Mar 21, 2024 - Food and Drink

Yellow's Ayat Elhag spills D.C. coffee trends

A person with short curly hair wearing a short-sleeve button-down shirt smiling big. She has her hands folded in front of her and is sitting in front of a wall with modern, abstract shapes on it.

Yellow's coffee director, Ayat Elhag. Photo: Scott Suchman

We connected with Ayat Elhag, the coffee director at Yellow, about what trends she's noticing in D.C.'s coffee scene.

If you go: Yellow is a Levantine cafe with locations in Navy Yard and Georgetown.

What is your most popular drink?

  • This is a toss-up. Halva honey in specialty lattes, golden date cappuccino and the peanut dalgona for seasonal beverages, coconut cardamom for one of our mainstay iced coffees.

What shifts have you noticed in customer tastes lately?

  • Guests are more mindful coffee drinkers — noticing when we change our beans, milk texture and more!

Has the role of a coffee shop changed since the pandemic?

  • Yes and no. Cafes have always been these "third places" for people. You have your work, your home and this other third place that you go to just for the sake of it. The pandemic obviously took that option away from people for a while, and now we're seeing guests actively seeking out these spaces even more.

Have more guests been looking to use coffee shops as an office space? Do you embrace that?

  • Definitely. We actually have a no-laptop policy at Yellow. I think we spend a lot of time working, and we want Yellow to be a place where our guests can leave work at the door and enjoy their experience.
  • There are plenty of other cafes and coworking spaces, but there are not many places that encourage you to enjoy the moment you're in.
  • I also think that coffee in the U.S. is a little pigeonholed into a utility beverage — caffeine to get through the workday. I want people to enjoy just for the sake of enjoying.

What's something difficult about running a cafe that people might not appreciate?

  • Hospitality and service in a high-volume setting! ... People come to cafes and restaurants looking to be nourished on many levels. How do you keep that energy high and flowing from staff to guests when you are seeing over 500 people a day? It's a tough thing to do!

What advice do you have for readers making coffee at home?

  • Get your own grinder! Grinding beans fresh makes such a huge difference. Also, when switching from bean to bean, the recipe you had may not translate well to your new bean. You will definitely have to play around a bit with your grind adjustments until you get your ideal cup.

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