29th Parallel Coffee

Yesterday morning, I texted my dear friend, Jackie, to see if she was interested in grabbing a cup of coffee with me after our children were at school. I figure that since I am currently not working outside of the home, I might as well lean into the stay-at-home-mom-of-school-aged-kids persona. We agreed to meet at 29th Parallel Coffee in Fairfax Station and after throwing my hair up into a top-knot and putting on my best leggings (because stay-at-home-mom), I safely delivered the kids to school and drove to the unassuming shopping center where 29th Parallel Coffee resides.

I’ve heard people rave about this place and it is one of the highest-rated coffee shops in the Washington DC Metro area on Yelp so I was a bit taken aback by the outside appearance. I was expecting Brooklyn hipster vibes – not strip mall chic with abandoned dental offices. But guys? Once we got inside, 29th Parallel Coffee did not disappoint. At all.

My coffee snob tendencies were home. These were my people. Jackie and I chatted with the owner, Amir, and he expertly informed us all about the available coffee. Where the coffee was sourced, the chemistry behind the extraction process, and how the soluble flavors from the coffee are dissolved in the water. Jackie ordered a mocha that was made with fresh ground and tapped espresso on a machine that reminded me of the one I used while working at Harrington’s Coffee Company in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Like I said, I felt like I was at home. To this day, the hissing of an espresso machine remains one of my favorite sounds.

I opted for pour-over coffee. Also known as hand-drip coffee (as opposed to automatic-drip), pour-over coffee involves a kettle with a narrow spout, a special carafe, fresh ground beans, and patience.

I selected the REKO from Ethiopia. According to Amir, the beans had tasting notes of citrus, lemongrass, molasses, and ginger. As soon as he began grinding the beans, I knew I made the right choice and forced myself to be patient as he started the pour-over process.

My patience was rewarded with what may have been the best cup of coffee I’ve had in recent memory. Can you believe that I actually forgot to take a picture of the final product? I feel like I need to be beat with a blogging stick or something…bad blogger – bad!

I enjoyed my pour-over coffee with a splash of fresh cream. It was smooth, lush, and had absolutely no bitter aftertaste that is often present in even the most well-prepared cups of coffee. Jackie and I also each had a spinach and cheese quiche (which I also forgot to photograph but you can see a corner of it in the picture above of her mocha). 29th Parallel Coffee has a daily grind (pour-over), a daily drip (automatic-drip) during peak hours, espresso drinks, nitrobrew (cold strong coffee infused with nitrogen), assorted pastries, and seasonal items. Please stop it for yourself. Bring a friend. Have a chat with Amir. I promise you won’t be disappointed. We certainly weren’t.

29th Parallel Coffee

5616 Ox Rd
5616 Ox Rd, Fairfax Station, VA 22039

That Time I Didn’t Bloom

I didn’t love Texas. At least not compared to the last couple of assignments the Army has thrown our way. As one who has shouted the merits of blooming wherever you happen to be planted, I found it quite frustrating to feel so disconnected from myself and others in a city as vibrant as San Antonio, Texas. Not only did I not feel like the best version of myself, I felt guilty for feeling that way because so many other people love the area. I felt like a fraud. Because no matter how hard I tried, I simply could not bloom.

view from our back deck

Military families are no strangers to being plopped into landscapes that we otherwise would never find ourselves living. “Bloom where you’re planted!” is a mantra said by many, including myself. In Texas, I did everything I was supposed to do in order to bloom – I became involved with both of the kids’ schools, I got to know the other parents on their soccer teams, I joined a gym, we became active members in a church, we explored our new city at every given chance, we ate local cuisine, and we called San Antonio home. But no matter what I did, I always felt like an imposter. A fake. Someone who didn’t belong.

That’s not to say that there weren’t aspects of San Antonio I didn’t enjoy. I always had a blast at the Tejas Rodeo in Bulverde on Saturday nights. We loved Oaks Crossing, a restaurant attached to our neighborhood HEB where we could drink craft beer and listen to live music while the kids danced and ran around the outside turf. I found my favorite steak street tacos, pizza, and pho. We thoroughly enjoyed our church. I loved the non-touristy part of the Riverwalk near The Pearl, and Hill Country really is beautiful. But all of that wasn’t enough for me to bloom.

Now that we’ve been happily settling back into the national capital region for the past couple of months, I’ve been reflecting on why I wasn’t my best self in Texas. All I can come up with is that maybe we’re not meant to be at our best at all times. And it doesn’t matter how great a city, town, community may be – sometimes it just doesn’t work. And perhaps we should be okay with that. I do believe that I made the best of my time in San Antonio. I do have to remind myself that I am failing to bloom doesn’t mean that I didn’t try hard enough nor does it mean that I did anything wrong. It simply means that Texas Karen isn’t the best Karen. And that is okay.