Coffee shop review: De Clieu

The new cafe in Old Town

Photo credit: Amy Podraza

Matt Tiller, staff writer

De Clieu Coffee is Fairfax’s newest coffee shop.

De Clieu Coffee offers a variation on the coffee we have grown used to. It uses a French presses as opposed to the drip coffee set-up one would find at a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.

“It doesn’t matter who your barista is, if they have the smallest singling of care, they’re gonna give you an amazing cup every time,” manager Ray Leslie said on the café’s choice of coffee preparation method.

The café brews gourmet coffee from Intelligentsia Roasters, Montana Coffee Traders and Shenandoah Joe Coffees Inca. They offer a wide range of beans that range in location and in means of roasting.

“The thing that bothers me the most is isolating a particular coffee drinker by not representing all three regions [along the coffee belt, areas in Latin America, Africa, and Asia],” Leslie said. “If you have all three regions, that’s a start, but in my opinion, you should have blends, you should have sun-dried, you should have wet processed, you should have semi-wet processed, you need to have organic, fair trade, anything that you can get that’s the best quality, you need to represent all of it.”

The first thing one is likely to notice is the staff’s friendliness. Leslie not only was willing to explain anything and everything about the various blends, but offered an impromptu tasting and pairings.

The shop also offers Washington D.C. made Dolcezza gelato.

“[Dolcezza employees] love what they do, and that’s why they’re good at it,” Leslie said.

This clearly also applies to De Clieu itself. During my visits, I’ve sampled several different blends and food pairings, and the staff seemed just as eager to try them out as I was.

“The atmosphere is wonderful, the people are friendly, and the coffee is yummy,” said junior Carol Persons at the private opening.

True to Persons’ description, I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of the coffee drinks De Clieu has served. My first mug was a very solid Sumatran blend and was immediately perfect drinking temperature. Their sun-dried Sumatran had less of the blend’s characteristic earthy notes, instead having more of a nutty flavor.

I was similarly surprised by the sun-dried Ethiopian as it was incredibly fruity.  The orange macaroon it was paired with brought out the intensity of the flavor. While I was satisfied with the macaroon pairing, Foley wasn’t, and brought over a sample of their roasted strawberry gelato, which had a nice smoothness.

In addition to traditional coffee, De Clieu also offers “Cold Brew,” which is similar to iced coffee.  Cold brew is sold as concentrate in a traditional bottle and growler size. Whereas iced coffee is made by making a double strength brew and putting it over ice, cold brewing involves t soaking coarsely ground coffee for up to 24 hours.

Something that is unique to De Clieu, as far as Leslie knows, is that their cold brew is made using pure concentrate.

“No powders, no artificial flavors,” Leslie said.

Showing his dedication, Leslie had spent the weeks leading up to the café’s opening experimenting with brew in his apartment, trying to get it just right.

“Until you taste cold brew, though, it’s just words” Leslie said.

I can honestly say that I have had no coffee drink that has tasted remotely like the cold brew.  I had tried it both on its own, and with a quarter-pump of almond at Leslie’s recommendation, and as interesting as the plain cold brew was, the almond brought out the drink’s inherent chocolate notes.  It offers a lot of sweetness without sacrificing any coffee flavor, as I find most iced coffees do.

“I think our last batch was 18 hours, and it extracted a lot of chocolate flavor, very full-bodied, but approachable. My favorite part is that is has almost no acidity. When brewing hot coffee, as it cools, it is more acidic to the human tongue.  Some people like that flavor, but for the average consumer, the smooth, toffee taste is much better on ice than the acidic ones,” Leslie said.

De Clieu also offers sandwiches, baked goods and botanically brewed sodas in the RDT. The café is now open on Main St.

Photo credit: Amy Podraza