The veteran-run café in Herndon, Va., isn’t afraid to get a little weird.
BY MARK VAN STREEFKERK
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
All photos courtesy of Paul Olsen
Nestled in the middle of Northern Virginia’s suburban sprawl, the town of Herndon has a close-knit community, and before Weird Brothers Coffee stepped in, a noticeable lack of independent coffee. “For most of the people in [this] area, their biggest experience with coffee is Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts,” Weird Brothers Coffee owner Paul Olsen says.
Weird Brothers Coffee is the first independent coffee roaster in Herndon, and aside from serving quality coffee, they pride themselves on marching to the beat of their own drummer. Drinks on the menu include the Wizard’s Delight—a latte with butterscotch and white chocolate—a matcha drink called My Little Green Friend, and the Wonka Bar, a nitro cold brew with dark chocolate and half-and-half. Paul enjoys coming up with new coffee blends, including the 14 blends for sale online alongside 10 single-origin offerings, with names like Princess of Power, Merlin’s Beard, and Weird & Fierce.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Hey, what is the best coffee? What is the best coffee I should drink?’ And I say, ‘The best coffee is the coffee that you enjoy the most. … Do you like fruity flavors in your coffee? Do you like more nutty, earthy flavors? We’ll work it from there. Do you like to add any flavors to your coffee? However you like it, however you enjoy it, you do that. Whatever makes you happy,’” Paul says.
Weird Brothers started as the brainchild of brothers Paul and Kenny Olsen. Both hail from San Jose, Calif., where they were exposed to plenty of specialty coffee while Kenny worked as a barista in several cafés. Paul spent a 13-year stretch in the U.S. Army, which included time spent in Africa— where he was exposed to the seed-to-cup culture of Ethiopian coffee.
After being medically discharged, Paul settled with his family around the D.C. area in Herndon. They quickly made note of the corporate culture that surrounded them—and the lack of specialty-coffee options. “I just kept telling myself, ‘Man, this place really needs good coffee,’” Paul says. “It’s something that my brother and I had always been passionate about. After a while I figured, ‘Hey, you know what? If we want to do this, let’s just do it now.’ So we took the leap and decided to start our own roasting and coffee business.”
The business started in 2016 as a coffee truck. They chose the name Weird Brothers because the Olsens were “always into kinda silly, quirky stuff, and weird things always followed us wherever we went.” After having success as a coffee truck, they decided to open their first brick-and-mortar roastery and coffee bar in 2017, with a second location that followed soon after.
Weird Brothers’ mission is simple: introduce people to specialty coffee, and make it fun and wacky along the way. While Paul has a playful approach to coffee, he takes giving back to the community seriously. Weird Brothers is always eager to contribute and fundraise for local school programs, youth arts programs, and organizations like the Fisher House Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Project that directly help veterans. Sadly, Kenny passed away from an overdose shortly after Weird Brothers opened their roastery and coffee bar. Because of that, Weird Brothers also donates to the Chris Atwood Foundation, which “works on awareness and assistance with the opioid crisis … that’s been near and dear to my heart, because obviously it’s a huge crisis, a huge problem we have, not just here in our area, but the entire country,” Paul says.
In only its third year of business, Weird Brothers is already outgrowing its capabilities. In 2020 Paul hopes to expand even further to a dedicated production facility complete with a larger roaster and an additional café to go with it. “We’re a family business,” Paul says. “We’re hoping in the next six months or so we’ll gather enough to hopefully get ourselves moving in that direction.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Van Streefkerk is Barista Magazine’s social media content developer and a frequent contributor. He is also a freelance writer, social media manager, and novelist based out of Seattle. If Mark isn’t writing, he’s probably biking to his favorite vegan restaurant. Find out more on his website.