A sample of the drinks offered at Java Nation in North Bethesda. Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny

Ten years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find an independent coffeehouse in Montgomery County much beyond Mayorga Organics, Quartermaine Coffee Roasters and Kefa Café. Now, we have plenty of options.

The eight independent coffee shops highlighted here all sell coffee, of course. Some source from reputable distributors, others roast their own, perhaps even personally knowing some of their coffee growers. Some are into the latest trends, such as nitro (nitrogenated cold brew coffee, foamy like beer), some keep it simple. All, except Mayorga Organics, sell food of some sort, be it pastries, sandwiches, salads or more complicated fare.

When you talk to these entrepreneurs, it is clear that providing a place of community is more important to them than anything else. When we decided to take a look at what they do, we never imagined that the idea of gathering at their businesses would have to be put on hold.
Let’s raise a single-origin cappuccino to these great coffeehouses.

Java Nation opened in North Bethesda in January. Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny

The New Breed: Java Nation

In January, Kensington couple Simona and Henry Cabana opened their second Java Nation, this one in the former Helen’s location (which was Addie’s before that) in North Bethesda. The welcoming space, which seats 70 inside and 80 outside, features black and white hexagon tile and wood flooring, natural wood finishes and contemporary furniture. There’s also full bar service, so you can try their version of an espresso martini (tequila, Campari, peach schnapps and Peruvian espresso). An iced caramel latte or iced horchata with a shot of espresso makes for a perfect summertime coffee buzz.

Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny

Placing a high value on food service, the Cabanas hired a culinary director, chef Briea Nathan, to develop high-end, well-presented casual foods, such as crepes, Belgian waffles, French toast, a jalapeno steak sandwich, a beef carnitas omelet, and three-cheese spinach flatbread.

Henry Cabana, now 31, opened the first Java Nation in 2014 after he noticed a vacant storefront in the Kensington Shopping Center. In 2016, he met and married Simona, who is now 24, in Belarus, where she was working as a barista. When they returned to the U.S., they joined the Specialty Coffee Association and started going to coffee expos. At first, they sourced coffee from outside roasters; now they roast their own. The beans they roast originate in Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Brazil. “We work with small farmers only, small communities where I can meet the producer directly, the mothers, the cousins, and know they are doing well,” Simona says.

Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny

The Cabanas have taken over the space adjacent to their Kensington location, which will double its size and expand the seating capacity to 70. The renovation should be complete this summer. By the end of the year, they hope to open a Java Nation in the Kentlands.

Java Nation, 11120 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, 301-836-6022; 10516 Connecticut Ave., Kensington, 301-327-6580; java-nation.com