Meet Me at the World Bank Cafe

While doing errands on Saturday afternoon, I noticed something different about the northwestern corner of 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. From across the street, I could make out the words "Pangea Market" on an orange awning, but assuming it was just another quick-stop deli kind of place, I didn't plan to walk in. A quick peek in the window proved me wrong; whatever this Pangea Market was, it was far from ordinary.

Part boutique, part café and part global education center, the market, formally Pangea Artisan Market & Cafe, is a collaboration between the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Craft & Café Inc., a fledgling Springfield, Va., company owned by two Nepalese immigrants.

Open since May, Pangea is showcasing products from 40-plus artisans in 30 countries around the world, says store owner Sunil Shrestha, who oversees retail operations with his brother, Deepak.

In addition to home furnishings (Alpaca wool pillows from Peru, woven table runners from Swaziland), jewelry (beaded necklaces from Ghana, silver from Bali) and clothing (silk ties from Khmer, recycled bag purses from Indonesia), the store is also selling food products. Walk past the café toward the back of this huge space (a few thousand square feet, by my eye) and you'll see a hodgepodge assortment of goodies from different corners of the globe.

Every product has a story. The "Divine" chocolate bars (both dark and milk), which promise "heavenly chocolate with a heart" are manufactured by a cocoa-growers cooperative in Ghana. The "Superchango" chocolate-coated candy bars from Bolivia feature protein powerhouse crop quinoa, which have replaced cocaine-derived coca plants.

Fair-trade coffee beans from Rwandan cooperatives are roasted and packaged in Michigan. The Aceh Coffee Company, now back in business after the tsunami in December 2004, is selling organic espresso beans. Gula Semut, a funky coconut/ginger sugary drink mix, is helping coconut farmers in Indonesia.

Shrestha says to stay tuned for honey from Kenya, jams from Egypt and even more foodstuffs after his trip to Asia next month.

The café, which seats about 10, serves free-trade coffee, sandwiches (Bread & Chocolate), sushi (Nooshi) and dishes up free Wi-Fi.

For more background, read the Business section story written by Post reporter Ylan Mui.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 20, 2006; 9:34 AM ET Discoveries , Food Shopping
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