The Search For The Perfect Cup of Joe

I have taken pride in my knowledge of coffee for years. 

It all stems back to being a barista at Coffee Labs Roasters in Tarrytown, New York, where I worked from the spring of 2014 to the summer of 2015, again in the winter of 2016 and another tour of duty this past summer.

Coffee Labs captured second place in America’s Best Espresso Competition in 2013, second only to Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Maryland, who have won the honors twice, doing it again in 2014. 

Back in August, one of my old coworkers and best friends, Jake, texted our group chat on iMessage. He had an idea to road trip to Maryland to try America’s Best Espresso. A few of us were in and decided on Oct. 21 as the date. 

Ceremony’s original location is in Annapolis, about 30 minutes outside of Baltimore. Upon arrival, it felt surreal being there. 

Having worked at Coffee Labs, Ceremony was always talked about, but none of us had ever tried it. 

The shop was on the industrial side with a garage-type door, which remained completely open to let the sun pour in and make it feel as though the store is partially outdoors. 

To the left was the espresso bar, where two baristas dressed in sky blue button down shirts and aprons greeted us and pulled shots from their beautiful white Synesso machine. 

The coffee was well worth the trip. Their espresso, which was on the brighter and fruitier side was a different animal altogether than what I’m used to and what you normally get at shops. Coffee Labs’ shots reveal more milk chocolate and caramel notes with a rich golden brown crema. 

Ceremony’s espresso blend called “Destroyer,” is comprised of Guatemala and Ethiopia beans. Ethiopian coffee typically profiles as more fruity with pink lemonade type flavor notes which matches well with Guatemala’s floral and citrusy flavor notes to create some outrageous espresso. 

My go-to drink is a cortado, which is essentially equal parts espresso and steamed milk. 

Only one other place in the world has even compared to Ceremony’s cortado for me and that is Ninth Street Espresso in Manhattan. Regardless, I choose the former. 

Nathan Munsey, the shift lead that day, said that the team at Ceremony has a great understanding of coffee and keep a high standard of espresso.

“We try to stay true to our coffee,” Munsey said. “We have three ‘Q’ graders on staff that set the standard for grading coffee and are always searching for quality and consistency.”

Before Munsey worked at Ceremony, he was a barista in Sacramento, California, having worked in the trade for over three years collectively. 

There are four Ceremony Coffee Roasters locations total in Maryland and they roast on site at the Annapolis location, with two giant roasters and buckets full of espresso beans all around. 

If you are searching for the perfect cup of joe, look no further than Ceremony. They definitely live up to the America’s Best Espresso honors that has been awarded to them.