% Hawaiian espresso as well as a pour-over bar that the Vigilante guys built by hand, sporting Kalita wave drippers (pictured to the left).
Additionally, Vigilante will be joining the Toki Underground and Durkl team in the forthcoming Maketto Asian Market on H St. NE. The shared retail/ restaurant concept will feature a Vigilante cafe on the second floor, and the market will also be home to an on-site roasting facility. Chris is thrilled to be a part of this creative collaboration and thinks this is the ideal next step for the company.
Go try their coffee. You shouldn’t have a hard time finding it these days. While you’re at it, have a chat with any of these guys. They’re some of the nicest people out there.