On this crisp Saturday morning in early January, I don’t have to worry about the late afternoon caffeine-withdrawal headache I sometimes get on weekends. I’m meeting Corey and Rachel, the couple behind the lovely Instagram account Capitol Grounds, at D Light Cafe on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. They order lattes, one hot and one iced. An almond croissant dusted with confectioner’s sugar. We eye the other baked goods: blackberry danishes, chocolate-covered cheesecake, ham and cheese croissants, pistachio wheels, pan au chocolate. I promise myself I’ll come back, order a black cold brew, and sit down to watch and chat as Rachel and Corey dig into their passion project.
Samuel: Alright, let’s get into the good stuff – you run this coffee review Instagram page together…what’s the origin story?
Corey: We like to say that we met at a coffee shop.
Rachel: We started talking on New Year’s Day, 2021. I was at my parents’ out in Virginia, and we did a little virtual date, but then we were like okay, coming back to DC…and that was January 6th. So it got delayed a bit, [Editor’s Note: The understatement of the century!] but then we finally met at my favorite La Colombe in Blagden Alley.
Corey: And we bonded over coffee!
Rachel: It was freezing cold.
Corey: But the fact that we met in January gave us a deeper appreciation for the coldest month of the year.
Rachel: And then things started to open up again in 2021, which was nice –
Corey: And we got engaged in October!
Samuel: Congratulations! Can I ask how?
Corey: I proposed to her at a vineyard that was special to us. It was where we had our third date and got into some deeper topics about life, and values, and realized that we could see a future together. So, we came back there for the proposal – though she didn’t know that at the time.
Samuel: How big of a role did Capitol Grounds play in propelling the relationship forward? [Editor’s Note: Corey and Rachel chuckle, look at each other]
Rachel: Well, we are dabblers. But it’s definitely given us something to look forward to. We try to go to a new coffee place almost every weekend.
At this point in time, the food and drink arrives. Rachel and Corey slide the plates and cups around, arranging them as if setting a table for dinner.
Corey: One of the biggest challenges…
Corey and Rachel, simultaneously: We always start eating and drinking before the pictures.
Rachel: We try to go everywhere: DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
Corey: We usually post on weekend mornings, when people are thinking about coffee. We think about coffee as less of a daily routine that’s a must-do, and more of a lounging, fun experience.
Samuel: What’s the ideal coffee-going experience for you?
Corey: Coffee is dependent on so many external factors: time, place, mood. Like one time, we had this really early morning hike through Rock Creek Park before going to Lost Sock in Takoma.
Rachel: That environment is so good. It’s tucked away. They have a nice patio. I’d combine Lost Sock with Vigilante Coffee, which has two locations in Maryland. Vigilante is a larger place and they roast their own beans. We also love Pluma in Union Market. We’ve been there several times to test for consistency and they have the best, creamy iced latte…and their croissants melt in your mouth. They’re so good.
Corey: Wine and Butter is my neighborhood spot.
Samuel: I love the idea that the moment in time matters, too – so what’s the best moment for a cup of coffee?
Rachel: A sunny morning.
Corey: I like days that start off cool in the morning before the hustle and bustle, but turn warm and sunny by the afternoon.
Rachel: Saturday morning is our favorite.
Samuel: Being on social media can be…a fraught experience. How has the process of building an audience been for you?
Rachel: Neither of us are huge social media people. But it’s cool to see which posts get the most likes.
Samuel: Have you noticed any trends?
Rachel: I think the visuals –
Corey: Rachel’s posts get the most likes.
Samuel: Through this process of running the account, what have you learned about yourselves?
Corey: I like being able to exercise my creative muscle. There are no rules. No guidelines. We’re just doing something that’s fun and it gives us a chance to laugh and explore new things. It has given me something I didn’t even know I needed.
Rachel: It’s been a good window into small businesses and enjoying the little treat of going to a coffee shop. It’s one of those little joys. Expanding the net – beyond the local places I always go, like The Coffee Bar in Logan Circle – has let me experience more places than I would normally.
Samuel: A relationship is its own kind of creative endeavor – and then you also have this side project in Capitol Grounds. What have you learned about each other through collaborating on the account?
Rachel: I think it’s good to do something [creative] with your partner. There are times where you have creative differences…but it’s a great kind of outlet. You realize you can work together, have differences, compromise.
Corey: I would say…[Editor’s Note: here, Corey takes a deliberative pause]. I would say that Rachel has a really good eye for beauty. She really appreciates interior design, which has then flowed right into our vision for building a home together.
Samuel: Do you see this shared project as informed by Judaism at all?
Corey: There’s some element to having coffee on Shabbat, as a day of rest and reflection, and us picking Saturday morning as our favorite time to find a new Capitol Grounds spot…it’s an intentional practice. Shabbat is about setting intentions and spending time with your loved ones. It’s a special time for Rachel and I to talk about our weeks. So there’s a connection [between Capitol Grounds and Jewishness] that exists, it’s just a subtle connection. It’s not in our head every time that we’re doing it, but it’s there just below the surface.
Rachel: The way we approach it, we want to get joy from the process. We don’t want to be stressed out by our phones.
Corey: There’s a bit of tikkun olam to it as well. We’re trying to promote small businesses that maybe a few people know are awesome, but not everyone knows are awesome. It’s giving back to the community, in a small way.
Samuel: Has there been any change in your process or approach since you started Capitol Grounds?
Rachel: We try to do it regularly…I don’t know. Do you think we’ve changed?
Corey: We’ve had an ongoing debate about how much to do out-of-town coffee shops versus in-town coffee shops.
Rachel: Yeah, like asking: is it a DC pride sort of thing? We’re also thinking of if we ever move out of DC, what happens?
Corey: We’re trying to figure out what the next step is. For example, when we move in together, is it going to be here?
Rachel: Early on, it was our connection to DC. That was part of [running the account]. But now, as we’ve thought about that a little more…
Corey: We’ve grown older. Nothing stays the same.
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