To begin this periodic series on the quest for good coffee, we start with Bodega Spanish Tapas & Lounge, located on M Street in the heart of Georgetown’s commercial district. On my first visit there more than a year ago, I was very impressed with the quality of the cortado I was served, the first perfect cup of coffee I have had to date in the U.S. Last evening I went to dinner at Bodega with friends, and while awaiting the arrival of one of our dining companions ordered a cortado to see whether the resulting brew met the usual high standard I have come to expect from this establishment.
The resulting coffee did not disappoint. It was rich and creamy, with a strong flavor of well-made espresso and a dash of milk brought to just the right temperature to enable the drinker to mix the two components together without the milk curdling. There was no bitter or burnt aftertaste, nor any sense of waxiness in the brew, nor were there any particulates of coffee grounds to be detected.
My fellow diner Mr. P. sampled the coffee as well and proclaimed his satisfaction with the results. In discussion of my oft-repeated complaint about the poor quality of coffee in this country, Mr. P. recalled his time in Italy and the good coffee he had sampled there. He agreed with my conclusion that, issues such as the use of local water or other components in Europe aside, it was somewhat odd that in America, espresso-based drinks turn out to be such a hit-or-miss affair, despite the common use of European-made espresso machines.
Mr. P. also noted his understanding that American coffee houses tend to use a coffee blend containing either a different type of arabica bean, or a higher percentage thereof. These generally produce a stronger flavor and aroma than other beans but can, if over-roasted, result in bitterness in the final product. This is an interesting observation, and it may lead to further investigation as to why there is such a significant difference in the quality of coffee one is served in the States as opposed to Europe.
By way of conclusion then, I give Bodega ****3/4 stars out of five for its cortado. The markdown of 1/4 star, and admittedly this is an extremely minor quibble, is for the fact that Bodega continues to use standard teaspoons when serving a cortado, rather than a demitasse spoon. Regular teaspoons are too broad in the bowl to easily fit into the small coffee cup, and cannot create an effective mixture of the coffee, milk, and sugar without running the risk of sloshing some of the resulting drink over the sides of the demitasse. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in D.C. and want to experience an excellent coffee the equal of any you would find in Spain, Bodega’s cortado – preferably sipped out on its beautiful and newly-renovated outdoor patio – should be at the top of your list.
a perfect coffee experience in DC, minus the too-large spoon