In Ethiopian culture, guests aren’t simply served a cup of coffee, they are invited to participate in a coffee ceremony. The host will patiently roast, grind, and brew their guest coffee in a ritual that’s practically sacred. This tradition is the inspiration behind Maryland’s Ceremony Coffee Roasters. The Annapolis-based roaster has quietly accumulated a list of accolades and awards that is nothing short of world class, but perhaps none as impressive as their Baltimore coffeehouse.
It’s increasingly common for coffee roasters to open a flagship store. Equal parts brand promotion and retail potential, these cafés are impeccably designed and spare no expense on equipment. This doesn’t lessen the awe factor when one walks into Ceremony Baltimore. The space is bright, airy, and expansive, with plenty of seating. Large pub-height communal tables host the laptop crowd while smaller two-tops are reserved as device-free spaces. The bar is no less comprehensive.
Pour-overs are made by the cup with three Modbar stations while batch brew comes from Fetco autodrippers. Twin matte white Synessos handle the espresso service, with matching Mahlkönig and Nuevo Simoneli grinders in between. Clearly, Ceremony is designed to handle some volume, and, with 5 baristas on bar when we visited, staffed to as well. Ceremony utilizes their larger staff to offer more involved service than most American cafés. Drinks are brought to your table and dished are bussed for you. We’ve long felt this is one area American craft coffee shops could improve and we’re glad to see Ceremony helping raise the bar.
Per usual, we started things off with a shot of the house espresso, Ceremony’s Destroyer blend. It came in a rocks glass with a side of sparkling water. After a quick stir with the spoon, we took the first sip and found a sweet, balanced shot with a fair bit of acidity. The oversized glass highlighted the burnt sugar aromatics and the smart presentation completed the sensory experience. With a burst of caffeine finding its way into our blood stream we turned to our pour-over, a natural process Ethiopian Wazzala brewed with a Hario V60. This coffee had all of the wonderful berry notes one would expect from a natural with minimal fermented flavors. I usually prefer washed Ethiopians but this cup reminded me that branching out has its benefits.
In addition to coffee, Ceremony serves a seasonal menu of house-made salads and sandwiches. Coffee nerds will love how the granola comes either “enzymatic” with berries and citrus or “sugar browning” with toasted coconut and cacao nibs. An assortment of chocolate from craft producers such as Dick Taylor round out the menu.
In all, Baltimore’s Ceremony Coffee is an aptly named tribute to the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Visitors can expect world class coffee and next level service in a beautiful, contemporary atmosphere.