Coffee and CafesZebra Misc

Get Caffeinated On The Old Town Coffee Crawl

(Courtesy of Hope Nelson)

Alexandria, VA – It’s a brisk Saturday morning on King Street in Old Town Alexandria, leaves skitter down the sidewalk in the breeze as Hope Nelson, owner and guide of Alexandria Food Tours, waits for the coffee fans to join her on the Old Town Coffee Crawl, this writer included.

The Old Town Coffee Crawl was first offered in the summer of 2023 and has been running strong since then.

“I’d been thinking about doing a coffee tour for a while,’ recalls Nelson, “and I contacted Erik Muendel from ESP Tea & Coffee with the idea, and he was in. Then I pinged Gizem Şalcıgil White and she was in!”

It was an idea that snowballed into what attendees experience today, an opportunity to taste caffeinated goodies and other treats from three different Alexandria cafes, each with their own unique vibes and offerings.

On that chilly Saturday morning, our group of four first filed into ESP Tea & Coffee. As we waited for Leo Maggio to give us a demo and a behind-the-scenes peek of the coffee roaster, we admired the vibrant and unique artwork on the walls.

(Courtesy of Hope Nelson)

Before our first sip of coffee, we followed Maggio to the small room where the roaster was, a Coffee Crafters Artisan Air Coffee Roaster. This roaster, explains Maggio, uses convection currents of hot air to roast the green coffee beans to the perfectly roasted beans used to make the delicious cups of coffee customers happily drink at ESP. Traditional drum roasters that use gas can infuse the beans with a gas taste, explains Maggio, making some people think they don’t like coffee, but in fact they might like it if the beans are roasted with a hot air roaster!

Maggio proceeded to give us a demo of his technique of making a pour-over coffee. He clearly spent time perfecting his thoughtful and methodical pour-over process, starting with pouring hot water in the filter used for the coffee to get rid of the paper flavor (who knew!) before adding the ground coffee beans.

Leo Maggio demonstrates proper pour-over techniques and tips.
(Courtesy of Hope Nelson)

We each got a sample of the pour-over in beautiful little clay cups, savoring the smooth, slightly citrusy coffee. Absolutely delicious. We said goodbye to Maggio, grateful and ready for our next stop, The Turkish Coffee Lady.

The dining area in the Turkish Coffee Lady was bright and sunny, looking out onto King Street. We were welcomed warmly by the staff members. For most of the group, this was our first time experiencing having a whiff of the different coffee blends, in small glass bowls, from which we could choose.

Turkish Coffee from The Turkish Coffee Lady
Turkish tea and chocolate baklava

Our coffee came on individual, intricate gold trays with a small mug of coffee, a small glass of water, and a covered dish with three small Turkish Delight squares. Nelson tells us that it is recommended to enjoy a few sips of coffee, and then have a sip of water before having a Turkish Delight square. The coffee was smooth, creamy, and just the right amount of sweetness. Along with our drinks, we are treated to warm flaky Turkish bagels filled with feta or black olives, the savory flavor complementing the sweet coffee. We also sampled their Turkish Tea and baklava before braving the cold once more to head over to our last stop, Via Volcan Coffee.

Tucked away on S West Street, Nelson tells us it can be easy to miss the micro-roastery serving fresh, high-quality, and uniquely delicious coffee. We ordered our cortados and made our way to the quiet and cozy seating area on the second floor.

Espresso machine at Via Volcan

At the end of our Old Town Coffee Crawl, we had a moment to sit around a table, sipping our last caffeinated beverage of the tour, sharing what our first concerts were, having a lively conversation about socks, and enjoying each other’s company as we were now bonded through this experience.

It’s as Maggio, from ESP Tea & Coffee, noted, “coffee is like a linchpin, it makes people happy and keeps us together.” As I parted ways with Nelson and the other members of the group, I was left with a deeper admiration of the coffee shops in Alexandria and the passion of the roasters and baristas who make our coffee drinks every day.

If you’d like to join the next Old Town Coffee Crawl or one of Alexandria Food Tours’ other tours, be sure to check out their website.

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