Coming from Europe, one of the things I miss the most from home is the coffee culture. Going out for coffee in Bulgaria is not a trivial matter, it is an everyday ritual. And it is not just a morning thing, To be honest, it is not even all about the coffee (although I quite enjoy that part). It is about socializing, meeting up with friends, catching up, relaxing after a hard day at work, people watching on a lazy afternoon, and simply having a good time. When I googled “Coffee Culture in Bulgaria” i found this paragraph that sums it all up:
“This country is completely centered around coffee. There are little coffee machines all over the place, every restaurant serves coffee, and there are coffee shops on every street. It’s quite an interesting culture, but it’s also very unique and different. The coffee is pure espresso. Kinda strange, but you can do it just like American coffee if you add water to it. I had to tell people to ask for a shot of water in it so that they could have American style coffee.”
This fellow blogger couldn’t have put it better. You cannot comprehend it, until you see it for yourself, but we love our coffee shops and they are an important part of our culture. So being a latte and an espresso kind of girl, you can only imagine the shock I experienced when I was served a huge cup of American coffee for the first time (a.k.a “brown water” – don’t hate me for this 🙂 ) When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So I did. My first purchase for our new house was an espresso maker. But it was not the same. I missed the atmosphere.
Every coffee shop has an atmosphere. Part of it is innate in the place, the other part is made up of its inhabitants. Where in Washington can you find this unique blend? @MannWell’s Coffee Alley, a family run coffee house and art gallery. Located right on Main Street (another important criteria for a good coffee shop), MannWells is a gathering place. Coffee Clubs and Book Clubs, artists and musicians, teachers and students, free spirits and business professionals, locals and tourists, friends and strangers, they all meet there and share the coffee shop experience.
How did it all began? The place where the building stands today used to be just an alley way on the side of the downtown JC Penney store. After it was closed off, it operated as a dress shop for 40 years. Then the dresses gave way to antiques, until “Grab A Java” moved in. The coffee shop existed with the antique store for a while, but as all good things it came to an end in 2005. When the space became available, Cheryl Heggemann and her family seized the opportunity and opened MannWell’s. Cheryl’s son, Taylor Tidwell, moved back home from New Orleans to help his mom in establishing the business. The original name of the new coffee shop was a combination of Cheryl and her son’s last names.
Cheryl says she has always wanted to own a coffee shop downtown, because she loves the history of the area. At MannWells’s you never feel rushed. The idea is to feel comfortable and relaxed, just like when you go to grandma’s house. The coffee alley is also a great place to meet new people and make friends. While I was there, I saw three people who came alone, and 10 minutes later they were sitting on a table together and chatting. Cheryl told me that this happens all the time.
The atmosphere is not the only great thing about MannWell’s. Their coffee is excellent, too.
Cheryl serves Kaldi’s coffee, which is roasted and sold within a week, so it doesn’t lose its flavor. The company buys the coffee beans directly from independent farmers at an even better than the Fair Trade price. The employees at the Coffee Alley are trained by a Kaldi’s barista on a regular basis, to ensure that you receive the perfect cup of aromatic goodness. It’s no wonder then that MannWell’s has won the Missourian Reader’s Choice “Best Coffee” Award six years in a row.
If you want something yummy to go with your coffee, you have to make it to Mannwell’s early in the morning, before their delicious scones are all gone. They bake them right there, and they just melt in your mouth. All other pastries are also homemade, and so is the brunch. Cheryl wants everything to feel like at home and she likes to purchase organic and healthy products for the customers.
The friendly staff, the smell of newly brewed coffee and fresh-baked muffins and scones, along with the warm and inviting family atmosphere make MannWell’s the preferred coffee spot in downtown Washington.