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A Caffeine Boost

The Hill Continues to Offer Alternatives to The Big Coffee Chains

Ask any barista if he’s ever dreamed of opening up his own coffee shop one day, and you’re likely to be greeted with a “yes.” That was the case with Ryan Jensen, who worked at Murky Coffee and is now the owner of Peregrine Espresso, the shop that will replace the Capitol Hill staple later this summer.

“The more you work for someone else, the more you think, ‘If this was my place, this is what I’d change,’” said Jensen, who has worked in the industry for more than eight years.

Jensen said he got to know the Eastern Market area well over the two and a half years that he worked as a barista and manager at Murky Coffee, which closed earlier this year after the owner, Nick Cho, allegedly failed to pay more than $400,000 in taxes from 2003 to 2006. Jensen’s ties to the neighborhood made the empty storefront on Seventh Street Southeast a natural choice when Jensen decided to open his own place.

“I’ve lived on the Hill for a number of years,” he said. “And being a barista there, I felt like I really became a part of the community. I got to know a lot of the neighboring businesses and got to know a lot of people in the community.”

Jensen became especially friendly with one neighbor — his would-be wife.

“She came in one day and ordered an iced coffee and we started chatting,” he said. “We were actually married just a couple of blocks away from there, and we had our wedding reception in Eastern Market.” The couple has been married for more than two years, and Jensen said his wife will be helping him with the new shop, the name of which is Latin for “pilgrim” or “wanderer.”

[IMGCAP(1)]After he left Murky Coffee in December 2006, Jensen began working for the shop’s coffee distributor, Counter Culture. There, he learned about different beans and roasts. Jensen intends to use this brand of coffee in Peregrine Espresso.

“I’m very excited to continue to use that coffee in that space, especially after having worked for Counter Culture,” he said. “I feel even more confident that it’s a great company and I’m using good coffee.”

Jensen is hoping to teach patrons about different types of coffees and serve them a wide variety of beans. While working for the company, Jensen partook in weekly cupping exercises, in which people smell and taste coffees in a manner much like a wine tasting. He hopes to make this activity a part of the Peregrine Espresso experience.

“It’s a certain type of method used to evaluate coffee,” he said. “You smell it when it’s just ground and dry and then you smell it again and taste it and then you try to slurp if off the spoon to really get a sense of the coffee.”

Jensen hopes to open Peregrine Espresso sometime this summer. He said the shop will have a similar vibe to Murky, but it will have a more “customer friendly” layout.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Hill, Sidamo offers another break from chain coffee shops. The store, opened in December 2006 on the west end of the popular H Street Corridor by the husband and wife team Kenfe and MiMi Bellay, is doing well as it celebrates its second summer.

“If you are from Ethiopia, you grow up roasting this coffee,” Kenfe Bellay said. “It would be for us an everyday event in most of the households. That means it’s normal for Ethiopians to open a coffee shop or something to do with coffee.”

Sidamo offers freshly roasted coffee, focusing specifically on beans from East Africa, though the menu offers some varieties from Asia and South America, too. Customers can enjoy a cup of joe in the back garden or at tables scattered throughout the shop. The java is served alongside muffins, sandwiches, salads and a wide range of teas. Bellay said the freshness and quality of the beans is what separates his shop from other coffeehouses.

“Our focus is organic fair trade and shared crop,” Bellay said. “That’s the main thing, to get organic coffees. And because it’s fair- trade, that means … the coffee farmers [are paid] a fair amount of money. It’s better quality — that’s the main thing.”

Sidamo is located at 417 H St. NE and is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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