Posts Tagged ‘compasscoffee’



For my College Writing Class with Professor Hoskins, I have had the unique opportunity to research a commonplace in the D.C. Metropolitan area and observe it through a rhetorical lens. I picked a coffee shop in the Shaw area called Compass Coffee. The cafe originated from an old laundromat and now has multiple locations throughout the city. I explored D.C. through newspaper articles, videos, and first-hand observations.

What makes this project even cooler is that my whole class participated. Here is a map of everyone’s commonplaces and research: Class Google Map

Looking back at my work over the semester, I never realized how exciting and impactful my work was until now. I hope you enjoy looking at my project!

Below are links to each part:

Farragut Square Location

As I headed home from the March for Science, I passed Compass Coffee. However, not the Shaw location but the Farragut Square Location. This is what I found!

Digital Archive 1:

Walking into Compass Coffee, here is the view looking to the left. The first thing I notice is the large window letting in natural light.  Many businesses, corporations,

 Friedrich von Schmidt, Vienna Rathaus. 1872-1883. Building. Harshil Shah. Vienna - Rathaus. 2009. Digital Image. Flickr. Yahoo! Inc. Web. 14 Sept. 2012

Fig. 1. The inside of Compass Coffee; large window with natural light, food and snacks in the fridge under the spotlight

and restaurants alike, use natural light because it has a very calming and peaceful effect on our moods and emotions. Adversly, lack of light can trigger depression. The brain chemical, serotonin, that promotes calmness declines on darker days causing negative moods. Daylight, does the opposite.


Digital Archive 2:

Fig. 2. Compass Coffe store view; merchandise placed near cash register and menu, only standing benches

This is also the view (straight ahead), when you walk in. This Compass Coffee location has no seating, only standing room. Even a table at perfect standing height. This location is meant more for the “grab-and-go” coffee run rather than the “lets sit and talk” kind. Similar to the first archive, Compass Coffee uses light to draw the customer in. In addition to the natural lighting they also have spotlights on the products next to the cash register. When you walk up to order your coffee, your gaze is directed to the merchandise in the spotlight. Since you are checking out, the hope is you will purchase merchandise as an impulse buy.

Digital Archive 3:

This picture was taken right next to the place where you pick up your cup of coffee. First, you see the mural of D.C. with their slogan, “Made in D.C.” written on it. Immediately the customer feels as though they are getting authentic D.C. coffee that is made right there. It is more of a personal relationship with the store, rather than going somewhere like Starbucks, where most people aren’t sure where the coffee is made. Second, the orange and blue compass on the wall right next to the D.C. mural.

Fig. 3. Wall murals; directly in front of the door and behind the coffee pick-up station

In past digital archives I have talked about the significants of the colors in the compass. Placing it on the wall (directly in front of the door) ensures that both these paintings are the first thing that customers see. Having the coffee pick-up station directly in front ensure that this is the last thing customers see. Now, both images are branded in the customers mind with the association of Compass Coffee.

Digital Archive 4:

Fig. 4. The Kitchen; many gallons of milk, free water for customers

Here, the customer is able to see directly into the kitchen. They clearly keep the kitchen spotless. The consumer unconsciously develops a level of respect for the company – just as they would develop a more conscious level of disrespect and repulsion for companies who kitchens are a disaster.  In addition, the customer is able to see that they aren’t scarce on materials (i.e., the large number of milk cartons).  There is nothing more frustrating than ordering a drink and the company not having enough milk or coffee to make your drink.

Digital Archive 5:

Fig. 5. Coffee grinds at milk station; the logo tells people that it is special to Compass. Since it comes from Compass the consumer also knows it was made locally.

My last digital archive is a picture of the table where you can add your own milk, sugar, honey, or whatever you desire in your coffee. However, it is impossible to customize your drink without looking at the large amount of coffee grounds made by compass on the shelves above. In case you happen not to look up or relatively straight ahead, there is a mini shelf with mini coffee grounds … also for sale. In a store surrounded by merchandise (especially something as imperative as coffee) it is almost impossible to not buy.

Scott, Erica. Compass Coffee Photographs, April 2017, Compass Coffee.


Coffee Drinking is a Culture


Schneider, Robert. “Coffee Culture”: Hot Coffee + Cool Spaces. The Images Publishing, 2016.

In his book, “Coffee Culture: Hot Coffee + Cool Spaces” by Robert Schneider, he describes thirty-three different interesting coffee shops located all around the United States. Each shop has a unique setting and location including historical buildings, art useless, arcades, and even an old cargo ship. Schneider discusses how “interweaving coffee with art, architecture, and historic preservation” adds a special yet diverse characteristic. The author continues to inform the reader about the evolution of coffee in “three waves”. First, coffee was used as a “fast, cheap, drink of caffeine” to help people get through the day. Second, coffee started being distributed through corporate chains with different syrups and toppings. Finally, drinking coffee became similar to drinking wine. A social interaction used to build relationships.

Fig. 1. Coffee Culture book cover; using aesthetically pleasing placement, good lighting, and coffee (all important characteristics of a good coffee shop in his book)

Coffee Culture provides background and comparison to other coffee shops and how coffee drinking has developed throughout the years as well as analyzes and interprets each coffee shop. Not only can I use this source to compare other successful coffee shops with Compass Coffee but also see the timeline of where Starbucks fits in. In addition, the book does a great job of capture the reader’s attention with interesting pictures and graphics.



Tucker, Catherine M. “Coffee Culture”: Local Experiences, Global Connections. Routledge, 2017.

In “Coffee Culture: Local Experiences, Global Connections” by Catherine M. Tucker, discusses how drinking coffee is the last and “final step” in connecting us to the farmers in nations around the world who produce it. Even in her title she suggests how our “local experiences” with coffee creates “global connections”. She further describes how coffee ties together the global economic system that is till evolving. Indeed, coffee is produced by some of the world’s poorest countries but these countries also happen to be the most biodiverse and endangered habitats in the world. For a while, coffee production has coexisted with forest but because the market favors “sun-grown coffee”, the forests have to be cleared and farmers need to use toxic agrochemicals. According to Tucker, coffee production is becoming one of the world’s most barring problems. She even compares them with social inequality along with environmental degradation.

Fig. 2. Coffee Culture book cover; the hands with the beans and green cover – represents the cohesive relationship the author ideally wants us to have with the environment

Tucker’s research offers a background on coffee production that most people would never have considered. The rest of my articles talk about the “up and coming” coffee industry and methods of marketing new products to customers. However, I never thought, to think of what potential negative effect this could have on our environment. This article provides a counter argument to coffee production and offers a more environmentally conscious way to produce coffee.


They even have a roastery!

Digital Archive 1:

As I am sure you have realized by now, Compass Coffee, is no average coffee shop. Approaching the shop, Compass has its’ name displayed in bright orange. Orange doesn’t only stimulate the appetite by encouraging feelings of hunger and contentment but is also found in citrus fruit and is associated with a healthy diet (and Vitamin C!). Other locations of Compass Coffee have their name displayed in a rich blue color. The blue, serves as a traditional yet non threatening color. In fact, many politicians wear blue ties to promote a sense of calmness and tranquility.

Fig. 1. Compass Coffee entrance; 2014

Digital Archive 2:

Once inside, there is a bar where you can watch the baristas make your coffee. There are tables for sitting or doing work. And, the most unique feature, the machines that brew the coffee are in the back! The customers are actually able to watch the coffee being made. This is more formally known as, The Roastery. I think this is rather unique to Compass, as most coffee shops do not have big machines out in the open to watch the process.

Fig. 2. The Roastery; 2014

Digital Archive 3:

Within the store have this color coated map painted on the walls showing the origins of the coffee. This allows the customer to see where their coffee was imported from. I think this is really cool because it shows the customer that their coffee is “special” and hard to get anywhere else. While other coffee shops may also import their beans from around the world, because Compass is takes pride in it, the customers become more aware.

Fig. 3. Colored Map

Digital Archive 4:

Behind the counter they also have the American Flag folded in a triangle. This is really very symbolic as well as patriotic. Now the coffee shop turns into more than just an average shop but also supporting your country. In fact, the meaning of folded flags is a lot more significant than one might think. The first fold is represented as a symbol of life. The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life. And the third, is made in honor and remembrance of veterans who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of this country.

Fig. 4. Folded Flag

Digital Archive 5:

Fig. 5. Compass Coffee cup and logo

Finally, the logo. As I stated earlier, the orange color, being a mix of red and yellow, promotes happiness and enthusiasm. The blue on the sides of the Compass, serves as a calming and tranquil color. Having an actual compass as a logo is very interesting. The reading behind the compass is to show customers that Compass Coffee wants to help you “get your bearings and point you in the right direction” (Compass Coffee). I didn’t realize how much thought was put into making a logo, but it is very interesting to unpack.

Compass Coffee in the Media


Ravindranath, Mohana. “At Compass Coffee, data is the secret ingredient”.The Washington Post. 28 December 2014

In her article, “At Compass Coffee, data is the secret ingredient” Mohana Ravindranath discusses how Compass uses technology to make their coffee more consistent and the best flavor. Basically, the computer attached to the roaster has a built-in digital thermometer and it automatically transmits the data points from each roast. It records things such as, temperature changes and moisture levels and sends them to an open-source software called Artisan.

Fig 1. The roast description and ingredients that went into the particular coffee blend. Putting all the unique characteristics on the coffee bag helps add another element that can help distinguish Compass from other shops.

When the brew is ready, there is a three-member team who tastes it. If they don’t like the flavor they use the computer to adjust a single variable and try again. Ever batch gets a “roast profile” that is saved on their computer which makes recreating a batch easier.

This article will be helpful in further describing unique and innovative characteristics of Compass Coffee. Furthermore, Compass Coffee used to be an old laundromat in Shaw. Knowing the history of the coffee shop will help me understand it’s relation to the surrounding community.  Not only does the article provide background but offers yet another unique characteristic of Compass Coffee.


Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez. “The Marine’s Secret Weapon: Coffee.” The New York Times, 16 Aug. 2013.

In their article, “The Marine’s Secret Weapon: Coffee”, Micael Haft and Harrison Suarez make a very interesting claim. They say, “America’s taste for coffee is inextricably linked to the history of its military”. Haft and Suarez, both military veterans give their first-hand perspective on the history of coffee in the military and how vital coffee actually is.  In fact, they offer quotes from “in the field”, of Marines trading their snacks for coffee. Haft and Suarez started by writing about marines and the complex emotions thought their time fighting and came to the conclusion to tie all of their interests together. Coffee, marines, photography, travel, community, as well as many others, and create Compass Coffee.

Fig. 2. Compass Coffee owners; open stance, inviting smiles, light colored shirts, the “GOOD” in all caps on the wall – all elements that create a welcoming and inviting environment

I will be able to use this article to discuss how Compass Coffee started and explain the importance associated with this shop. Having a first person point of view from their time in the military and their love for coffee helps readers understand and appreciate their military journey. Also, being able to see the founders’ thoughts are very interesting and an element that isn’t seen with big chain coffee shops like Starbucks. I can use this article when talking about the unique features associated with Compass Coffee.