The Falls Church News-Press has partnered with George Mason High School’s award-winning newspaper, The Lasso, to bring its readers some of the top articles appearing in the student-run digital paper. This regular feature will appear monthly in the News-Press during the school year. The Lasso can be found online at www.gmhslasso.org.
Rare Bird: From Roasting in Popcorn Makers to Latte Art
By David Martinez
Nestled near the corner of West Broad and Maple Street lies one of Falls Church City’s newest venues: Rare Bird Coffee Roasters. The shop only opened about two months ago, and it is already a clear favorite of many. At almost any time of day the woody interior is full of customers, from young college students to busy families. For the owners Bryan Becker and Lara Berenji, such bustle was a surprise.
“I was quite surprised… We were, the first Saturday, completely overwhelmed with the turnout, and we were very excited and happy; [we were] rushing around around like crazy people because we were running out of food and coffee,” Berenji said.
Rare Bird is not exclusively a coffee shop. It also roasts coffee, not only for its own shop but also to sell to local grocery stores and retailers. Rare Bird Coffee Roasters had a small beginning as coffee roasters.
“It started with Brian, who had a hobby of roasting coffee. He started with a Whirley Pop popcorn maker; he drilled a hole in the top and put a probe thermometer in…He moved on to a sample roaster, and from there it just escalated,” Berenji said. “He got a six-pound roaster, and then he wanted to make a business of selling the coffee to people instead of just having it be a hobby.”
They eventually found their own space to roast coffee in DC and began selling it through their online store. What they found, however, was that they liked the “human” aspect of selling coffee much more.
“The owners [of their roasting space] had a furniture store on the first floor and they would have open houses every Thursday and last Saturday of the month, so we tagged on and started selling our coffee,” said Berenji. “Once we started doing the open houses we realized how much we liked working with people.”
Once this space on the corner of West Broad and Maple became available, they jumped at the opportunity. Rare Bird had always been a local project of the Falls Church, Arlington, and DC area, selling their coffee to stores such as The Local Market on West Broad, and Each Peach Market in NW DC. All of the pastries they sell in their shop also come from local sources, such as Acme Pie and Village Sweet Bakery in Arlington.
“We want to work with local people, and gain notability by being a local shop,” Berenji said.
Since the shop officially opened on October 3, it has been carrying on very successfully. They currently roast on location; however that might have to change if the rate of sales continues to stay high.
“Our most immediate goal is to just have really outstanding coffee consistently. Our next growth possibility would be that our volume of coffee needed would be so great that we would need a separate space to roast in. For now, I don’t think we’ll change where things are, but we’re always hoping it will increase to that point.” Berenji said.
When asked about what type of Rare Bird Coffee she likes the best, Berenji responded: “My favorite is the ‘Montañas del Diamante’ from Costa Rica… That one for me shines.”
It seems that Rare Bird’s coffee reflects the shop itself: Falls Church’s newest store certainly shines.
They’re Ready to Swim, but Are They Set Up to Win?
By Rebecca Horovitz
As fall leaves spiral into winter snowflakes, the swim team turns their attention to the pool with new head coach, Karen Hamill, and assistant coach, Melissa Raeder, leading the upcoming season. With new coaches and 14 new freshmen, the team must work hard to hold their own throughout practice, regionals, and hopefully states.
“We definitely aren’t set up. Last year we were pretty much set up to go to states, but this year it’s gonna take a lot of hard work to get to where we were last year,” senior swimmer Hannah Hiscott said.
Not only did many senior swimmers graduate, but the team now has a younger face as more than two thirds of the 55 swimmers on the team are underclassmen. What’s more, the new head coach and new assistant coach essentially face the same first year challenges as their freshmen swimmers.
“I think there will be more pressure on the freshmen, but I think it will be fine,” freshman Kaleb Chan said.
There are a lot of expectations the team must live up to following the mark they left at the state championships last season. The boys team finished in first place while the girls team received runner up in their division. With more than a handful of new swimmers, many of whom don’t participate in club swim, the pressure doesn’t only fall on the freshmen, but also the returning seniors.
“The girls team is going to have a harder time making up the gap as we no longer have very many club players on their side, so that will be a challenge,” junior swimmer Sam Updike said.
However, the boys swim team did not suffer the same loss of star swimmers as the girls team did.
“In terms of the boys team, I think that we still have a lot of depth and talent on the team,” senior swimmer Justin Britton said.
But despite the loss of so many seniors, the team seems to be working hard to protect their impressive record. There are two pool practices per week on Mondays and Wednesdays at Yorktown High School. Dryland practices take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the George Mason main gym.
“Practices have been a good hard, you feel like you’re working out,” Hiscott said.
The swimmers and the coaches both come to a consensus that the team has enough talent to do well throughout the season.
“I am confident that both the boys and girls teams will have a successful season,” head coach Karen Hamill said.
This confidence was put to the test on December 9 during their first meet of the season at Manassas Park Community Center, where the boys swim and dive team won the meet 113-49 and the girls swim and dive team won 90-70.
These articles plus more from The Lasso available at www.gmhslasso.org.