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More and more Americans are turning to coffee to start their daily grind. And the trend is trickling down to Washington D.C., where even some specialty coffee shops are seeing a boost in business.
At Qualia Coffeehouse, the steady stream of customers is greeted by soft jazz melodies as they walk through the door. Behind the counter, two baristas work away serving up coffee in all its various forms, espressos, lattes, coffee by drip and simply bags of micro roasted coffee beans. Saturdays are the busiest days of the week.
"I'd always figured it would be just a niche market but there was more demand for it than I had really expected," says Joel Finkelstein, owner of Qualia Coffeehouse in the Petworth neighborhood of D.C. "It was just something that was not on the market at the time that I got started,"
Finkelstein opened his specialty coffee shop in May 2009 in hopes of sharing his love of fresh roasted coffee with others. His shop is one of nearly a dozen like it that have sprouted up in the city over the last several years.
D.C. ranks in the top ten for most caffeinated city in the U.S.
And it's not just specialty coffeehouses that are seeing demand perk up. According to a survey by the National Coffee Association, the percentage of Americans in their late 20s through 30s drinking coffee on a daily basis has increased by 10 percent over the past year to 54 percent. Bundle.com, a website that tracks consumer trends using anonymous credit data, ranks Washington, D.C. as the sixth most caffeinated city in the U.S., topping other bigger cities in the amount it spends on coffee. Chicago came in first.
The numbers are little surprise to Rima Kleiner, a registered dietician based in Vienna, Va. She counsels a number of people in the D.C. metro region.
"It's definitely a fast paced, hard working environment," says Kleiner. "I think people are just stretched too thin, working hard hours. Getting up early enough to drive in traffic in big commutes, I think caffeine definitely plays a part in that."
Coffee, in moderation, can be good for the heath
Kleiner says many people she sees treat coffee as a "guilty pleasure" when in fact, she says, it can actually be a healthy source of antioxidants. She claims the problems arise when people drink too much. This can lead to a host of health issues including anxiety and digestive problems. Kleiner says it all comes down to the size of the cup.
"If you're reaching for a 12-ounce cup of coffee a couple times a day, that's moderation," she says. "If you are reaching for a 16-ounce cup of coffee several times a day, then you've automatically increased the amount of caffeine or coffee that you're drinking and so you're starting to hit that over-consumption mark."
Finkelstein says he tries to encourage moderate consumption of coffee, though his motives appear less about health and more about flavor.
"My Philosophy has always been one of moderation," he says. "We have 12-ounce cups here, which a lot of people complain about, but I think that is a perfect size for a cup of coffee. I don't think bigger is better, and I don't think more is better."
Regardless of what Finkelstein and others might preach on moderation, it will be up to the growing numbers of individual coffee drinkers to decide when ordering that next cup of Joe. One thing is certain: when they place that order, there will be more people lining up with them.
[Music: "You're the Cream In My Coffee" by Joe Loss & His Orchestra from Time to Dance (Disc 1)]
Photos: Capital Buzzing on Coffee