Cameo Coffee + Tea in the U.S. capital creates a travel-oriented coffee subscription model to satisfy wanderlust for their community.
BY JASON HUFFNAGLE
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos provided by Cameo Coffee + Tea
For the last six months, shops and restaurants in Washington, D.C., have offered indoor dining at 25% of their overall capacity. However, in light of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the city reissued a new order on December 23 that fully restricts indoor dining. Under this order, foodservice continues as takeout, delivery, or outside on patios or makeshift areas formerly devoted to street parking.
While these and previous restrictions create challenges for the area’s coffee shops, especially during the winter, the newly established Cameo Coffee + Tea is adapting to the uncertainty of opening and operating a business during a pandemic. This dynamic, heightened by the recent violent attack on the U.S. Capitol building, has the shop employing what have become standard pandemic strategies, such as optimizing food and drink offerings for takeaway. However, under the leadership of Cameo’s coffee director Nazia Khan, Cameo is also deploying a unique coffee “club,” and it has their neighbors talking.
Anyone who has opened a café knows things rarely go 100% according to plan—but still you press on. This is exactly what Cameo did when they opened in September 2020. Because Cameo was a new shop, Nazia knew they needed to innovate quickly, so she conceptualized and launched their World Tour of Coffee Club. The club is a “curated coffee experience” that provides members with diverse beans from across the globe
With this club, Cameo’s customers discover new coffee varieties from different regions and roasters at home, offered in three-month, six-month and 12-month membership durations. Members receive coffee beans, gifts (tools to enhance the tasting experience, coffee-infused beverages, and exclusive classes), drinking vessels, and other items monthly. Nazia’s goal is to feature roasters from across the United States, North America, Europe and, if all goes as planned, from around the world.
The club allows customers cooped up at home to play with and enjoy coffees they might not have otherwise found. It certainly meets club members’ caffeine needs; it might even prove a stand-in for some customers’ wanderlust. “Many subscription boxes lead subscribers down a singular path, be it roaster or roast profile,” Nazia says. “This approach works for those that have found their coffee match, but I love to constantly tinker and discover new expressions of coffee. My goal is to build a wide repertoire of roasters and offer a diverse tasting experience—while building a little community around it.”
Although still in the works, the club presents Cameo with the opportunity to build community outside the confines of a traditional shop, something Nazia thinks could be achieved through building an online channel for members. “The pandemic took away our third spaces, where we found refuge in a physical space and conversations with strangers,” she says. “But we hope to re-create that in an online community of sorts.”
Innovation is not just introducing something new; it is also making changes to something established by introducing new methods, ideas, products, etc. As passionate and creative people, the coffee community continues to innovate into the second year of the pandemic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Huffnagle is a writer based in Washington, D.C. Having worked in coffee for over five years, his writing for Barista Magazine focuses primarily on the coffee community, coffee-fueled travel, and innovations in the coffee and hospitality space. He’s also the author of Civica Blog, where he’s working on his understanding of civics and American government in our digital age. You can follow him @jasonhuffnagle on Twitter.