White hot chocolate photo by Laura Hayes
White hot chocolate photo by Laura Hayes

Before 2017 came to an end, two alternatives to the traditional coffee shop opened in downtown D.C. Here’s where to head for a pick-me-up when coffee won’t do.

Café Chocolat 

1423 H St. NW

Walk into Café Chocolat and enjoy a smell that makes you feel like everything is going to be OK. Heavenly wafts of three types of hot chocolate fill the air at the sweets-boutique-meets-coffee-joint from chocolate industry veteran Gjergj Dollani

To make the sweet, thick, satisfying beverages, baristas take chips of white, milk, or dark chocolate—Café Chocolat’s proprietary chocolate recipes—and melt them into cups using steamed milk. Dollani says customers have trouble choosing just one. “They’ll literally drink three different hot chocolates in one sitting,” he says.

Dollani stocks an array of chocolate bars for customers to pick up for personal consumption or as gifts, including two D.C. brands: Chocotenango and Harper Macaw. And if hot chocolate isn’t enough of a kick, Café Chocolat also serves La Colombe coffee. Dollani has been bringing in guest chocolatiers and hopes to continue hosting innovative tasting events in the New Year. 

Café Chocolat is open Mon–Fri from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Stephanie Rudig

Bôn Matcha

1928 I St. NW

In David Bae’s denomination of Christianity, it’s tradition for pastors to take their seventh year off to pursue a passion project. After working in New York and frequenting matcha shops there, the Northern Virginia native set out to open Bôn Matcha in D.C. The sidewalk stand serves everything from soft-serve ice cream to lattes flavored with the potent green tea powder. Bae sources his matcha from Kyoto, Japan, but he can’t divulge the name of his tea farmer, who insists on secrecy. 

While matcha soft-serve remains his top seller, even as the polar vortex settles in, the drink that’s most indicative of Bôn Matcha’s mission is the matcha limeade. “What we wanted to do is combine the heritage and the flavors of our hometowns and our native country,” Bae says. He was born in Korea where matcha is popular, but grew up in a hispanic community in America where limes are used liberally in cooking.

Bae is adding a new drink to the menu this month. The “Matcha Bomb” will combine espresso and matcha tea for an extra boost of energy. 

Bôn Matcha is currently open Tues–Weds from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Thurs–Sat from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Check their social media accounts for operating hours during inclement weather.