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Coffee City

Melissa Allison follows the world's biggest coffee-shop chain and other Seattle caffeine purveyors.

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December 7, 2010 2:56 PM

Lynnwood cafe bought, renamed; dozens more coffee shops still for sale

Posted by Melissa Allison

photo.JPGThe recession has put a lot of Seattle-area coffee shops on the market, and one was bought this fall by former banker Steve Cousins.

The old Sip Coffee at 16108 Ash Way in Lynnwood reopened this week as Starling Coffee, a venture that Cousins, who was laid off by Seattle Savings Bank (now Seattle Bank), financed by converting his IRA into a self-directed 401(k). By putting the business inside the 401(k), he avoids the massive tax penalty of withdrawing retirement money early. Sounds like something a banker would know about, eh?

Cousins also did his due diligence at Sip, spending a month hanging out in the cafe and watching how the business worked.

It took about a month to remodel, and Cousins chose Bellevue roaster Kuma Coffee, whose owner, Mark Barany, is among the first in the country to disclose how much he pays for his green coffee beans.

Starling offers Kuma's Red Bear Espresso Blend and a single-source espresso that will rotate each month. This month it's from Ethiopia.

Consultant Sarah Dooley trained Starling's baristas, including Courtney Keane, who's in the photo above taken by Barany.

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November 5, 2010 5:19 PM

Starbucks in tiff with Kraft; Watertown Coffee closes; I'm on assignment until Thanksgiving

Posted by Melissa Allison

Kraft Foods said Starbucks will have to pay if it wants to back out of a partnership in which Kraft distributes the coffee company's packaged coffee and other products to grocery stores.

Their corporate agreement is "perpetual," Kraft said in a release Thursday, and requires Starbucks to pay fair market value and possibly a premium if it backs away. The business has grown to $500 million in annual sales from $50 million 12 years ago, Tim McLevish, Kraft's chief financial officer, told investors during a quarterly conference call with investors, AP reported.

Kraft was responding to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's announcement earlier in the day that the coffee chain is ending its 12-year partnership with Kraft.

"A month ago, we informed Kraft that we plan to discontinue our distribution arrangement," Schultz told analysts during its call with analysts regarding strong fourth-quarter profits (which some take as another sign of economic recovery).

After Kraft's volley, Starbucks issued a release saying Kraft mischaracterized the agreement, including its term. "It has been, and continues to be, our intention to keep these conversations private. There is a specific mechanism within the agreement for the resolution of disputes. As we said in our earnings call, we will ensure that our mutual customers remain well-served," Starbucks said.

In other coffee news, before I disappear on assignment until Thanksgiving:

  • Starbucks opened its first Central American coffee shop this week, in El Salvador.
  • Synesso said its digital shot timer was a big hit at Coffee Fest. Most cafes use a free-standing Synesso Cyncra.jpgtimer if their machines don't have a shot-timing system, Synesso's Sandy Schneiter explained to me. A timer that's integrated into the machine, like Synesso's starts and stops when the shot is being pulled.
  • Dillanos Coffee Roasters was named macro roaster of the year by Roast Magazine. The Sumner-based company, owned by David Morris, Chris Heyer and Howard Heyer, has 68 employees and roasts more than 3.2 million pounds a year. (Conscious Coffees in Boulder was named micro roaster of the year.)
  • Watertown Coffee closed, but no one seems to know the details and I haven't reached the owners. Can anyone shed light on that sad event? They were apparently at Coffee Fest (per this post), but I missed them. And I miss them.


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September 27, 2010 11:51 AM

Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe near Amazon's new headquarters sells beer, not wine

Posted by Melissa Allison

InnerChapters.jpgOwner Kristina Barnes put her beer offerings on display in her South Lake Union store at 419 Fairview Ave. N., but said there's no wine because the Washington Liquor Control Board decided she doesn't serve enough food to be able to offer wine. Her menu includes bagels, pastries, olive tapenade, salmon cream cheese and hummus.

For more about Paul Allen's growing empire in South Lake Union, including the Amazon build-out, check out graphic artist Mark Nowlin's detailed map from yesterday's paper.

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September 16, 2010 10:16 AM

Tougo Coffee asks $40,000 for its South Lake Union cafe

Posted by Melissa Allison

Tougo.jpgBrian Wells, the owner of Tougo Coffee and one of "Seattle's Sexiest 2009" according to The Stranger, has listed his South Lake Union cafe for sale on He's asking $40,000 for the shop at 2113 Westlake Avenue, which is near Whole Foods and Cornish College. There are three years left on its five-year lease, the ad says.

Tougo Coffee's other cafe, in the Central District, is not for sale, Wells said in an e-mail. He is selling "T2" because he wants to "refocus my attention to rebuilding the brand of Tougo Coffee Co and to get back to the core of extracting and perfecting the craft of specialty coffee."

(The photo by Seattle Times photographer Ellen M. Banner is of Wells serving a customer at Tougo in South Lake Union, for a March 2009 story about cafes opening during the recession. Back then, Wells planned to open a shop in Columbia City, too. One cafe in the story, MezzaLuna Bakery and Bistro, has closed.)

Update 9/17: Wells asked me to point out that the space also comes with a five-year lease extension option. And, he has declined a couple offers from people who did not want to preserve the relationships he's built. Tougo sells coffee from a variety of roasters, per this earlier post.

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August 9, 2010 4:12 PM

Poll: Should cafes turn off the WiFi?

Posted by Melissa Allison

McDonald's started offering free WiFi in January. Starbucks did it last month, although not in airports, book shops and grocery stores.

If they're zigging, then it must be time for independent cafes to zag. Many have offered free WiFi for years, but there's a budding backlash, according to a Los Angeles Times Sunday story, "Coffee shops are taking Wi-Fi off the menu." Not just free WiFi, but all WiFi.

The article mentions Victrola Coffee & Art in Seattle as "one of the first cafes to disconnect Wi-Fi in 2005 after the owners noticed that friends were no longer talking and strangers were no longer meeting."

Tonya Wagner, Victrola's retail coordinator, said there was a New York Times article when the cafe unplugged on weekends in 2005. A couple years later, it offered WiFi on weekends again. Then it stopped. About six months ago, the juice quietly came back on, but "not that many people have realized it."

Victrola never turned off the WiFi on weekdays, she said.

"If it becomes an Internet library, that's not fun for anyone and kind of ruins the atmosphere," Wagner said. "If we could find a balance, that would be the ideal situation."

She likes Espresso Vivace's recent solution of allowing WiFi only in a separate community room with the door shut, at least on weekends, but said Victrola doesn't have that kind of separate space right now. "I see that sort of mixed space as the ideal, but how you get to that mixed space can be really tricky."

Wagner and Jason Simon, a social media expert and blogger, were interviewed today by KING-5, which is expected to have a local spin on the WiFi story at 6:30 p.m. Update: Here's the KING-5 clip, "WiFi being eliminated at some Seattle coffee shops."

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July 31, 2010 9:17 AM

$1 gelato, sangria, coffee tastings at Fonte Cafe in August

Posted by Melissa Allison

Fonte Cafe and Wine Bar is celebrating one year in business with weekly deals on the things it does best. They are:

August 1 to 7: $1 scoop of F2 Gelato made locally with ingredients that include the cafe's signature blend

August 8 to 14, 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m.: $1 glass of sangria

August 15 to 21, 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.: $1 coffee tastings including Ethiopian Nekisse and Guatemala El Socorro Cup of Excellence.

August 22 to 29, 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m.: $1 wine samples during happy hour

The deals are at 1321 First Ave., across from the Seattle Art Museum.

Update 8/2/2010: In response to the reader comment below, a Fonte spokeswoman wrote, "We extend our apologies for the confusion at the cafe yesterday. We had one employee who was not clear about the promotion when it started yesterday. I assure you that the staff has been briefed and welcome everyone down for their $1 gelato today!"

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July 28, 2010 10:33 AM

Help find the best coffee in Seattle

Posted by Melissa Allison

After eight days trying to suss out the best coffee in Seattle, the posters at haven't gotten very far.

They've listed Espresso Vivace, Portland-based Stumptown Coffee, Seattle Coffee Works, Caffe Vita and Trabant Coffee & Chai. They've done a bit of Starbucks bashing, including touching on 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea and Clover brewing machines.

But there's not much depth. Lighthouse Roasters, anyone? Herkimer Coffee? Zoka Coffee Roasters? Come on, let's clue them in about Seattle coffee!

Post your ideas on this string at

(Many thanks to Seattle Times researcher David Turim for pointing it out.)

Update 3:15 p.m.: recently posted a list of the best coffee spots downtown, recommending Seattle Coffee Works, Trabant and Stella Caffe.

Update 7/29/2010: Here's what I got for telling Redditers that there are more than a handful of great coffeehouses in Seattle: "I couldn't decide if I wanted to punch her in her smug little face before or after I read the article."

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July 22, 2010 11:11 AM

The Bravern finally gets a coffee shop, beginning Sunday

Posted by Melissa Allison

It's been a long time coming.

For most of its first year in business, Bellevue's most upscale mall hasn't had a coffee shop.

Then in April, developer Schnitzer West said it had settled on a start-up called Vovito Caffe & Gelato, which promptly ordered two high-falutin' Slayer espresso machines.

On Sunday, Vovito will open at The Bravern with the Slayers and a menu that includes paninis and 24 flavors of gelato and sorbetto. Grand opening festivities are set for July 30.

Vovito opens at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 10:00 a.m. on Sundays. It will offer free Wi-Fi, seats 35 people and is wheelchair accessible.

Update 7/23/10: A Bravern spokeswoman said, "They are tied to a private label roaster." Someone on Twitter wrote:

@CoffeeCity that's code for Dillanosless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

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July 15, 2010 12:16 PM

Coffee trade shows battling over Seattle

Posted by Melissa Allison

Issaquah-based Coffee Fest, which holds coffee trade shows all over the country including an annual show in Seattle each year, is battling the Specialty Coffee Association of America's plan to hold its annual convention in Seattle most years over the next decade.

Coffee Fest has hosted a show in Seattle every year for the past 19. Last fall, its show included the Northwest Barista Competition, which is sponsored by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).

Now SCAA says Seattle looks like a sweet resting spot. After rotating its big annual shindig among various cities, it's looking to settle here in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018, and possibly 2020 and 2021.

Why's that? The president of the SCAA, Peter Giuliano of Counter Culture Coffee in North Carolina, wrote last night on the group's Facebook page that Seattle (the convention center and visitors bureau) has made an attractive offer that would free up time and resources.

"The way things stand now, there are only a handful of cities that can handle our show (our show is unusual; we need to roast and brew coffee for example, and we need a very high ratio of classroom space for all of our educational classes). Cities like New York, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco aren't well suited for us, are super expensive, and frankly aren't that attracted to our event," he wrote.

Coffee Fest is fighting back. Its social media expert sent a letter alerting SCAA members.

"While Coffee Fest certainly doesn't own Seattle, we do object to the SCAA's plan to all but permanently locate here and expect that given the details and facts, you may object too," reads the letter, which launched a spirited discussion at

The shows cannot be held together, Coffee Fest founder Alan Silverman wrote in that string.

"The problem is we share many of the same vendors and if we split the revenue neither of us come out in the black. That is actually the crux of the problem. Vendors will have to choose which show they will exhibit in because it does not make sense for them to come to the same city twice a year and two years in a row," Silverman wrote.

There's a fair bit of discussion on Barista Magazine's Facebook page, too.

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June 15, 2010 12:12 PM

Taiwanese coffee chain brings sea salt lattes to U.S.

Posted by Melissa Allison

More big names in Seattle coffee have shops in Asia than in New York City. Starbucks, Tully's and Zoka all do business there and say it's a major growth market.

Now one Asian chain is bringing a cafe concept our way.

Called 85C, the Taiwan-based chain recently opened a flagship U.S. store in Irvine, Calif., where it serves squid-ink buns and iced sea salt lattes, NPR reports.

With more than 300 stores in Taiwan, it plans to expand in the U.S., Australia and China.

The chain's name comes from the centigrade temperature at which it brews coffee, NPR reported. That's 185 degrees Fahrenheit, below the ideal temperature for espresso, according to Vivace owner and coffee precision expert David Schomer.

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June 4, 2010 8:37 PM

Gone fishing until June 14: Doughnuts, popular Ethiopian beans, and a Twinkie-like coffee defense

Posted by Melissa Allison

A few coffee thoughts before I go:

  • As I write, it's National Doughnut Day, and shares of Krispy Kreme are up 7 percent, because its quarterly profit more than doubled. Another doughnut chain, which prefers you call it a coffee chain despite the name Dunkin' Donuts, is discussed mostly by men on Twitter and other social media. Starbucks is mentioned slightly more by women and, surprise, people in Washington. Coffee overall is about even between the sexes, all according to Lexicalist. And, Starbucks still hasn't said why it stopped labeling its doughnuts as made by Top Pot.

  • In other Starbucks news, a Virginia man says his addiction to the company's coffee contributed to his killing his wife, NBC reports. And the chain settled for an undisclosed amount with a former barista in California who said Starbucks did not protect her from the sex demands of her manager when she was 16, ABC reports. In Seattle, Starbucks continues to give away tickets to various events on Fridays at 2 p.m., no purchase necessary. They run out fast. On June 11, it will be a free child's ticket to the Seattle Aquarium, worth $11 if your kid is over 3.

  • Trabant Coffee & Chai will soon carry one of the hottest tickets in coffee, a Nekisse micro-lot selection from Ethiopia, which recently sold for $12 a cup in New York and has appeared for considerably less -- $2.69 a cup -- at Seattle's Fonte Coffee Roaster. Trabant's roaster, 49th Parallel Coffee in Vancouver, is giving all the proceeds from its Nekisse sales to a non-profit called imagine1day to build classrooms in Ethiopia, said 49th Parallel owner Vince Piccolo. Trabant is 49th Parallel's only wholesale customer in Seattle, possibly because the roaster does not have wholesale salespeople. Piccolo said he prefers to focus on sourcing and roasting coffee for the five-year-old company, which nevertheless has hundreds of wholesale customers across North America. The beans cost $30 for 12 ounces online, and Trabant barista Alex Negranza (he of the amazing cocktail) plans to write about it online soon.

  • Finally, CoffeeTalk's June issue came out this week, featuring tea. The magazine's Daily Dose e-mail also linked to good news about Brazil's coffee crop.

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June 3, 2010 4:34 PM

Barista works cocktail magic at STIFF party Friday night

Posted by Melissa Allison

DSC_0959.jpgAll the recent talk about Costco wanting to kill the state's monopoly on booze sales has some folks fantasizing about coffee cocktails. They're not a new concept, but there is a new coffee drink debuting at STIFF -- Seattle's True Independent Film Festival -- on Friday evening, created by Alex Negranza, a barista at Trabant Coffee & Chai.

Negranza will use a hand-held espresso maker called a MyPressi Twist to make espresso with Dry Fly vodka instead of water. The cocktail also includes Trabant's hibiscus-jalapeno simple syrup*, cilantro, lime and pomegranate juices. I believe that could relax you and wake you up at the same time. And there's a picture by Negranza with a bag of beans from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, which supplies Trabant and this particular cocktail.

He, coffee consultant Sarah Dooley and Trabant owner Mike Gregory also will serve herbal tea gin infusions at:

STIFF 2010 Opening Night Party
Friday, June 4, 2010
8:00 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Location: pun(c)tuation, 705A E. Pike St., Seattle, WA

The party is free, but the cocktails are only for badge holders -- and you can buy a badge there for $50, which will get you into all STIFF events through June 13, said festival director Clint Berquist.

* If you can't make it to the party but like the sound of hibiscus-jalapeno syrup, Trabant makes an Italian soda using that syrup at its University District location, where it's experimenting with making syrups in-store and at the moment also has ginger, vanilla made with blue agave and Hawaiian sea salt caramel flavors.

Here's the party:

View pun(c)tuation, site of STIFF party in a larger map

Here's the Trabant location with house-made simple syrups:

View Trabant, University District in a larger map

And here's Trabant's other location, in Pioneer Square:

View Trabant, Pioneer Square in a larger map

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May 25, 2010 1:27 PM

Will coffee shops get into the liquor business?

Posted by Melissa Allison

A recent trend has coffeehouses selling wine and beer. A new initiative backed by Costco would let anyone who sells wine and beer also sell liquor (and, oh by the way, put the state out of the liquor business).

It could open the way for fresh espresso cocktails.

What do you think?

Update 4:40 p.m.: I just learned that current law allows coffeehouses, like restaurants, to get liquor licenses. It's grocery and convenience stores that cannot, and that's what the initiative would change. In that case, why don't we have fresh espresso cocktails now?

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May 21, 2010 6:02 PM

Zoka Coffee making money; rumors untrue, owner says

Posted by Melissa Allison

Zoka 003-thumb-350x262-7484.jpgThe rumors started in February, when paychecks for Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea workers in Kirkland bounced. Owner Jeff Babcock said the company had just changed banks, and the new bank tried to pull money from the wrong account. Zoka switched banks again to avoid further problems. "We tried to explain, but they have a point that their paychecks bounced, and it was several days before it got fixed," Babcock said.

Add to that a fair number of barista layoffs at the small coffeehouse chain over the past year, and the tales and conjecture grew. Today, reported a list of rumors about the company's financial situation that it says Zoka representatives denied off the record.

Babock says Sprudge didn't call him for comment. Here are his responses to me:

Rumor 1: "Zoka is rumored to be dramatically downsizing its green buying practices."
Babock: Green coffee buying is up, and he remains a judge for the prestigious Cup of Excellence mentioned in the rumor. Zoka will continue buying up to three COE coffees a year. Zoka does not buy them in vast quantities because "sales volume is only so high" for such pricey coffees, especially in a recession, so they sometimes run out before new orders are placed.

Rumor 2: "Zoka is rumored to be closing its Kirkland store."
Babock: It's been profitable for the past month with record sales every day, after breaking even since it opened last August. Sales are up 15 to 20 percent since nearby Kahili Coffee went out of business.

Rumor 3: "We've received multiple tips from high ranking sources that Zoka's current financial situation is dire." (And suggestions that ownership will change.)
Babock: Zoka sold its Snoqualmie coffeehouse late last year to help pay for the new Kirkland store. "It's been tight times, but the stores are all profitable, and the wholesale business is profitable, and we have good things to look forward to in the future." A business partner in Japan pays licensing fees to use Zoka's name, and Zoka is teaching them to roast coffee, but "they don't own any part of our company," and no ownership changes are in the works.

And a couple thoughts on's facts:

Fact 1: "For years, Zoka was the official coffee service for KEXP's pledge drives. This year, Zoka pulled out completely...."
Babock: Zoka used to make coffee during pledge drives. "When you tighten up, you don't have the extra staff to do that," he said.

Fact 2: Zoka employees are embroiled in tax disputes.
Not Babock, but me saying: It's unclear how an employer's financial situation would create a tax problem for employees.

Fact 3: The bounced checks mentioned above, including a one-day employee walk-out.

Fact 4: Some people were laid off, or otherwise ticked off, by Zoka, and they have a Facebook page.

Update 5/26/10: Seri Ann Christina Shaw, who worked as a barista at Zoka in Kirkland until Feb. 28, said she does not recall a walk-out. She started the Facebook page, which "is about connecting circuits and making new roads to travel on."

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May 21, 2010 2:27 PM

Weekend Wrap: Coffee Strong raises money to help G.I.s, Starbucks gives away summer event tickets

Posted by Melissa Allison

  • The comic strip Betty took a few swipes at Fair Trade coffee this week, saying it doesn't taste good even if it's doing good. Of course, there are questions about whether Fair Trade is as good as its marketing.
  • Caffe Vita coffee is fueling three guys who left Seattle this week on a mission to document the American urban farm movement. Called Breaking Through Concrete, the project will take a photographer, writer and videographer through 15 cities before ending in Grayslake, Ill., on July 4. The material will go into a book to be published next year. You can follow the trip on Caffe Vita's blog and at
  • Coffee Strong, a coffeehouse just outside Fort Lewis that is run by the non-profit G.I. Voice, is trying to raise $6,000 to advertise its services to the roughly 10,000 soldiers who will return there from Iraq and Afghanistan over the next three months. The coffeehouse is staffed with G.I. rights counselors and makes referrals to mental health counseling services and veterans benefits advocates. "We need your contribution to ensure that any soldier who needs help will get it, and many are denied services due them. Together we can save lives and make sure that no one falls through the cracks because nobody is there to listen," G.I. Voice and Coffee Strong Executive Director Seth Manzel said in an e-mail to potential supporters. Donations are being taken on its web site.
  • The G.I. coffeehouse also has a Facebook page with nearly 1,000 people who like it, far less than Seattle's biggest coffee company. In the Facebook switch from fans to "likers," Starbucks' following dropped dramatically from last summer to 1.9 million, once again putting it behind Coca-Cola.
  • is stoked about the Nekisse beans that recently arrived at Seattle's Fonte Coffee Roaster from southern Ethiopia. Rather than charge $12 a cup like one New York cafe, Fonte will sell the coffee at its usual prices -- $2.69 for a 16-ounce cup of drip coffee or $2.85 for a personal French press. The beans can be bought at the downtown cafe (and by June 1 online) for $24.50 a pound or $12.50 a half pound. Fonte's roaster, Steve Smith, estimates the supply will last through August, depending on demand.
  • Duane Kapovich, who works at Starbucks' 7th and Pike store in downtown Seattle, will throw out the first pitch at the Mariners game tonight, launching a five-week promotion in which the company is giving away free tickets to summer events after 2 p.m. on Fridays. It's one ticket per person while supplies last, which was 5 or 10 minutes this afternoon, when shops gave away Mariners tickets. Give-aways on future Fridays are for (May 28) free tickets to the Seattle International Film Festival, (June 4) free tickets to the Seattle Art Museum, (June 11) free child's ticket to the Seattle Aquarium and (June 18) free tickets to "Burn The Floor" at The Paramount Theatre. Kapovich and his son, Barrett, are serious fans, having attended the groundbreaking for Safeco Field and the July 1999 opening game, when the Mariners played the Padres as they are tonight. Maybe it has something to do with Barrett's birthday: April 3, 1989, the day Ken Griffey Jr. debuted in the Major League.
  • Starbucks' lobbying efforts pale next to the banking industry's, but its spending more than doubled to $180,000 in the first quarter from $80,000 a year ago. It's on track to spend roughly the same on lobbying as it did last year.

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May 20, 2010 10:59 AM

Vivace's David Schomer to speak at London coffee expo in June

Posted by Melissa Allison

vivacemain02[1].jpgDavid Schomer, the founder and owner of Espresso Vivace in Seattle, will be a speaker next month at Caffe Culture, an industry event in London that will include the World Barista Championship.

More than 10,000 visitors are expected from June 23 to 25, and exhibitors include the Seattle-based (but Italy-made) espresso machine maker La Marzocco. A special exhibit will pay tribute to classic Italian espresso machines from La Pavoni's 'Ideale' (1905), to Victoria Arduino 'Venus' (1910), to the 'Lollobrigida', a San Marco machine from the 1950s named for Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida.

Schomer is being billed as an "internationally renowned cafe bar operator and innovator," and will give presentations on espresso bar design and on "Espresso Vivace - an artisan business model." He said a peek at his blog gives some idea what he'll be discussing.

Schomer was chosen because "he has led the way in so many ways within the cafe bar industry," said event spokeswoman Helen Marriott. "When we decided to dedicate a day to where the cafe bar industry is heading in the next ten years (in terms of design, functionality and customer requirements), David was a natural choice."

In the photo, by Seattle Times photographer Ken Lambert, Schomer is the bespectacled man in the middle demonstrating how to make a great espresso drink at one of his rare Seattle workshops.

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May 14, 2010 6:06 PM

Weekend wrap: Barista babes now trade on pink sheets

Posted by Melissa Allison

Care to own a fraction of one of those risque espresso stands without all the muss of learning to run a business or even read financial statements? Baristas Coffee Co., a chain of seven drive-through espresso stands, trades for less than pennies on the pink sheets and discloses very little.

In a rare release (under "news"), the Seattle company says it changed its ticker symbol to BCCI and describes what it does: "Baristas employs and promotes attractive female baristas trained to interact with the customers to maximize sales as well as prepare the finest beverages available. All baristas wear constantly changing and appealing costumes, allowing for customers to enjoy the anticipation of a fun, creative, new, and intriguing experience every day."

Sadly for investment research purposes, StudyLogic didn't include drive-through espresso stands in a survey presented at the 2010 World Coffee Conference in Guatemala. But here's what they did find: In the U.S., coffeehouses rake in 42 percent of coffee beverage sales, followed by fast-food shops like McDonald's with just 21 percent.

Convenience stores and gas stations like BP, which has a brand called Wild Bean Cafe, sell 12 percent of the nation's coffee drinks. Maybe they should focus more on drilling than coffee?

Other random coffee finds include a photo of "Star & Bucks Cafe" in the Israeli occupied West Bank, where Starbucks does not have shops, and a KING 5 piece on the Seattle Coffee Crawl:

(Thanks to Ezra, Drew, Rami and David C.!)

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May 12, 2010 12:34 PM

Zoka Coffee selling used baking equipment Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Posted by Melissa Allison

In the market for Kitchen Aid Mixers, mixing bowls, a baker's rack, a tomato slicer or an ice cream display case? Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. is selling those items and more at a "garage sale" at its roasting location -- 1220 W Nickerson St. -- on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cash and checks only, says general manager Patrick Mazzuca.

Zoka has all this spare equipment now that it buys baked goods from Essential Baking Co. rather than baking them in-house.

That address is also where Zoka holds public tastings every Friday at 11 a.m.

View Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea in a larger map

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May 7, 2010 3:07 PM

Weekend wrap: Carly Simon resumes suit against Starbucks, Kristin Chenoweth sings latte song

Posted by Melissa Allison

In case you missed the advertising blitz, Starbucks is offering half off its new Frappuccinos from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. today through May 16. If you're lucky, maybe a barista will make you an off-the-menu key lime pie version.

Other recent coffee news:

  • Coffee from PCC Natural Markets has long been certified organic, Fair Trade and shade grown. Now that Equal Exchange has begun roasting in Oregon, it's all locally roasted as well. Other PCC coffee is roasted by Tony's Coffee in Bellingham, Kalani Organica and Caffe Ladro in Seattle and Fidalgo Bay Coffee in Burlington. (And in other PCC news, the chain has an interesting dilemma with new Seattle laws on recycling and composting.)

  • After losing in round one, Carly Simon has filed an amended lawsuit against Starbucks regarding its alleged lack of marketing for her 2008 album, "This Kind of Love."

  • A New York City customer is suing Starbucks after allegedly getting second-degree burns from "unreasonably hot" tea. Starbucks said it takes seriously its obligation to provide safe products, brews its drinks to industry standards and is investigating the complaint in New York.

  • Former Starbucks executive Timothy Casey became CEO of Mrs. Fields' Original Cookies, which franchises TCBY and Mrs. Fields' Cookies stores. Once a regional vice president at Starbucks, Casey also worked at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Bakers Square Restaurants, QSR Magazine reports.

  • Peet's Coffee & Tea posted a first-quarter profit of $3.1 million, even with last year but higher than analysts expected. Caribou Coffee's profit more than doubled to $1 million.

  • A couple readers asked why I wrote about a Whidbey Island coffee shop that's for sale. I thought it was rare enough to be news. I was so wrong. Craigslist is crammed with ads for cafes and espresso stands.

  • Finally, my former colleague and rapt coffee news reader David Carlos found this video of Kristin Chenoweth singing a little ditty called, "Taylor the Latte Boy." He called it cute; it kind of scares me.

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April 29, 2010 12:09 PM

Victrola, Whidbey Coffee poised for growth after hiring controller with deep roots in Seattle coffee

Posted by Melissa Allison

Thumbnail image for Jerry_Kaloper_web.jpgDan Ollis, owner of Victrola Coffee Roasters and Whidbey Coffee Co., has hired Jerry Kaloper as the company's first controller to get the books humming in preparation for future growth. A Huskies quarterback in the '60s, Kaloper (photo courtesy of Victrola) worked for Stewart Brothers Coffee -- now Seattle's Best Coffee, or SBC -- for eight years, first in sales and operations and later as general manager of the company under Jim Stewart, one of the best-known names in Seattle coffee.

In 1992, Kaloper left SBC and became an owner of Mukilteo Coffee, a wholesale business where he was involved in all aspects of operations including purchasing, roasting, packaging, finance and sales. Mukilteo Coffee founder Gary Smith and his wife, Beth, bought out Kaloper's interest in 2006, when he started a residential real estate firm with his son just before the real estate bubble burst. This month, Kaloper's non-compete contract with Mukilteo expired and he's back in the coffee business.

"Victrola reminds me of when I was starting in the old days with Jim Stewart, who was all about the coffee, really high-grade coffees, brewing them Melitta-style and individually for customers," Kaloper said. "That's what Victrola is doing right now, really cutting-edge with single-origin coffees and French press presentation and single-origin through espresso machines, which was unheard of back then."

Single-origin coffees are like varietal wines -- they come from one area and have flavors unique to their regions, or even the estate they were grown on.

The business side reminds Kaloper of his early days at SBC and Mukilteo, too.

Victrola 005.jpg"The position Dan is in now is similar to where we were at Seattle's Best way back when, and when I went to Mukilteo, where we were starting from scratch and grew that company. I've been through the growth process twice, and now Dan wants go to next level," he said.

Whidbey Coffee Co., which Ollis started as a cart in 1989, now has 10 cafes and drive-throughs. A couple years ago, Ollis bought Victrola Coffee, which has a Seattle roasting facility, three coffeehouses and a reputation for high-quality beans and baristas (like Stephen Robinson, pictured practicing pours with the help of Stumptown barista Liz Phung for a latte art smackdown last summer). Together the chains have 120 employees, and Ollis decided it was time for someone to focus exclusively on the financial side of the business.

"When you're trying to build an organization, you need an operations guy, and with his wealth of knowledge in the coffee world and knowing the numbers, he was an absolute perfect fit," Ollis said. They met when Kaloper worked at SBC, and Ollis later bought beans from him at Mukilteo Coffee.

After remodeling the Oak Harbor location of Whidbey Coffee this year, Ollis hopes to open another cafe. Next up: Outsource the marketing function, or hire someone to do it in-house.

For those who love tasting coffee, Victrola head roaster Perry Hook holds a free public cupping at 11 a.m. every Wednesday at the Roastery location, 310 E. Pike St.

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April 13, 2010 2:41 PM

Local coffeehouses offer disloyalty card, encourage customers to shop around

Posted by Melissa Allison

Local coffee dynamo Sarah Dooley has launched a disloyalty card to encourage Seattleites to try lots of different coffees around town. Modeled after a similar card that barista champion Gwilym Davies started in London last year, it offers a free beverage at the participating cafe of your choice after you've had a drink at each of the 10 coffeehouses on the card (which together have 13 locations, mostly in Seattle).

The cafes expect to start distributing cards in the next few days, said Dooley, who recently left Visions Espresso Service to be a coffee consultant. The cards, which expire in December 2012, were designed by Dan Baumfeld at Neptune Coffee. Printing was paid for by Equal Exchange Espresso.

Update 9:35 a.m., 4/14/2010: In response to comments on this post, Sarah Dooley e-mailed to say, "We took the first ten that replied with a solid YES." Having a "competition level" standard of beverages was a driving factor, and, "We said NO, very respectfully to a few companies." Dooley said a few companies she would have loved to see on the card were non-responsive.

Thumbnail image for disloyalty-card-final3.gif

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April 12, 2010 11:27 AM

Whidbey Island coffee bar for sale, asking $32,000

Posted by Melissa Allison

Whidbey.jpgJessica Leon has put her 21-year-old coffee shop on Whidbey Island up for sale. Called 1504 Coffee Bar, it's in Freeland and serves organic coffee from Coffee Bean International in Portland.

She's asking $32,000, which includes furniture, fixtures, special recipes, and inventory. They bake their own pastries in-house. She bought it to stay on the island but doesn't know a lot about coffee and thinks someone who does could generate even more business from it. Sales currently cover her living expenses, but she's going to graduate school and won't have time for the shop.

Whidbey has a rich coffee history, beginning in 1969 when Jim and Dave Stewart started the Wet Whisker ice cream and coffee shop in Coupeville. That business became Stewart Brothers Coffee and eventually Seattle's Best Coffee, now owned by Starbucks.

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April 8, 2010 1:55 PM

Caffe Vita founder charged with assault, DUI, hit and run

Posted by Melissa Allison

A journalist friend once said that if someone thanks you for writing a story, tell them it's your job and that if they're charged with a crime the following week, you'll write about that news too.

It's not often that crime news makes the coffee blog, but today reports that city prosecutors have charged Michael McConnell, founder of Caffe Vita and a big name in Seattle restaurants, with assault, DUI and hit and run after an incident last week at Broadway and James Street. McConnell entered not guilty pleas on all charges.

The alleged incident happened on March 31, the day before Caffe Vita opened its Pioneer Square location.

I confirmed the charges and McConnell's not guilty pleas, but have not confirmed other details reported at

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April 8, 2010 6:59 AM

Poll: How much would you pay for a great cup of coffee?

Posted by Melissa Allison

A Baltimore shop called Spro is selling a 12-ounce cup of coffee for $13, CNN reports. It's Aida's Grand Reserve from El Salvador, and I'm sure it's good, just like the $9 cup of coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda of Panama that Cafe Grumpy offered in Brooklyn.

But what's up with these prices? Others have served coffee that's just as good for less. Fonte Coffee Roaster in Seattle sold one of the world's most divine coffees -- La Esmeralda Geisha -- at its usual $2.26 price for 16 ounces of brewed coffee last year. (To be fair, the beans were steep at $49.95 a half pound with proceeds going to the Pike Place Market Foundation.) Paul Odom, Fonte's owner, said it broke even on the Geisha by the cup. "You wouldn't want to do that every day for the rest of your life," he said.

But $13? How much would you pay for an excellent cup?

Thanks to David Carlos and CoffeeTalk's Daily Dose for the CNN link.

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April 7, 2010 8:17 AM

The Bravern finds coffee shop, which orders high-end Slayer espresso machines -- now at Zoka and Equal Exchange

Posted by Melissa Allison

SamLewontin.jpgWhen VoVito Caffe & Gelato opens at The Bravern in June, it will boast the area's third and fourth Slayer espresso machines. Like a lot of espresso machines, the Slayer is made in Seattle. Unlike a lot of them, it gives baristas more control over water pressure in pulling shots, which means the water can spend more time creating flavor with the coffee grounds.

There are Slayers in New York City and in Canada. But around here, the only Slayers are at Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. in Kirkland and -- as of last week -- Equal Exchange Espresso in Ballard Market.

Sam Lewontin (pictured pulling a shot at Equal Exchange) said the Slayer takes about 10 seconds longer per shot, but is great to operate and worth the money -- about $14,000 for two groups, according to its makers. Lewontin said it would be costly and complicated to outfit another machine with the same features, which include excellent temperature regulation and "naked" portafilters that allow baristas to see exactly how the shot is pouring.

He also talked about experimenting with Slayer-brewed BREWED coffee, which is very slow like a pour-over but with the finely ground coffee of an espresso shot. The folks at Slayer say that's something VoVito plans to offer.

VoVito, owned by Ariff and Shairose Gulamani, is the coffee shop The Bravern has sought since opening without one last year. "It'll be something very, very special for Bellevue, and very special for The Bravern," said Tom Woodworth, senior investment director for Bravern developer Schnitzer West.

It will occupy 2,444 square feet just off a 110th Avenue entrance near the outdoor fireplace and, as the name implies, sell gelato as well.

More about VoVito later. For now, here's where you can try espresso from the new (and second local) Slayer at Equal Exchange Espresso:

View Equal Exchange Espresso in a larger map

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April 2, 2010 3:49 PM

Cherry Street Coffee House displays comic of coffee-addled sandwich board in Pioneer Square

Posted by Melissa Allison

Pioneer Square's mixed fortunes have been on display in recent weeks, with Elliott Bay Book Co. moving out, Caffe Vita and Pizzeria Napoletana moving in, and the city warning businesses in the historic district about their sidewalk boards.

Cherry Street Coffee House is one of the retailers warned, and AJ Ghambari -- whose family owns the local chain -- e-mailed this comic by artist Gregory Hofmann that's displayed in the store.


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April 1, 2010 5:51 PM

Caffe Umbria hosts Teatro ZinZanni at 6:30 p.m. in Pioneer Square

Posted by Melissa Allison

After you cast a wistful glance at the now-closed Elliott Bay Book Co. in Pioneer Square and pick up your free pizza and coffee at Caffe Vita's grand opening a few blocks away, check out Teatro ZinZanni performers at Caffe Umbria, 320 Occidental Avenue South in Pioneer Square.

Peter Pitofsky, Juliana Rambaldi and Sergiy Krutikov will perform free from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Umbria describes Pitofsky as a "human cartoon," Rambaldi as an "opera diva," and Krutikov as a "gentleman juggler and accordion player."

Umbria is co-owned by Emanuele Bizzarri, whose grandfather and father were coffee roasters. Its other location is in Portland's Pearl District, where Vita also plans to open a coffeehouse and pizzeria in the next month or so. Umbria's coffee also is served at other cafes and venues like Bellagio Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas and the Culinary Institute of America in Napa.

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April 1, 2010 8:32 AM

Video from grand opening of Caffe Vita and Pizzeria Napoletana in Pioneer Square

Posted by Melissa Allison

"Unfortunately due to local noise restrictions, building residents and management concerns, we have decided to postpone the late night portion of our Pioneer Square Opening Party, thus going against the usual Caffe Vita grain of partying first and answering questions later," the company said in an e-mail.

While Elliott Bay Book Co. packs, the nearby opening celebration for Caffe Vita and Pizzeria Napoletana at 125 Prefontaine Place South (near South Washington and Fourth) now goes like this:

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. -- Free coffee
11 a.m. to close -- Free pizza
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. -- Music by The Tarantellas.

Donations benefit Vita's new neighbor, the King County cultural services agency 4Culture.

The new pizza and coffee spot is run by Chris McConnell, the son of Michael McConnell, who founded Caffe Vita and Via Tribunali.

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March 31, 2010 10:33 AM

Seattle cheesemaker Beecher's stakes out expensive corner not far from Stumptown in NYC

Posted by Melissa Allison

Beecher's.jpgBeecher's Handmade Cheese signed a lease this week for an 8,000-square-foot space at Broadway and East 20th Street in Manhattan. That's about nine blocks from Stumptown Coffee's new Ace Hotel digs.

Beecher's owner Kurt Beecher Dammeier said rent in NYC is three to four times what he's paid at Pike Place Market, "but you get the basement for free." The Manhattan factory and store will occupy 3,500 square feet at ground level, with 4,500 square feet in the finished basement for a wine bar and cheese cave.

After figuring in the "free" space, the average rent-per-square-foot for Beecher's in Manhattan is less than Dammeier's rent for Pasta & Co. in University Village, but more than Beecher's rent at Pike Place Market. He recently bought the building where Beecher's operates at the market, but the cheese store continues to pay the same rent, just to a separate Dammeier company.

Dammeier wouldn't talk dollars, but he did share more about Beecher's new Manhattan space -- scheduled to open next February -- for a story in today's paper.

Now that Portand's Stumptown, San Francisco's Blue Bottle Coffee, and Seattle's best-known cheesemaker have found ways to ply their crafts in NYC, how long before a Seattle company decides to roast coffee there?

(Photo credit: Sergio Chin-Ley, Chin-Ley Reche Associates.)

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March 28, 2010 5:54 PM

All kinds of lattes, organic coffee at Healeo

Posted by Melissa Allison

Justin[1].JPGI finally got around to writing about Healeo, the supplement, superfood smoothie and good-for-you-food shop at 15th and East Madison.

It's owned by Justin Brotman, the son of Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman, and has die-hard fans like Scott Souchock, who's ordered the Cacao Pow smoothie (coconut milk, cacao nibs and powder and butter, maca, mesquite, dates and agave) with added hemp protein, banana and peanut butter so often that other customers just call it a "Scott."

Healeo serves organic coffee from Caffe Vita and makes an unusual assortment of other hot drinks including matcha latte, yerba mate latte, coconut mate latte and cacao mocha. Prices range from $2.85 for an 8-ounce caffe latte to $4.75 for a 16-ounce cacao mocha.

In a throw-back to the Gravity Bar of yore, Healo also serves a cold buster (carrot, ginger, garlic, cayenne), liver detox juice and other elixirs. And it has a wall of loose teas at decent prices for organic, including matcha ($6/oz.), sencha ($3.25/oz.) and caramelized pear rooibos ($4.25/oz.).

Photo credit: Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times

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March 25, 2010 2:47 PM

Caffe Vita celebrates new Pioneer Square location with free coffee, pizza, music on April 1

Posted by Melissa Allison

Caffe Vita will celebrate its new Pioneer Square location with free coffee, pizza and music at various times on April 1. It's the roaster's sixth cafe and will share space with Pizzeria Napoletana. Both are run by Chris McConnell, the son of Michael McConnell, who founded Caffe Vita and the Via Tribunali pizza chain.

Caffe Vita & Pizzeria Napoletana is in the former All City Coffee space at 125 Prefontaine Place South, near the corner of South Washington Street and Fourth Avenue South.

Caffe Vita has owned the space for a while without changing the name, and you can buy coffee there now. The pizza's coming next week.

Donations to the all-day celebration will benefit Caffe Vita's neighbor in Pioneer Square, a King County cultural services agency called 4Culture.

On April 1:

6 a.m. - 11 a.m. = free drip coffee
11 a.m. - 4 p.m. = free small pizzas from Pizzeria Napoletana
6 p.m. - 8 p.m. = 4Culture hosts free performance by The Tarantellas
8 p.m. - Late = free food, drinks, and music for ages 21 and up. Performances by Trent (Head Like a Kite / Fresh Espresso), Thomas Hunter (Kay Kay / Wild Orchid Children), Fatal Lucciauno and others.

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March 21, 2010 12:14 PM

Poll: Should Starbucks recycle more? And other questions before Wednesday's annual meeting

Posted by Melissa Allison

Tino.jpgStarbucks goes through 3 billion paper cups and 1 billion plastic cups a year, and a shareholder proposal asks that it do more to recycle them, plus its bottles and cans.

The result should be available at Wednesday's annual meeting, which will be webcast live at 10 a.m. Such proposals almost never win, because big companies like Starbucks are owned mostly by mutual funds and other institutions that follow corporate guidance. (The proposal and Starbucks' "vote no" recommendation are in a previous post.) As You Sow hopes the vote will get the company into talks.

Still, it raises interesting questions, many of which I covered in today's paper, including thoughts from Stumptown Coffee and former Starbucks store manager Tino Ganacias, pictured, who now owns Empire Espresso Bar in Columbia City.

How would you vote on the proposal? And do you think Starbucks investors should get a dividend, given its $1.3 billion in cash? At last year's meeting, CFO Troy Alstead said it would "evaluate a dividend as a possibility."

Finally, will Starbucks have enough pastries on Tuesday? It's giving out coupons for a free pastry with drink purchase until 10:30 a.m. During a similar promotion last summer, a lot of shops ran out before that time. The deal does not include some stores, like those in airports, Barnes & Noble bookstores and much of Hawaii.

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March 21, 2010 11:34 AM

Pioneer Square coffee: Cherry Street warned about sidewalk board, Elliott Bay Cafe branches out

Posted by Melissa Allison

ebc.jpgA city inspector sent warnings this month to Cherry Street Coffee House and three other Pioneer Square businesses, saying their sidewalk boards were illegally placed. Two shops said they lost sales after taking the signs down.

While reporting that story, I noticed that Elliott Bay Cafe is among the dozens of businesses with sidewalk boards and called to ask if they are moving with Elliott Bay Book Co. to Capitol Hill next month. Yes, they said, and the current location will stay open, too.

After the bookstore closes on March 31, customers can reach the underground cafe using its outdoor staircase. Brasa chef Tamara Murphy opened the cafe, with its big neon "coffee" sign, in 2008.

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March 12, 2010 5:31 PM

Coffee wrap: Starbucks spent $740K on lobbying last year, Le Whif, and an old hand takes a swipe at 'third wave' coffee

Posted by Melissa Allison

A few things I didn't post while sneezing my head off this week:

  • RedEspresso.jpgRemember that rooibos espresso I mentioned a while back? Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe in South Lake Union/Cascade ordered some, and they're using it to make everything from Mexican mochas to soy cappuccinos with honey and cinnamon, and -- if you even remotely like tea -- the stuff is tasty.
  • "The current state of specialty coffee retailing bugs the hell out of me," coffee veteran Kevin Knox writes on his blog, Caffeinated Calm. Knox was in charge of coffee quality for Starbucks from 1987 to 1993, then a coffee buyer for Allegro Coffee in Boulder, Colo. The post includes great historical notes, like how appalled George Howell was at Starbucks' dark roasts during a Seattle visit in 1990, but mostly it's a criticism of the too-cool-for-you coffee community. "What I see in the coffee offerings of most of the so-called 'third wave' roasters is an approach to retailing that at its worst is both solipsistic and narcissistic," he writes.
  • Coffee consultant Sarah Dooley e-mailed to say that Rosettas for Relief, a latte art competition last month to benefit Haiti, raised $2,375.97 in Seattle. Andrew Milstead of the Urban Coffee Lounge had the winning pour.
  • Starbucks spent $740,000 lobbying in Washington, D.C., last year, according to One person, Lori Otto, did most of the work, but a cadre of lobbyists at K&L Gates also pitched in. About $190,000 was spent in the fourth quarter on foreign trade, corporate accounting issues and other matters, according to a report filed with the House clerk's office, AP said.
  • If the charms of Facebook, Twitter and your Android phone lose their luster, check out what the marketing wizards at Foursquare have cooked up: It's a partnership with Starbucks that gives customers -- free coffee? free Wi-Fi? No! A barista badge, whatever that is. The New York Times blogged about the arrangement, which goes beyond letting the world know what you had for breakfast and how it's sitting. With Foursquare, you can broadcast where you are, and get a barista badge after "checking in" at five separate Starbucks shops. Frequent customers will get rewards, Starbucks' Chris Bruzzo told the Times, but it might be something "more meaningful" than free coffee -- like invitations to special events, photo sharing or online reputation scores.
  • The New York Times also wrote a nice piece on efforts by Counter Culture and other roasters to bring better flavor to decaffeinated coffee.
  • "The KICK of coffee without the cup!" is the promise from Le Whif, a new coffee from Paris that you inhale rather than drink, the Chicago Tribune reported. To be clear, you breathe Le Whif through your mouth, so it's not cheap cocaine. The brainchild of a Harvard professor, it debuted in New York and Cambridge, Mass., this week.
  • shortstop.jpg
  • The Tribune also reported that Costco is no longer roasting coffee at one of its Chicago locations. Who knew they roasted anywhere?
  • Someone drove from London to Manchester -- almost 200 miles -- in a car powered by coffee beans.
  • Because of the name, I feel like I should mention that it's Coffee Party weekend. On Saturday, thousands of people around the country will gather at coffeehouses and other locations to craft an alternative to the Tea Party movement -- or a lot of alternatives. At the Coffee Party web site, you can plug in your zip code and find a meeting nearby. Looks like events are planned at Cafe Allegro in the University District, near Urban Coffee Lounge in Kirkland and at Starbucks' Roy Street Coffee and Tea on Capitol Hill.
  • Many thanks to Seattle Times content director Cory Haik for the photo capturing the feisty cup message from Short Stop Coffee in Ballard.

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March 10, 2010 4:20 PM

Juan Valdez visits old Seattle stomping ground

Posted by Melissa Allison

samples.jpgJuan Valdez closed its last Seattle cafe in July, but the fictional character and his mule Conchita returned this morning to hand out samples of Colombian coffee at Westlake Center. (Thanks to business editor Becky Bisbee for the photo.)

They're on a five-city tour that includes New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.

Juan Valdez represents the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, which promotes Colombian coffee through commercials, promotions, national sweepstakes and cafes in Colombia, New York and some airports.

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February 26, 2010 11:39 AM

Forza Coffee to open by Space Needle at 8:14 a.m. Saturday to honor police officers killed at its Parkland store

Posted by Melissa Allison

Forza.jpgTomorrow at precisely 8:14 a.m., Forza Coffee will open its first Seattle shop at 100 Fourth Avenue, near the Space Needle.

The opening time is in memory of four police officers killed in shootings at its Lakewood Parkland location in November. That store reopened at 8:14 a.m. two weeks later with a shop full of policemen and women (photo by Seattle Times photographer Ellen M. Banner).

Members of the Seattle Police Department will be the first customers at the Seattle shop, founder and CEO Brad Carpenter said in a release.

Excitement about the new store is "only tempered by the horror of 2009, with the losses of Officers Brenton, Griswold, Owens, Richards, Sergeant Renninger and Deputy Mundell. Our company in being tied to the Lakewood incident has chosen to honor their sacrifices, each Forza having a plaque bearing the fallen six officers names and a Lakewood memorial 'challenge coin' is imbedded in our bar." (Two of the officers were killed in separate shootings last year.)

Forza has 23 locations, with plans to open this spring in the Merrill Gardens complex near University Village. A liquor store opened at that Merrill Gardens location today, the first in the retirement community chain to include non-seniors and the only senior living complex in the state with a liquor store tenant.

Update 3/1/2010: Thanks to the reader wrote to say the shootings actually happened in Parkland. Forza lists that store as Lakewood.

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February 23, 2010 10:18 AM

What killed the Seattle coffee cart craze?

Posted by Melissa Allison

BridgetCollins.jpgWhen one of my best coffee sources suggested looking into the dearth of espresso carts in Seattle, I called the Seattle Department of Transportation, which lists just three active permits for sidewalk coffee carts in the whole city.

When I went to visit the carts, the one outside Men's Wearhouse was closed for the winter and the Nordstrom's cart was gone altogether.

Only the cart outside 14 Carrot Cafe on Eastlake Avenue remains year-round. Bridget Collins, a barista there who recently moved from Minnesota, summed up the situation: "It's not minus-20 and snowing here," she said. "I was surprised, considering you can't shake a stick in Seattle without hitting three Starbucks and two independent coffee roasters."

There are more sidewalk carts in the Twin Cities, said Collins (with customer Everette Hungerford in the top photo, by The Seattle Times' Erika Schultz).

Chuck Beek.jpgI'm not talking about kiosks in malls and building lobbies, or the occasional cart on private property, like the one outside REI's flagship store downtown. I mean the espresso carts on sidewalks that used to be a Seattle tradition.

The full story includes interviews with -- among others -- David Schomer, whose venerable Espresso Vivace started as a cart; Dave Stewart, former cart owner and co-founder of Seattle's Best Coffee; and Chuck Beek, who owns Monorail Espresso, which was the city's -- and probably the country's -- first cart.

Beek is pictured in the second photo (also by Erika Schultz) inside the walk-up window that Monorail Espresso became 14 years ago. Bottom photo is the Monorail cart in the early '80s, courtesy of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Below that is a video of the last year-round coffee cart on a Seattle sidewalk, outside the 14 Carrot Cafe on Eastlake.

The upshot seems to be that coffeehouses and regulations put the carts out of business. What do you think?

Thumbnail image for Monorail80s.jpg

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February 19, 2010 5:05 PM

Does Portland beat Seattle at coffee?

Posted by Melissa Allison

Thumbnail image for Inside StumptownDoes Portland brew -- and roast, and buy -- its coffee better than Seattle now? That's the theme of a KUOW report today by Chantal Anderson, who quotes co-founder Jordan Michelman: "Seattle is very stuck in a mold of what coffee culture was like 20 years ago and third wave coffee is very, very different from that."

What's third wave? Michelman told KUOW: "It works on much more of a thinking about it almost from a gastronomy stand point of being really, really obsessed about seed to cup, where it comes from, who's roasting it, where it's roasted, the duration of time, having the choices, seasonality, all these kinds of things. There's nowhere that does that here."

Sprudge wrote on Twitter that "npr took us out of context." (Disclosure: Sprudge does not dig my coverage of Fair Trade, among other things.)

Either way, Michelman would not be the first to say Portland has passed us, with high-profile Stumptown Coffee leading the way (pictured: its flagship store in Portland). Sam Lewontin, who goes by coffeeandbikes on Twitter, wrote a thoughtful post about it on espresso machine maker Slayer's web site last month.

In the KUOW report, Lewontin mentions the shackles of street food regulations in Seattle, which the city and county are working to change. Their efforts are largely aimed at opening up carts for vending beyond coffee, popcorn, hot dogs and flowers. But one proposed change would get rid of city restrictions on cart size and defer to more liberal county guidelines, said Gary Johnson at the Seattle Department of Planning and Development. And, he said, he welcomes comments about cart rule changes.

So, what do you think? Has Portland eclipsed Seattle at coffee?

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February 15, 2010 8:05 AM

Roundup: Mighty-O Donut tours, Starbucks news and putting weird things in coffee

Posted by Melissa Allison

Taking the holiday to wrap up loose ends, like:

  • The New York Times calls the Seattle-built Slayer espresso machine charismatic and beautiful.

  • A reader wants to know where she can find a cup -- not a pound -- of Kona coffee around here. Anyone know?

  • Mighty-O Donuts hosts free tours on Thursday and Friday (Feb. 18 and 19) at 10 a.m. Sign up at 2110 N. 55th Street (where the tours are), or 206-547-0335, or

  • Lincoln Graham represents Seattle with his photo of a Caffe Ladro barista reflected in an espresso machine at (scroll to No. 20).

  • Sarah Gilbert at Daily Finance considers how blending coffee and turning up the roaster can save money and hurt flavor.

  • Starbucks draws attention from the research firm Morningstar, which gave its debt an A-, and, which says its stock is overpriced.

  • A Starbucks customer with Tourette's syndrome sues for alleged discrimination after an outburst, The Palm Beach Post reports.

  • And someone actually writes a blog about putting weird things in coffee -- eggs, curry, salmon cream cheese. There are photos.

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February 12, 2010 11:35 AM

Poll: Do you buy organic coffee?

Posted by Melissa Allison

YukiandSam.jpgIn anticipation of Valentine's Day, I wrote about the increasing popularity of organic flowers.

Because all roads in Seattle lead to coffee, I ended up quoting Sam Stabler, assistant manager of Neptune Coffee in Greenwood, about how good pesticide-free flowers smell. He's the one on the right with Neptune's college intern, Yuki Mim, and a fake-flower bouquet from Terra Bella Flowers.

A lot of people who buy eco-friendly flowers don't even realize it, including Neptune owner Dan Baumfeld, who loves Terra Bella's designs and traded coffee for floral gift certificates to give his employees last Christmas. It's not that Baumfeld doesn't value organic. He just doesn't buy flowers very often.

Coffee, he buys, and Neptune's decaf blend is certified organic and Fair Trade. (He roasts with Victrola Coffee on Capitol Hill.) Its other eco-friendly creds include composting and recycling. "We have the expensive corn, compostable cups," he said.

How important is organic coffee to you?

Afternoon update: Check out this study abstract that says organic coffee farming isn't sustainable and doesn't serve producers and consumers as much as advocates say. (Thank you, as always, Jimmy.)

And if you hunger for more organic news, the USDA just put out its long-awaited, much-bickered-over pasture rules for dairy cows and other ruminants.

Here's Neptune's location, in the heart of Greenwood:

View Neptune Coffee in a larger map

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January 31, 2010 11:36 AM

New Central District cafe plans to host Ethiopian coffee ceremonies

Posted by Melissa Allison

The aroma of incense and roasting coffee filled a room at the Northwest African American Museum on Saturday afternoon, as five women demonstrated a centuries-old ritual from their home country of Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee.

It was not the intimate, hours-long event that Ethiopian coffee ceremonies typically are.

A few dozen attendees crowded the room, chatting and laughing and walking around, fueled by excitement and coffee. Some were from Seattle's Ethiopian community, which the museum estimates numbers 20,000 to 25,000 people.

"I like to come and see what other people think of the culture," said Endanchy Girma, a native Ethiopian who has lived in Seattle for more than 30 years.

She plans to open a coffee shop called Cafe Char at 2310 E. Madison St. in March, and will hold monthly coffee ceremonies there that last the more traditional three hours.

"Every time I visit [Ethiopia], this is the best thing I enjoy, the ceremony," she said. "You get to visit all the neighbors."

Check out the rest of my story from yesterday's ceremony, including interesting comments from readers about the tradition of putting butter, salt and/or sugar in coffee.

And don't miss a Seattle blog called Coffee Politics that offers an in-depth look at the politics and economics of Ethiopian coffee, from the country's 2006/2007 trademark battle with Starbucks to more recent conflicts between the specialty coffee industry and the newish Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. Starbucks has said it's not having trouble getting specialty coffee out of Ethiopia; it also has indefinitely stalled on plans to open a farmer support center there.

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January 7, 2010 8:12 AM

Gone fishing until January 19

Posted by Melissa Allison

While I'm away, Bryant Simon will read from his book, "Everything But the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks," at Elliott Bay Book Co. on Thursday, Jan. 14. And the Food Network will air a show about "black and white delights" on Jan. 18, 19 and 27 that includes footage of latte art being poured at Seattle Barista Academy. Show times vary.

More fun reading:

  • The online copy of CoffeeTalk's 2010 State of the Industry.

  • Rooibos tea espresso? Seriously.

  • Also Java-Log, firewood made from coffee grounds.

  • A pretty cool graphic with coffee basics, including the often-quoted "fact" that coffee is the world's most-traded commodity after oil. I'm still trying to get a commodities exchange to confirm.

  • Even cooler graphic comparing the size of a coffee bean to a red blood cell, viruses and other tiny things.

  • For the Starbucks crowd, check out this comparison of Starbucks wages from baristas to store managers to software engineers to.... well, it suddenly refused to share more unless I anonymously posted a Starbucks salary.

  • Internationally, there's a 2005 photo making the Twitter rounds of a Starbucks in Dubai, and customers in South Korea are griping about a Starbucks price hike.

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January 5, 2010 1:14 PM

Caffe Vita, Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie apply for licenses from liquor board

Posted by Melissa Allison

Caffe Vita on Capitol Hill and Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie have applied for licenses with the Washington Liquor Control Board.

Vita applied to sell wine and beer, and the roasterie applied to sell spirits, wine and beer.

The last time I saw coffee establishments on the liquor board's application list, they were for Starbucks' 15th Avenue and Roy Street locations.

"It's a surprise," was all roasterie owner Eva would say, and I'm waiting to hear back from Vita.

A new trend in Seattle coffee? Makes me wonder whether it's happening in Portland, which has surpassed Seattle's coffee scene, according to a thoughtful post by Sam Lewontin -- known on Twitter as coffeeandbikes -- on the Slayer Professional Espresso blog today.

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January 4, 2010 10:30 AM

Peet's Coffee on Queen Anne closed for good on New Year's Day

Posted by Melissa Allison

An employee told Queen Anne View, "There's just not enough traffic here to support the store."

She also said that employees who want jobs at other Seattle stores will be relocated to Fremont, Green Lake, Capitol Hill or Interbay, the View reported.

The store that Peet's is vacating, at 2201 Queen Anne Ave. N., is on a corner with lots of coffee choices, including Starbucks, Teacup and -- a few storefronts away -- Caffe Ladro.

Thanks for the link, Michael Allen Smith!

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December 31, 2009 10:17 AM

How much should coffee shops charge for soy milk?

Posted by Melissa Allison

MadMarket.jpgThe usual price for replacing cow's milk in an espresso drink with soy or rice milk seems to be 50 cents.

That might make sense at coffee spots that use conventional milk, which is about 2 cents an ounce. But for a place like Madison Market that uses organic milk, it was surprising to see a 75-cent surcharge for soy and rice milk, which cost roughly the same as organic (about 5 cents an ounce).

Fortunately, Madison Market saw the folly of its hefty fee and recently eliminated it altogether. Espresso drinks now cost the same no matter which milk you prefer.

The food coop's baristas also just completed training in coffee history, roasting and espresso bar techniques at Tony's Coffee & Teas in the University District, which sells the coop coffee that's triple certified: organic, fair trade and shade grown, according to Madison Market's Seneca Harper (pictured).

(Side note: Checking out the Tony's Coffee web site, I noticed that it has a limited supply of Hacienda La Esmeralda Geisha coffee that it's selling online at $35.95 for 12 ounces. Talk about pricey. But so good if you can afford it.)

Thank you, Rhean, for the Madison Market tip!

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December 23, 2009 2:55 PM

Starbucks starts new loyalty program as World Barista Champion launches disloyalty card

Posted by Melissa Allison

Only three more days until Starbucks converts its old rewards card programs to a single system that's easier to understand but eliminates a 10 percent discount for some of its most loyal customers. (Their efforts to game the new system appear to have failed.)

If you want a 10 percent Starbucks discount and haven't signed up for a Gold Card, Christmas is the last day to get one. Starbucks took the Gold Cards out of stores in July and stopped selling them online October 31, a spokesman said.

Under the new system, customers receive a range of perks, from free brewed refills to two hours of free wi-fi a day. People who get new cards for Christmas should register that day to automatically get extra benefits without waiting to make five purchases.

(Update on 12/24: Sorry for a couple errors in my original post. Did I say this program was simpler? We'll see.)

In London, the current World Barista Champion, Gwilym Davies, has started a disloyalty coffee card. He makes a free coffee for cardholders who try eight different coffee spots in London, as blogged by James Hoffman, a former World Barista Champion and co-founder of Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London.

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December 18, 2009 3:08 PM

Tougo Coffee brings four roasters to the bar: Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Ritual Coffee and Ecco

Posted by Melissa Allison

Tougo.jpgMost coffeehouses use one roaster for their beans. An exception used to be Seattle Coffee Works, but earlier this year last year it began roasting only its own coffee and stopped carrying the others.

Now Tougo Coffee -- at 1410 18th Avenue in the Central District and at 2113 Westlake Avenue -- is adding roaster -- and city -- variety, with coffee drinks and beans from Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Ritual Coffee and Ecco (owned by Intelligentsia). Tougo's former roaster, Caffe Vita, is not part of the new mix.

Stumptown is headquartered in Portland, but has a roastery in Seattle. The other coffees -- Intelligentsia, Ritual Coffee and Ecco -- come from three different parts of California.

Tougo owner Brian Wells (pictured) said he wants to "introduce coffees from different cultures and different cities to the Seattle palette. I want to give Seattle an opportunity to taste different roasters and have those roasters be able to tell their stories from different source trips (to coffee-growing regions)."

Customers will be able to choose from four espresso blends each day -- and on weekends, "single-origin" espressos that have the flavor of just one country. Wells also is adding brewing methods and is pictured here with (left to right) a Melitta drip brewer, a French press, a siphon or vacuum pot and a Chemex coffee maker.

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December 16, 2009 8:52 AM

Cafe Septieme closes at year-end, Capitol Hill blog reports

Posted by Melissa Allison

The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reports that Cafe Septieme, at 214 Broadway East, is closing at year-end to make way for a redevelopment that will "level a row of restaurants and businesses on Broadway." Lot of that going around.

The Stranger's Dan Savage says its closing "feels less like a death and more like a release," because it's was "never the same after Kurt sold the place."

Although Cafe Septieme is really a restaurant, plenty of customers will miss its coffee, roasted by Caffe Umbria.

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December 14, 2009 10:43 AM

Zoka Coffee in Snoqualmie bought by Steve's Doughnuts

Posted by Melissa Allison

Jeff Babcock is coming off a big weekend. The owner of Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea is just back from Japan, where he licenses three stores called Zoka and one that has a different name.

Babcock also sold Zoka's Snoqualmie location to another resident of the ridge, Steve Pennington, who plans to turn it into Steve's Doughnuts in late January.

Pennington will keep all the baristas who want to stay and continue selling Zoka coffee in drinks and in whole-bean coffee bags.

"We need to focus on our great new location down in Kirkland, where things are really crankin'," said Babcock, who has had the Snoqualmie store for about two years. He opened the Kirkland shop this summer and still has stores in Tangletown and behind University Village.

Zoka coffee is roasted on West Nickerson Street in Ballard, where Babcock says he might someday open a drive-up shop.

Pennington, a former program manager for Microsoft, plans to make doughnuts at the Snoqualmie store using all natural ingredients (including palm oil) from as nearby as possible.

"We want the the cows and chickens to be local and the flour to be Washington flour," he said. "Within reason, we want to make sure we're supporting local agriculture."

Why doughnuts? "I love doughnuts," Pennington said. "Our motto is, 'Doughnuts make you happy.'"

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December 13, 2009 7:03 PM

Cafe where Lakewood officers were shot reopened

Posted by Melissa Allison

"At 8:14 a.m. on the dot, the store's neon "open" sign was switched on. The crowd clapped and cheered. Bagpipes played. Chief Farrar, coffee cup in hand, emerged from the store along with Forza Coffee Company Chief Executive Officer Brad Carpenter. They greeted every person in the line, which by then stretched more than a block from the store's front door," Seattle Times reporter Linda Shaw wrote in a story about the reopening.

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December 11, 2009 5:08 PM

Tasting the coffees that go into Espresso Vivace's blends

Posted by Melissa Allison

Vivace.jpgDavid Schomer, one of Seattle's premier coffee experts, is the only person I know who taste tests his beans using an espresso machine.

Most people taste (or in coffee parlance, "cup") by pouring hot water over coffee grounds, removing the grounds or "crust" from the top and using a spoon to slurp from what's left. (If you've never seen it, this video might help.)

Schomer, who owns Espresso Vivace, prefers the precision of Synesso espresso machines. On Fridays, he and head roaster Dan Reid (pictured in reverse order) meet at Vivace in the Brix building on Capitol Hill to make sure their latest beans and roasts are up to snuff.

He also doesn't spit after tasting, like most coffee and wine connoisseurs. The result is more flavor and a fairly hopped-up day.

Here are the coffees that go into Vivace's blends ("Vita" for coffee drinks with milk and "Dolce" for those without milk including their small Americano drink called "Mitch"):

Brazil: A mix of citrus, pine, fresh alfalfa and salt. "I want to call it grassy, but if you've ever tried green grass, it's bitter and dank," Schomer said.

Sumatra: Typically "deep, dark, brooding," he said, it was sour this morning, possibly because of how cold the beans were before they were roasted this week.

Ethiopian Sidamo: Dark chocolate with a blueberry aftertaste. An enjoyable aftertaste is important for coffee because it lingers so long, Schomer said.

Indian Malabar: I've never tried or even heard of coffee from India, but there it was, sweet as Schomer promised. It also lacks complexity, he said, "like a Christmas tree with one-color lights."

It's important for northern Italian roasts -- which are lighter than Starbucks, Peet's and others -- not to have acidity, Schomer said. Acidity works with brewed coffee but not espresso, where it turns sour.

Side note: If you're in the market for an espresso machine, someone has been trying to sell a La Marzocco GS-1 that Schomer used to own. The post on Craigslist begins, "Come on, you geeks...where are you? This machine is gorgeous!"

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December 11, 2009 1:35 PM

Coffee shop where Lakewood officers slain to reopen Saturday

Posted by Melissa Allison

The Forza Coffee shop in Parkland, where four Lakewood Police officers were slain Nov. 29, will reopen Saturday at 8:14 a.m.

That's the time that Lakewood Sgt. Mark Renninger, and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, and Greg Richards, were ambushed and killed at the coffee shop.

Our metro desk has details.

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December 10, 2009 5:06 PM

Zoka Coffee discount bonanza: 10 percent off gifts, 25 percent off beans, buy one/get one espresso drinks

Posted by Melissa Allison

You wouldn't know it from the web site, but Jerome Montalto of Zoka confirms that the company is taking 10 percent off online orders for gift baskets, including a single-origin basket, an organic basket and a Cup of Excellence basket.

There's also a coupon code -- SOCIAL25 -- that he said takes 25 percent off a bag of coffee beans until Jan. 1. If you prefer that someone else make your espresso drink -- including single-estate espressos on its new Slayer machine in Kirkland -- there's a buy one/get one printable coupon.

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December 9, 2009 8:35 PM

Elliott Bay Book Co. still deciding about cafe for new Capitol Hill location

Posted by Melissa Allison

PioneerSquare 004.jpgElliott Bay owner Peter Aaron said there will be a cafe, but he's not sure yet whether it will be the same one that's in the bookstore's Pioneer Square basement.

That cafe, with the big neon "coffee" sign, opened last year under the oversight of Brasa chef Tamara Murphy, as Nicole Tsong reported with menu and price details.

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December 8, 2009 4:08 PM

Seattle's not big enough for two coffee-themed walking tours

Posted by Melissa Allison

VickiSchuman.JPGSavor Seattle will stop its short-lived coffee tour on Dec. 26, to be relaunched on Jan. 2 as a chocolate tour. While it lasts, the coffee walk costs $69 and includes admission to the Space Needle.

The Seattle Coffee Crawl continues, at $24 in advance or $27 walk-up. A two-hour tour from Seattle by Foot, it begins at 10 a.m. Fridays through Sundays (except Christmas and New Year's Day) at the Seattle's Best Coffee at Pine Street and Post Alley in Pike Place Market.

Crawl owner Vicki Schuman is pictured in the photo by former Seattle Times photographer Thomas James Hurst leading a tour last year.

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December 7, 2009 5:30 PM

Starbucks starts serving New Zealand-style drink in the U.K.

Posted by Melissa Allison

Starbucks customers in the U.K. will soon be sipping the "flat white," a drink from New Zealand that's made with whole milk and isn't as frothy as a latte.

Starbucks will put two shots of espresso in an 8-ounce flat white, compared to one shot in a 12-ounce latte, the London Telegraph reports.

Anyone know where we can get a flat white around here?

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December 7, 2009 7:17 AM

Owner of The Buzz Stop on 12th Avenue leaves after a decade

Posted by Melissa Allison

Buzz 002.jpgRoberta Falk has served walk-up customers to her barista stand between Capitol Hill and the Central District for ten-and-a-half years, but she is leaving after next week, having decided against a lease with the property's new owner.

The Buzz Stop might keep its name with another operator, and Falk is considering opening a dinner club (contact info:

During the school year, there's often a crowd of shivering Seattle Academy students outside the stand where 12th Avenue meets East Madison Street and East Union Street.

Buzz 001.jpgFalk says they order more food than drinks, despite a big sign touting the shop's matcha frappes made with green tea and available in a variety of flavors ($2.50).

If that sounds tempting, get there before Dec. 18, because who knows how the menu might change? And if the neighborhood sounds appealing, check out Seattle Times reporter Tan Vinh's take on the foodie and martial arts scene nearby.

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December 3, 2009 1:30 PM

Caffe Vita hosts benefit tonight at The Crocodile, then hosts Theo Chocolate for joint tasting at 10 a.m. Friday

Posted by Melissa Allison

The benefit for the Give Seattle music project is at 8 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at The Crocodile (also owned by Mike McConnell). Tickets are $15, with performances by Grand Archives, D. Black, Grant Olsen, Kinski, Gabriel Mintz, Fences, Tea Cozies and M.C. Tilson. Proceeds benefit Arts Corp, Ballard Food Bank, Rainier Valley Food Bank, University District Food Bank and West Seattle Food Bank.

Give Seattle, a compilation of downloadable songs, has sold more than 1,000 copies since its Nov. 17 release. The mayor's Office of Film and Music puts Give Seattle atop the list of local best-sellers for the week of Nov. 23 to 29, based on figures from Sonic Boom and Easy Street.

Friday morning, Vita hosts a joint tasting with Theo Chocolate in a free yet rich tasting event that's become a monthly tradition at Vita's 1005 East Pike Street location. It's in the cupping room, upstairs and behind the roasting machines.

Vita coffee buyer Mason Sager says he's planning to cup coffees from Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America alongside organic and Fair Trade chocolates from Seattle-based Theo.

I've been meaning to do a round-up of free weekly coffee cuppings and need your help. Off the top of my head:

10 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays at Caffe Vita, 1005 E. Pike St. (upstairs behind the roasters)

3 p.m. daily at Stumptown Coffee, 1115 12th Ave. (downstairs)

10 a.m. daily at Starbucks' Roy Street Coffee & Tea, 700 Broadway E.

11 a.m. daily at Starbucks' 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea, 328 15th Ave. E.

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December 2, 2009 4:15 PM

Inner Chapters starts coffee, food, book delivery in South Lake Union

Posted by Melissa Allison

InnerChapters.jpgEver spend lunchtime attached to your desk, gazing out at the rain and wishing you had a grilled sandwich, a cup of coffee and a good book to read?

Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe hears you, and on Thursday will begin delivering food, coffee and books in South Lake Union weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Delivery is free with a $9 minimum order, according to cafe manager Kelli Kirtley (pictured). The number is 206-262-9297.

Coffee is from Stumptown, loose leaf tea is from the Perennial Tea Room, and chai (sweet, spicy and rooibos) is from DragonFly Chai of Portland.

The food is mostly from Domovoi Happy Foods, baker of a rockin' frosted brownie by former Victrola Coffee barista Curt Waller ($3). There a lots of sandwiches, including ham and provolone, turkey and swiss, hummus and roasted veggies (each $6.75), a couple salads including hearty greens and grains ($6.75), a couple wraps including smoked salmon ($6.75) and breakfast sandwiches ($3.50).

And the books, new and used, are chosen and/or special ordered by bookstore owner Kristina Barnes.

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December 1, 2009 3:22 PM

La Marzocco co-owner opens high-end chocolate shop near Whole Foods in downtown Seattle

Posted by Melissa Allison

ClaudioCorallo 001.jpgClaudio Corallo Chocolate opened downtown last week, upgrading from a doctor's office-style space in Ballard to a small, welcoming shop in a once-quiet retail trip south of Whole Foods.

Owned by coffee equipment guru Kent Bakke, the shop is run by Marie-Francoise Barnhart, who is generous with her chocolate knowledge and with samples. Tasting the pure, rich chocolate is key to getting people to pay $7 for 50 grams.

"You eat much less of it," Barnhart (in photo) explains. "It's very satisfying."

She's already selling brownies and macaroons (not the coconut haystacks) -- test priced at $3 each -- made by Sara Naftaly of Le Gourmand and plans to add hot chocolate, chocolate sorbet and little tables outside for nibbling and sipping.
ClaudioCorallo 003.jpg
Claudio Corallo grows cacao and makes chocolate on the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe off the west coast of Africa. Besides being friends and now business partners with Bakke, who co-owns espresso machine maker La Marzocco, Corallo also grows coffee. The Seattle shop charges $14 for 130-gram packages with three kinds of coffee beans covered in chocolate.

A new coffee connection is with Tougo Coffee across the street. Tougo owner Brian Wells, recently back from a trip to help open a health clinic in Ethiopia, dropped by the new chocolate store this afternoon and said he hopes to have a display of Claudio Corallo chocolates in his shop.

View Claudio Corallo Chocolate in a larger map

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November 30, 2009 5:42 PM

Local blogger peers deeply into recent book, chatter about coffeehouses and community

Posted by Melissa Allison

Woodinville computer scientist and deep thinker Joe McCarthy posted a long piece last week on his blog, Gumption, exploring Bryant Simon's book "Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks" and reactions to it.

He thinks Simon is too hard on Starbucks and possibly too easy on Seattle's independent coffeehouses, which McCarthy says are "considerably more careful about curating their coffeehouse environments than Simon appears to imagine." He says both can have "brilliant conversational catalysts," also known as energetic, talkative baristas.

McCarthy pulls a couple great quotes from others who've been here before, including Esme Vos ("There is no cafe culture in the United States. Americans are all about speed and efficiency.") and Michael Idov, the failed coffeehouse owner who considers their kind "austere obsessives."

Unlike others who mostly complain, however eloquently, McCarthy has taken action to bring people together through coffeehouses. He helped launch CoCollage, screens in coffeehouses that show photos submitted online by staff and customers. The collages are thought-provoking, even mesmerizing, but I've never seen anyone strike up a conversation over them. However, I am not a scientist or a statistically significant sample, and McCarthy's subsequent study found that the collages stimulate interaction.

Finally, McCarthy takes on Simon's notion (and, it seems, Idov's) that "civil engagement precludes civic engagement, or that politeness precludes passion." He writes, "[W]hile I believe it is good to regularly stretch out of one's comfort zone(s), it is also good to have places - online and offline - where one can savor periods of relative comfort as well."

Spoken like a true chilled-out Seattleite, and one who enjoys coffeehouse chats about Foucault at that.

(Thank you, Jimmy, for the link!)

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November 29, 2009 2:45 PM

Coffee chain CEO: Police shootings 'hit close to home'

Posted by Melissa Allison

Forza Coffee issued a statement about the slaying of four Lakewood police officers at its Parkland location this morning.

"As a retired police officer, this senseless shooting hits extremely close to home to me," said Brad Carpenter, CEO of the Gig Harbor-based chain. "These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and this crime cuts deep into the heart of the entire Forza family."

Forza, whose corporate name is Dugout Brothers, is a franchise operation that Carpenter and his wife, Cindy, started in 2005.

More coverage of the shootings is on The Seattle Times' home page.

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November 23, 2009 5:10 PM

Bellevue Blog: Residents blast new bikini espresso stand

Posted by Melissa Allison

The stand in a Chevron parking lot is near a water park, a youth services center and a skateboard park. Seattle Times reporter Nicole Tsong has the details.

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November 23, 2009 3:07 PM

Dubsea Coffee enters turkey latte art smackdown

Posted by Melissa Allison

Joerael Julian Elliott, art director for Dubsea Coffee in White Center, submitted this lovely gobbler in the growing turkey latte art throwdown. One more, and we'll have enough for a vote!


Check out other turkey latte art contenders from El Diablo Coffee on Queen Anne, Fremont Coffee and Starbucks'/Bellissimo's Jared Mockli.

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November 19, 2009 1:12 PM

El Diablo Coffee on Queen Anne enters turkey latte art smackdown

Posted by Melissa Allison

Maybe smackdown isn't the best word for a Thanksgiving theme? Then again, with 273 turkeys "produced" (a.k.a. "smacked down") nationally this year, most of them for Thanksgiving, maybe it is.

Here's a gorgeous "live" turkey from Warren at El Diablo Coffee on Queen Anne:


Check out earlier gobblers from Fremont Coffee and Starbucks'/Bellissimo's Jared Mockli.

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November 18, 2009 5:00 PM

Street Bean Espresso, new nonprofit coffee shop in Belltown, hosts reception Wednesday evening

Posted by Melissa Allison

street bean exterior 3.jpgStreet Bean Espresso opened at Third Avenue and Cedar Street in Belltown earlier this month but has its grand opening today, including a reception from 5 p.m. (that's right now) until 7 p.m. for local artist Jen Grabarczyk.

Street Bean is a nonprofit that "provides job training and employment for young adults working to exit street life." It's part of New Horizons Ministries, an interdenominational Christian ministry that's been in Seattle since 1978.

Each employee gets four weeks of on-site barista training and can work at Street Bean for up to two years, helping them earn money and establish a work history.

"Steady employment is key in getting off the streets," Linda Ruthruff, Street Bean's executive director, said in a release. "But we knew we needed to provide more than just a job. Young people need a community to replace their community on the street, and a place to discover a new identity apart from the street."

It's in the same building as Kroll Map Co., whose owner, John Loacker, is giving the cafe free rent for a year. Architects, designers and contractors donated time to build out the space, and a local carpenter and a Street Bean employee built the cafe's tables. Suppliers provided discounts on furnishings and equipment, and donors contributed more than $225,000 to the business.

Street Bean's coffee is from Caffe Lusso in Redmond. It offers free WiFi and a private meeting room that can be reserved by local businesses and organizations at no charge. It's open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will be open on weekends soon.

(Photo courtesy of Street Bean Espresso.)

View Street Bean Espresso in a larger map

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November 18, 2009 10:04 AM

Turkey latte art smackdown? Check out this gobbler from Fremont Coffee.

Posted by Melissa Allison

Chris Webb, who owns Fremont Coffee with his daughter Anya Mushen, saw my post last night with Jared Mockli's turkey latte art and e-mailed this spectacular gobbler by Christian Morris at Fremont Coffee:


Any other turkeys out there? Send them along (

And it's not seasonal, but check out Christian Morris' Darth Vader.

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November 17, 2009 12:10 PM

Dubsea Coffee opens in White Center public housing community

Posted by Melissa Allison

Voracious calls it the "most beautiful coffee shop on the western peninsula that is West Seattle and White Center."

Opened last weekend, it's the first retailer at Greenbridge, a 95-acre public housing community developed by the King County Housing Authority.

"Being open and loving -- and inspiring each other to be that way -- is what I hope this space will achieve," the shop's creator, Sibelle Nguyen, told the West Seattle Herald.

Dubsea carries Stumptown coffee, organic Rishi teas, hot chocolate and chai, along with baked goods from Little Rae's Bakery, Macrina Bakery & Cafe and High 5 Pie from Fuel Coffee owner Dani Cone.

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November 16, 2009 11:10 AM

More Twitter coffee talk at Caffeinated Conversations

Posted by Melissa Allison

jasonasimon.jpgJason Simon of Mill Creek launched Caffeinated Conversations last spring and posts a new topic of conversation every Monday. Today's is about Twitter, and includes information from my post last week about Starbucks' Twitter master Brad Nelson along with other coffee purveyors' Twitter efforts.

Simon said he became interested in coffee and conversation while studying conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University, "where I came to believe that conversation (informal and facilitated) help to shape and reshape the world everyday. And coffee often helps to stimulate them."

He has almost 800 followers on Twitter and more than 100 on Flickr.

Simon said he's also working with a few coffee businesses, "helping them leverage social media to connect with current and potential customers, and build community."

(Photo courtesy of Jason's wife, Janine Simon)

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November 13, 2009 3:25 PM

How many coffee cards do you have?

Posted by Melissa Allison

I just talked to someone at the paper who has four: Dilettante, Mokas, Seattle Coffee Works and Starbucks.

Some shops use paper punch cards. Others have stored-value cards or membership-style cards a la Costco. Starbucks is trying to entice people to its revised loyalty program -- which has upset some loyal customers -- with a new mini card designed by Project Runway winner Christian Siriano.

How many are in your wallet, and which is your favorite?

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November 10, 2009 10:23 AM

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery set for 1918 Eighth in Seattle, with a Peet's Coffee & Tea counter

Posted by Melissa Allison

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery plans to open next spring in Schnitzer West's 36-story 1918 Eighth office tower that is more than 95 percent unleased. The chain, which has stores in Washington, California and Illinois, will have a Peet's Coffee & Tea counter in a 2,600-square-foot cafe space just south of 1918's main lobby entrance. The Peet's counter will be like the one in Specialty's at Third Avenue and Spring Street downtown, a spokeswoman said.

"Specialty's Cafe & Bakery is an ideal fit for 1918," Dan Ivanoff, Schnitzer West co-founder and managing partner, said in a release.

Kind of makes you wonder if Ivanoff is considering the chain for The Bravern's gaping coffee hole, doesn't it?

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November 6, 2009 5:30 PM

Cortona Cafe in Central District hosts grand opening party Saturday evening

Posted by Melissa Allison

Cortona Cafe 001.jpgCortona Cafe opened in the Central District this morning and will host a grand opening party for the public -- with free coffee -- Saturday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Drip coffee will be free all day, and espresso drinks will be $1.

Barista Whitney Aguirre (top photo, and one of 150 people who applied for five barista jobs) pulled Herkimer Coffee espresso shots this morning while owner Will Little put finishing touches on Cortona's web site and hung its two outdoor signs. He also posed for a photo (middle) in the cafe's spacious loft area, which has a slide projector and recovered wood tables that can push together to form a community table.

The loft space, which can be reserved online, is free to anyone who wants to hold an event as long as it's open to the public, lasts no more than two hours and "respects the viewpoints, cultures, and opinions of the people present."

Cortona Cafe 002.jpgLittle, who has his Ph.D. in bioengineering from the Swiss Technology Institute in Zurich, named Cortona after an Italian village where the institute takes part in a regular multidisciplinary conference where ideas are shared. "I want the name to lead into dialogue, to bring together people from different backgrounds to discuss different issues," he said.

He grew up in Bremerton and has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Washington. While he was preparing to attend medical school, his UW adviser got a job at the institute in Zurich and invited her advisees to come with her and get their Ph.D.s.

Little married his sweetheart, now Sarah May Little, and they spent three years in Zurich. The couple has two children, and he is a volunteer pastor at Mars Hill Church.

Cortona Cafe 003.jpgHe also has a consulting business based on the computer language Ruby, formed when he "geeked out" in Zurich. He hopes to sell it and use the cash to invest in other Central District businesses.

Little said he frequents nearby Tougo Coffee and initially approached its owner, Brian Wells, about opening a third Tougo in the space that's now Cortona at 2425 East Union Street. Instead, Wells has helped him with the shop design, hiring and training, and the coffee program.

Cortona is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Baked goods are from Essential Baking, and Little hopes to offer crepes and waffles soon.

View Cortona Cafe in a larger map

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October 29, 2009 4:35 PM

Central District loses Seattle Central Grind, gains Cortona Cafe

Posted by Melissa Allison

CortonaCafe 002.jpgThe Central District News blog reports that Seattle Central Grind is closed, leaving the neighborhood with few, if any, coffee options along Martin Luther King Jr. Way between McClellan and Madison streets.

Happily, a new shop is scheduled to open next week at the nearby corner of 25th Avenue and East Union Sreet (in photo), the blog reports.

"I just had a talk with Will Little, owner of the new shop, who said that the shop will be named Cortona, after an Italian village where he attended a cultural conference while in grad school," the blog says. The beans will come from Herkimer Coffee, and they'll offer crepes, waffles, free WiFi and a projector in a community space upstairs.

Cortona Cafe is opening less than half a mile from the Central District shop of Tougo Coffee, whose owner Brian Wells -- by the way -- is raising money for a trip he's taking next week to Ethiopia, where he will photograph children benefiting from a new medical clinic in Addis Ababa built by Blue Nile Children's Organization, which Tougo supports.

Wells said he's been "part of the designing of the shop, the hiring and training of the staff, and of the coffee program and continued training of Cortona Cafe staff."

It's tentatively scheduled to open Wednesday, Wells said.

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October 27, 2009 2:05 PM

Peet's Coffee & Tea profit grows 22 percent

Posted by Melissa Allison

Peet's Coffee & Tea posted a third-quarter profit of $2.5 million, up 22 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Its revenues grew 8 percent to $73.9 million.

It's feeling so good about the last three months of 2009 that it raised its full-year profit expectations from an earlier range of 97 cents to a dollar a share, to $1.04 to $1.06. It will open 8 new stores this year and plans to open 5 to 7 new stores next year.

The public can hear a replay of a conference call with analysts earlier today.

Starbucks and Caribou Coffee -- the other publicly traded coffee shop chains -- report earnings next week.

From the Peet's call: Executives expect coffee costs to decline next year for the first time in years, but dairy costs will probably be higher than 2009.

CEO Pat O'Dea on why Peet's doesn't expand its coffee sales in grocery stores more quickly: "The 8,500 stores that we're in are in markets that represent two-thirds of all specialty coffee consumption, so we're fishing where the fish are.... It's much less efficient, early on in the specialty coffee growth curve, to be going to some of the center-of-the-country places where we could add a lot more doors, but they would be very inefficient doors."

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October 22, 2009 11:43 AM

Microsoft opens Windows Cafe in Paris

Posted by Melissa Allison

Microsoft opened a Windows Cafe in Paris today, where customers can buy espresso drinks and and try out its new Windows 7 and other software.

No software or hardware will be sold through the cafe, Microsoft told Business Week. "The cafe is just a temporary marketing scheme and will be open only for a few months," a publicist told the magazine. The company is not planning pop-up stores anywhere else.

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October 21, 2009 3:03 PM

Trabant Coffee sales down in Pioneer Square, where retailers worry about prospect of Elliott Bay Book Co. moving

Posted by Melissa Allison

Trabant2.jpgPioneer Square retailers are concerned about the possibility of Elliott Bay Book Co. moving, they said in a story Amy Martinez and I wrote for today's paper.

They've already been hurt by the dwindling tourist population and the departure of office workers whose businesses have closed or moved. Smith Tower is mostly vacant.

Tatiana Becker, co-owner of Trabant Coffee & Chai, said her shop in Pioneer Square is hurting far more than her University District location, which "is not feeling it [the recession] very much, because students always need coffee. It's a necessity to make it through those classes."

In Pioneer Square, Trabant relies heavily on office workers, particularly lawyers, architects and software engineers.

"We always see new faces [in Pioneer Square], but then there are old faces that never come back," she said, because businesses are moving and shutting down.

October 2008 was the best month for sales at Trabant's Pioneer Square coffeehouse, which opened in 2007. Like other retailers, it saw a dramatic drop in November 2008.

"It was like Halloween came and everyone said, 'The scariest costume is the recession. It's here,'" Becker said. "In 2009, we've climbed a bit, but it hasn't gotten back to October 2008 levels yet."

Still, she thinks the neighborhood will return to its pre-recession trend toward becoming more residential and hip. "The recession put temporary brakes on it."

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October 15, 2009 11:10 AM

Dilettante opens second Mocha Cafe downtown; former Central District cafe, factory remains empty after two years

Posted by Melissa Allison

Dilettante 002.jpgThe new cafe opened Monday in the 818 Stewart building (at Stewart Street and 9th Avenue) and has weekday-only hours for the downtown working crowd: 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The cafe is Dilettante's sixth, and sells espresso drinks as well as the chocolatier's locally made candies. Other Mocha Cafes are in Westlake Mall, Sea-Tac Airport, Kent Station, Rainier Square and the Dilettante Mocha Martini Bar on Capitol Hill.

Dilettante 003.jpgDilettante has shifted locations a bit since merging with Seattle Gourmet Foods in 2006, including closing its cafe in Bellevue last year and recently canceling plans to open in The Bravern.

Seattle Gourmet Foods President Dave Taylor told Seattle Times reporter Amy Martinez in May that Dilettante continues to look on the Eastside and is working with the Bravern's developer, Schnitzer West, for a third location in downtown Seattle.

Dilettante 001.jpgPerhaps he'd consider something a little further east, like the long-vacant shop at 23rd Avenue and Cherry Street in the Central District where Dilettante made chocolate beginning in the '80s (third photo).

After it joined Seattle Gourmet Foods, Dilettante closed a remodeled Mocha Cafe there and moved its chocolate-making operation to Kent. Two years later, the 4,200-square-foot space is still empty -- and, according to signs on the windows, for sale.

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October 14, 2009 12:03 PM

Pour-over coffee brewing takes hold at coffeehouses in Seattle, Port Townsend

Posted by Melissa Allison

SadieLaDonna.jpgThat's Sadie LeDonna in the top hat, pouring hot water over Sumatran coffee that was roasted dark by her father, Michael, who owns Port Townsend Coffee Roasting Co.

He and a business partner opened Better Living Through Coffee -- where Sadie is a barista -- last spring. It's well-located, on the water in downtown Port Townsend, and its brewed coffee -- $2 for 8 ounces, $3.25 for 16 ounces -- is poured slowly over paper filters held in place by plastic cylinders (second photo).

SadieLaDonna2.jpgPour-overs are all the rage lately -- part of the slow coffee (nee slow food) movement -- appearing recently at Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea, Starbucks' 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea and in the past couple weeks at Tougo Coffee (which also started using a Chemex brewing method that I hope to see soon).

I'm sure some shops have done pour-overs forever, but the first time I saw them was earlier this year at Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco, and now they're everywhere!

Is the taste really that much better? And how many people brew this way at home?

Updated 2:35 p.m.: David Kastle of Zephyr Green Coffee in Seattle (and New Orleans) e-mailed this great perspective:

Hi Melissa,

I built out a cafe in Oakland CA in 1996-7 and the main feature was a drip stand, so we could feature 28 different coffees, ground/brewed to order (we also had a really nice egg poacher, but that is another story). At the time, there were a couple other cafes in northern California that had them - one in Santa Cruz, I can't remember the other. Intermezzo in Berkeley had a dripstand for a while, but they junked it in the early 90's. Caffe Med in Berkeley used to brew in Chemex, but the coffee was terrible (new owners now, so maybe that has changed). Anyway, when we introduced the custom-brewed coffee, customers were confused, upset about the price, couldn't handle the choosing a coffee, etc. But within 6 months we were able to get rid of our presspots and serve only from the drip stand and the espresso machine. It didn't hurt that we had a store next door with an urn, for people in a hurry. The customers who chose the dripstand agreed that there was much more nuance in the cup. Dripstand customers were also more likely to choose lighter-roasted coffees, instead of the ultra-dark roasts that work well in large urn brewers.

Anyway, point being, drip stands aka pourovers have been around for a very long time. Neptune on Greenwood Ave put one in right after the Clover sale to Starbucks, labeled "Dandelion."

- David

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October 8, 2009 5:39 PM

Voxx Coffee, on site of old Hines Public Market Coffee, sees sales lift after rough first year

Posted by Melissa Allison

VoxxCoffee 001.jpgFour years after Hines Public Market Coffee closed on Eastlake, I still do a double-take when I see the "Hines Public Market" sign on the old building one block north. This week, I finally visited Voxx Coffee, which opened a year-and-a-half ago in the modern new condo building (right) that was erected where Hines used to be.

Walking into Voxx is like being on a stage set for Mad Men -- very '50s and '60s, but without the cigarettes. Myriam Guillemin and Michael Uetz (below) sold the Sitting Room in lower Queen Anne, which they had owned since 1998, to open Voxx last year, and it has not been an easy ride.

Sales grew fast at first, as people popped in to see the new shop, then flattened in May 2008 for about a year. They are slowly climbing again, Uetz said. They sell Stumptown Coffee, Choice teas, wine, beer and sandwiches from Mike's East Coast Deli.

VoxxCoffee 002.jpgVoxxCoffee 004.jpg

View Voxx Coffee in a larger map

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October 6, 2009 10:50 AM

South Korean broadcasters filming coffee documentary in Seattle, Portland

Posted by Melissa Allison

KBS.jpgDocumentarians from the Korean Broadcasting System, a big public broadcasting network in South Korea, are in Seattle and Portland this week visiting coffeehouses and interviewing people about our coffee scene.

They interviewed me at Visions Espresso Service in SoDo this morning, and the questions were interesting: What makes Seattle such a hotbed of coffee? Is it about the coffee or the relationship? What's their inspiration? (Interesting question -- I said they seem to have Italian coffee culture in the backs of their minds but aren't mimicking anybody.)

Field producer Chong Lee said that Korea has long had coffee, but that it's just starting to get fancy coffee lounges serving espresso. They're the sort of place you'd take a date and spend some time, like an intimate bar but without the alcohol.

Keep an eye out for (left to right) Lee, field producer Kang Won Ho, cameraman Kim Won Nam and sound specialist Lee Dong Hee this week.

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October 5, 2009 11:51 AM

A look at New York coffeehouses in hours after Gourmet magazine's demise

Posted by Melissa Allison

New York is heavy on my mind today after billionaire S.I. Newhouse Jr.'s Advance Publications (which owns Conde Nast) dropped the bomb on Gourmet magazine this morning.

Sent me back to Edible Brooklyn's enlightening piece on the coffee scene there, which is ahead of Manhattan's and is Stumptown's East Coast beachhead.

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October 1, 2009 3:08 PM round-up on how Seattle coffeehouses got their names

Posted by Melissa Allison

I just caught up with Monica Guzman's great round-up earlier this week of Seattle coffeehouse name origins, from Bauhaus to Zoka.

Caffe Ladro's name, which dates to 1994, presaged the coffeehouse bonanza to come: "Owner Jack Kelly knew exactly what he was doing when he sold Uptown Espresso and opened a new cafe next to a Queen Anne Starbucks: trying to steal their customers," Guzman writes. "After researching Italian culture and language, Kelly made his decision. The name Caffe Ladro means 'coffee thief.'"

Thank you for bringing me up-to-date, Moose!

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September 30, 2009 12:27 PM

Brushing up on the rules of Italian coffee drinking, in case Lavazza finds a local franchisee

Posted by Melissa Allison

2858821336_c9db0dc062.jpgThe Daily Telegraph in London has an amusing, if overly Biblical-sounding, guide to drinking coffee in Italy, Europe's premier coffee culture.

With one of its biggest roasters, Lavazza, hoping to open in Seattle or Bellevue, it seemed like a good time for a refresher.

Rule Number One: No lattes and other milk-heavy drinks after noon.

Italians also don't dig doppios (double shots of espresso), preferring their caffeine shots in "small, steady doses," according to writer Lee Marshall.

Un caffe is never called espresso, because espresso is the default, and it's drunk standing up. "Coffee is a pleasurable drug, but a drug nevertheless, and should be downed in one standing. Would thou sit down at a pavement table to take thy daily Viagra?"

Thanks to Kerri Goodman-Small at Coffee Talk's Daily Dose for finding the Telegraph story. Photo credit (of people sitting at a cafe in Umbria; must be tourists): / CC BY-SA 2.0

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September 24, 2009 6:02 PM

Fonte Coffee Roaster introduces its upscale self to Seattle

Posted by Melissa Allison

Fonte 003.jpgI finally dropped by Fonte Coffee Roaster's flagship store, which opened last month, and was blown away by how upscale it is. I knew it was in the Four Seasons (which is a client, along with Wynn Las Vegas and the St. Regis Hotel in New York), but it's between high-end Fran's Chocolates and the less-so Lusty Lady, so who knew for sure which way it would skew?

Way up, it turns out. Owner Paul Odom hired Herbfarm sommelier Tysan Dutta as the store's general manager and Crush chef Jason Wilson to consult on the menu -- and it shows.

Fonte has a scratch kitchen in back, where it makes food along with syrups and chocolate for its coffee drinks.

Fonte 004.jpgThis morning, the special was an omelet with "garlic innards," to Odom's delight. "It's not just a boring omelet; it's a killer omelet with a killer cup of coffee."

Landlords are psyched, calling with offers for more spaces that Odom has declined so far. The point is to raise Georgetown-based Fonte's profile in Seattle, not to become a retailer, he said.

At Coffee Fest this weekend, Fonte will have a "monster booth," Odom said, with award-winning lead barista Dismas Smith serving Mexican chocolate and a latte-like drink with Herbes de Provence.

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September 22, 2009 11:46 AM

Fremont Coffee starts roasting to gain cachet, control flavor (and, it saves money)

Posted by Melissa Allison

bizfreemontc07[1].jpgChris Webb at Fremont Coffee has stopped buying beans from Lighthouse and is roasting his own.

The flavor wizard (pictured in his lab below the coffee shop) has sold Chinese herbal medicines for years, and more recently concocted root beer, ginger brew and hibiscus ginger soda that flies out of his coffee shop's refrigerator case.

Now, with the help of a roaster from the East Coast named Aric Annear, Fremont Coffee is selling a single-origin Tanzanian peaberry that Webb calls "killer" even though it was overroasted by about eight seconds.

He's a month or so away from perfecting the espresso blend, Webb said, sounding Schomer-esque about flavor precision. Michael Allen Smith, organizer for the Coffee Club of Seattle, had "great espresso" there this week. "It was much better than anything I've had there before."

Although roasting your own coffee saves money -- green coffee begins at $2 a pound, compared to $7.50 for wholesale roasted coffee, Webb said -- he started roasting to gain more respectability with coffeehouse customers and to work with the flavors.

He and Aric are roasting with a 25-pound San Franciscan roaster he bought more than a year ago from Pioneer Coffee Roasting in Cle Elum. Rumor is it's Caffe Vita's first roaster, Webb said.

Coming soon: Fremont Coffee cuppings.

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September 18, 2009 1:19 PM

Is Lavazza a fit for The Bravern? Italian coffee giant eyes Seattle area, wants local franchisee

Posted by Melissa Allison

LAV_0052.JPGItalians love their coffee, but do Seattle and Bellevue coffee drinkers? The Bravern is considering filling its gaping coffee hole with Italy's largest coffee company, Turin-based (and -roasted) Lavazza.

It has the biggest market share in Italy, and its coffee beans are sold all over the world, including in U.S. grocery stores. Now the 114-year-old company is exporting cafes to the U.S., beginning in Chicago, including an Espression by Lavazza cafe at The Drake Hotel on Michigan Avenue (picture courtesy of Lavazza). The company has nearly 300 cafes worldwide, only seven of them Espression by Lavazza.

The company wants to open in the Seattle area, but there's a snag. Just as The Bravern has had trouble finding a local coffee shop for its new upscale shopping center, Lavazza has had trouble finding a corporate franchise partner to secure a Bellevue or Seattle foothold.

"When we started talking to people, there was a steep sales decline at most cafes, and nobody really knew how long or how steep the decline was going to be," said Tom Woodworth, senior investment director for Bravern developer Schnitzer West.

So he looked to Italy, where even Starbucks has yet to venture. The Bravern likes that Espression by Lavazza cafes also sell sandwiches, salads and desserts developed with world-renowned chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli in Spain. They also dig the aesthetic, which includes modern furniture from Italy and photographs that appear in Lavazza cafes and its popular wall calendar.

Lavazza likes the Seattle area for its population -- it wants to be in the top dozen U.S. markets -- "but also because Seattle has the highest per-capita coffee consumption in the U.S., so it's an interesting city for us," said Joerg Oberschmied, chief operating officer for Lavazza's North American retail business.

What would you think of Lavazza at The Bravern, or anywhere in this area?

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September 11, 2009 4:20 PM

Seattle coffee purveyor defends price increase

Posted by Melissa Allison

sebastiansimsch.jpgAnd it's not Starbucks, whose previously announced price changes reached Seattle this week and include a 20-cent hike on 16-ounce Americanos at some stores. (Grammar relief of the week: It's okay to use "whose" in this case, just as it's okay to split verbs.)

This week's defender of price hikes is Sebastian Simsch, co-owner of Seattle Coffee Works (pictured), whose blog post directly addresses recent grousing about price hikes by Michael Allen Smith, the organizer for the Coffee Club of Seattle.

Seattle Coffee Works raised the price of its Seattle Space Espresso Blend by 50 cents to $13.45 a pound because, Simsch wrote, "we use a large percentage of coffee from East Africa in this blend, and simply put that coffee has gotten 20-30% more expensive during this past year. Our modest price increase doesn't go very far to cover that increase."

Simsch also discusses overhead costs for small roasters versus big roasters versus grocery stores, and promises he's not getting rich.

"If our prices were so high as to actually make us some serious money, you would likely find us lounging on the beach rather than in downtown Seattle," he writes.

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September 8, 2009 1:32 PM

Peeved at coffeehouse price hikes, coffee club organizer resumes home roasting

Posted by Melissa Allison

When Michael Allen Smith moved to Seattle a couple years ago, he stopped roasting coffee at home because the espresso here is so darned tasty.

Now the organizer for Coffee Club of Seattle is roasting at home again -- about half the coffee he drinks -- because he's ticked that some local shops raised their prices after he posted whole-bean price comparisons on his Coffee Hero blog a few months ago.

In a recent post, Smith gives tips about how to save your coffee dollars, including reducing your intake, roasting and brewing at home and favoring affordable coffee shops.

"I'm afraid to name names here, because it may trigger a price increase, but I think you get the idea. If your cafe or roaster raises their price, put them in the time out corner. Take your coffee dollars elsewhere," Smith wrote.

I've also heard about shops that sell 12-ounce bags of whole-bean coffee, but insist on calling them one-pound bags.

Are Seattle coffee drinkers so flush that their hang-outs can get away with this in a recession? Seems risky at a time when food deflation is plaguing Wal-Mart and others, and when coffee futures are down (admittedly on commodity coffee that specialty roasters don't tend to buy).

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August 24, 2009 7:38 AM

On assignment until Sept. 4

Posted by Melissa Allison

I'll be out on assignment for most of the next two weeks. A couple things before I go:

The Burke Museum's coffee exhibit runs through Sept. 7. Its last coffee tasting is Aug. 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., hosted by Shoreline-based Seattle Gourmet Coffee.

Caffe Vita is financing the release of the latest CD and multi-media project, "OOF!" from Blue Scholars, which comes out Aug. 25. On Sept 1, they will reissue their 2007 album "Bayani" as "Bayani Redux" with a new track and two songs previously available only at digital outlets.

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August 13, 2009 4:52 PM

Coffee Club of Seattle organizer creates 'smiley face method' for judging coffee

Posted by Melissa Allison

Anyone who's confused by -- or just tired of -- the terms people use to describe coffee will appreciate Michael Allen Smith's smiley face method. The guy who runs the Coffee Club of Seattle has reduced the eloquent-yet-vague chatter about coffee slurping to symbols even a toddler could understand.

It's not as granular as the Cup of Excellence Cupping Form, which also seeks to simplify and codify coffee language, but you don't always need granular.

Maybe something for the folks at this weekend's Roasters Guild meeting at Skamania Lodge after they've had a few beers?

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August 7, 2009 4:42 PM

Theo Chocolate brings liquors to Caffe Vita tasting

Posted by Melissa Allison

VitaTheo 003.jpgCocoa liquors, that is. They're unsweetened, barely processed chocolates that are used by chocolate makers to decide which cocoa beans to buy.

Nathan Royston of Theo Chocolate brought some from Madagascar and Panama -- along with a sweetly finished bar of chocolate with Caffe Vita coffee in it -- to this morning's tasting at Vita's Pike Street cupping room. I preferred the Madagascar, which Royston described as "superacidic" and "like sour cherries."

More than two dozen coffee enthusiasts crowded around Vita's cupping table to sample the chocolate and coffee. Vita always cups coffee above its roastery (upper left window in second photo) on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 10 a.m., and it looks like Theo chocolate will become part of the mix on the first Friday of every month.

VitaTheo 009.jpgHeather Ruiz, who manages Vita's store on Queen Anne, led today's cupping (which means "tasting" in coffee speak) and had a nice, straightforward way of describing the flavors from:

Ethiopia -- "rich, creamy," "hints of blueberry," "like cheesecake"
Guatemala (which, she pointed out, had roasted beans about twice the size of some others; what's up with that?) -- "super citrusy," "it reminds me of a lemon"
Brazil (where Vita folks are currently visiting coffee farms) -- "nutty" and "like toasted sesame seeds"
Sumatra -- sorry, I was on to the chocolate by then.

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August 7, 2009 4:38 PM

Juan Valdez closes its last Seattle cafe

Posted by Melissa Allison


Carlos Sanchez, known for his role as Juan Valdez.

Juan Valdez closed its last remaining cafe in Seattle on July 31. Macy's, which is adjacent to the location and was the cafe's landlord, is "still working on what we're going to put in the space," said spokeswoman Betsy Nelson. Officials from Juan Valdez did not return calls.

Its other Seattle location near the Red Lion Hotel in downtown Seattle closed three years ago. They were owned by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, which used them to promote their coffees.

According to Juan Valdez's U.S. cafe web site, it still operates stores in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., a couple airports and "select Wal-Mart and Kroger stores nationwide." But the site says its Seattle cafe is still open, too

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August 6, 2009 2:27 PM

Zoka opens, Vita offers free coffee-and-chocolate tasting

Posted by Melissa Allison

Zoka's new store opening was delayed until this afternoon, for those planning a trip to Kirkland to see the shop with its state-of-the-art espresso machines.

And I was reminded by Michael Allen Smith at The Coffee Club of Seattle that Caffe Vita and Theo Chocolate will have their second monthly coffee cupping and chocolate tasting Friday at 10 a.m. at Vita's 1005 E. Pike St. location. Yum!

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August 4, 2009 1:32 PM

Caribou Coffee posts quarterly profit

Posted by Melissa Allison

Caribou Coffee posted a $1.2 million profit for the second quarter, up from a $2.4 million loss during the same quarter a year ago.

Net sales were $63 million, down slightly from $63.2 million. Its same-store sales fell 3.3 percent.

Founded in 1992, the Minneapolis-based company bills itself as "the second largest company-owned gourmet coffeehouse operator in the United States" with 522 coffee shops. Starbucks has 16,729.

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August 3, 2009 1:21 PM

The most northwestern espresso shop in the continental U.S.

Posted by Melissa Allison

Neah Bay.jpgIf you're ever in need of coffee near the most northwestern point of the Lower 48, Native Grounds Espresso is the spot.

It's in Neah Bay, a town in the Makah Indian Reservation that is the last stop before Cape Flattery, which is not the most northern point in the continental U.S. (the Northwest Angle in Minnesota), and not the furthest west either (that's Cape Alava, a little further south), but bills itself as the furthest northwest.

Geography aside, the woman who opened the shop for a few minutes to make us a latte and a green tea knew what she was doing. Good coffee, and just the afternoon jolt we needed to finish the rounds (which included vampire-ridden Forks, the Hoh Rainforest and Hurricane Ridge) before heading back to Seattle.

View Native Grounds Espresso in a larger map

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July 31, 2009 5:59 PM

Zoka opens Third Wave coffeehouse in Kirkland on Wednesday

Posted by Melissa Allison

Zoka 002.jpgCoffee connoisseurs say Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. coined the term, and next week you can see the latest wave in action. Zoka's fourth store is set to open Wednesday.

Unlike Zoka's original Tangletown location -- also known as OZ, for "original Zoka" -- this place is anything but rustic. It's a big, bright space with modern light fixtures and sleek black chairs.

The most noticeable accent is a slice of a giant tree stump -- technically, four maples that grew together -- that will be used as seating (owner Jeff Babcock tries it out in the top photo). A slab from the same tree in Idaho will be a community table, and a woman who grew up on the farm with the tree is sending her memories of it to be posted in the shop.

Zoka 001.jpgTwo state-of-theart espresso machines are front and center at the bar. Zoka is the first Northwest shop with the raved-about Slayer machine that can do everything except smoke a cigarette.

Zoka owner Jeff Babcock (with the Slayer in the second photo) plans to use it for single-origin roasts, making it the rare Northwest coffeehouse with single-estate espresso. That's tricky, because of the variability in coffee from different countries. The Slayer lets baristas control for pressure, temperature and pull time.

Babcock pulled some of his best baristas from other locations and trained them for days at Slayer's new Georgetown space so they can play the machine properly in Kirkland (you lucky Eastsiders). And, these folks don't have attitude, as Seattle Weekly noted when it named OZ Seattle's best coffeehouse for 2009.

Four coffee grinders away from the Slayer sits another state-of-the-art machine, the newly updated paddle from La Marzocco (third photo).

Zoka 003.jpgThe new Zoka will brew coffee by the cup three ways: (1) Using a ceramic Melitta pour-over system a la Blue Bottle in San Francisco, (2) using an Eva Solo, and (3) with an automated French press-style machine from La Marzocco that will arrive in a couple weeks.

Babcock buys much of his coffee directly and expects a shipment shortly from Nicaragua, where he visited recently. The coffee he most wanted -- "it's so sweet it's like honey," he said -- went to a Norwegian roaster before he placed his order. "I was too late," he lamented. "Next year."

He also recently judged for Cup of Excellence coffees in Costa Rica and Colombia, and will be a judge in Bolivia later this year.

When Babcock buys coffee by the container -- also known as the semi-truckload -- he buys directly from coffee farms or cooperatives. For smaller orders, he uses a handful of importers.

Slayer's folks were there today putting the new machine through its motions, and co-owner Eric Perkunder stopped rhapsodizing about the new Zoka (who could blame him?) long enough to promise he'll let me know when more Slayers show up in the area.

Until then, here's where you can find it and the new Zoka, at the old Triple J Cafe spot in Kirkland:

View Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. in a larger map

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July 30, 2009 9:56 AM

Seattle coffeehouses + air conditioning = Relief

Posted by Melissa Allison

Vivace 006.jpgIt was still cool enough to sit outside at Espresso Vivace in South Lake Union late this morning.

But when it heats up again, Vivace and other coffee shops with sweet, sweet air conditioning will become havens for those of us lacking a good breeze.

Here's to iced coffee and a return to our usual mild temperatures.

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July 28, 2009 1:22 PM

Peet's Coffee & Tea profit climbs 12 percent

Posted by Melissa Allison

Net income rose to $3.4 million for the second quarter ended June 28 (what? a retailer with a fiscal year that matches the calendar year?).

Also bucking a trend, Peet's didn't do it by slashing overhead, which rose 12 percent to $6.1 million, "driven primarily by higher payroll related costs and timing of marketing expenses."

The chain's net revenue grew by 5 percent to $73.6 million.

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July 24, 2009 2:54 PM

And in other coffee openings (and a closing)....

Posted by Melissa Allison

My Coffeehouse.jpgLest anyone think the Seattle area has just one new coffee spot, I visited another one in Bellevue Square today that opened on Monday.

My Coffeehouse (pictured) is in the Kids' Cove, which is above the third-floor Seattle's Best Coffee. It shares the cove with Gymboree Play & Music, which provides a built-in customer base of parents in need of caffeine.

It's the second location for My Coffeehouse. Its Madison Park shop is known for its children's play area and for receiving overnight shipments of H&H Bagels from New York City, which are also available at its Bellevue coffee counter. They're pricey - $2.99 and up -- but satisfy many an East Coast bagel lover's itch. (Update from a New York coffee source: H&H has had recent tax troubles.)

Tully's Coffee also opened a shop this week in the Haggen store at Sehome Village in Bellingham.

And, sadly, MezzaLuna Bakery and Bistro in Judkins Park is closing. Its last day is Sunday, as first reported at Central District News.

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July 23, 2009 12:18 PM

Should coffee shops sell wine and beer?

Posted by Melissa Allison

Bustle 002.jpgEuropean cafes have done it forever, but it's just starting to catch on in the U.S.

The owners of Bustle on Queen Anne, which opened last month, decided to offer beer and Italian wine after requests from dozens of neighborhood residents. Still, co-owner Patrick McNerthney (pictured on the right) has his doubts.

"In America, it's really hard to understand there's a coffee shop that turns into a wine and beer bar at night," he said

He and co-owner Jimmy Curran (on the left) were baristas together for years at Uptown Espresso in Belltown before pursuing non-coffee careers. They got together again for Bustle, which is across from Ken's Market at 535 W. McGraw St.

Bustle's coffee is roasted by Attibassi in Bologna, Italy, which McNerthney discovered at Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria -- another place that sells espresso, beer and wine.

Starbucks has made a splash by applying for a license to sell wine and beer at the 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea shop that opens on Capitol Hill tomorrow.

What do you think of the trend?

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July 21, 2009 6:22 PM

Sneak peek at new Cupcake Royale & Verite Coffee

Posted by Melissa Allison

Cupcake Royale.jpgThe local chain's fourth store opens at 6 a.m. Wednesday with new, regionally sourced flour, new cupcake recipes by Sue McCown and modern interior design by Roy McMakin (pictured, on left) and Ian Butcher (on the right).

That's Jody Hall in the middle, founder of the chain that carried Stumptown Coffee when it was still being delivered from Portland.

The new store at 1111 E. Pike Street is big and airy with modern paintings and sculptures and a huge pastry case in front displaying a rainbow assortment of icing.

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June 26, 2009 5:27 PM

Should coffeehouses roast their own beans?

Posted by Melissa Allison

Trabant.jpgPlenty of roasters have cafes to showcase their beans, and plenty of cafes start roasting for various reasons.

Some pros and cons:

Dan Baumfeld, owner of Neptune Coffee, who started roasting coffee for his Greenwood cafe this week: "I feel a little fake when I have this great coffee shop but we use someone else's coffee.... Free time is the one resource I have, not ton of money to do things with."

Tatiana Becker, co-owner of Trabant Coffee in Pioneer Square and the University District (pictured above), bought and sold a roaster a couple years ago: "We played around with it for about three months and found out just how involved roasting was and decided that was going to divide our attention too much from having very well trained baristas and executing well at retail.... If you just have one or two shops, you're buying a pretty low volume of green coffee, so you can't buy a container of coffee at origin.... It's a romantic idea to have a roaster in the cafe, but it can make a cafe really smokey and you can have too many distractions."
Sebastian Simsch (pictured at right), co-owner of Seattle Coffee Works near Pike Place Market, hopes to soon be using his new Diedrich machine to roast all the coffee he brews and sells: "We can make a name for ourselves by making better coffee, improving freshness, saving money on roasting and knowing better where our coffee comes from.... [Asked if roasting dilutes the cafe business:] I think it makes it better. Otherwise, we're just middle people, and there are already enough middle people in the coffee business. I'm less confident that I can serve really good coffee if I don't roast it myself."

Rob Wilson, co-owner of Stella Caffe Coffees, who once said he didn't plan to open a coffeehouse because it would compete with his wholesale customers. He opened Stella Caffe (pictured below) across University Street from the Seattle Art Museum seven months ago: "We have clients within blocks of us who say it's augmented their sales.... I'm very stretched right now, because I didn't count on both [the roasting and the cafe] going so well."

What do you think?


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June 22, 2009 12:32 PM

Three coffeehouses contribute portion of June 24 sales to earthquake victims

Posted by Melissa Allison

Caffe Vita founder Michael McConnell and two colleagues from his Italian restaurant Via Tribunali returned from earthquake-devasted Abruzzo, Italy, last week with these photos and video.

On Wednesday, Vita will contribute 30 percent of its sales to victims of the April 6 earthquake that killed nearly 300 people and displaced more than 60,000 others.

Caffe Fiore and Caffe Umbria will contribute a portion of their sales that day, too, along with dozens of other Seattle-area restaurants listed here.

Proceeds will go directly to Polisportiva Paganica Rugby to help rebuild the sports and recreation facility that was destroyed in Paganica, the town at the earthquake's epicenter where displaced youth now have no organized sports.

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June 16, 2009 4:42 PM

Burien Press opened by former Fuel Coffee customers

Posted by Melissa Allison

Burien Press 004.jpgHere are a couple shots of Burien Press, which opened last month.

Owners Mark Kearns and Erin Williamson were inspired to open the shop by Dani Cone, who owns the Fuel Coffee chain in Seattle.

Kearns, who is also a carpenter, did some beautiful woodworking at the new location, including a deck out back that's labeled "Area of Refuge." (Top photo shows barista Shannyn Fisher serving a customer.)

Burien Press 008.jpgThe new shop carries coffee from Caffe Vita, sandwiches from Domovoi Happy Foods, and pastries from Macrina Bakery. It also sells magazines, logo mugs and little red notebooks with the coffeehouse's catchphrase "Burien Press: Fine coffee, fine print."

Here's where you can find it, not far from these amazing metal sculptures ("The Passage" by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito) that happen to be walking in its general direction:

Burien Press 011.jpg

View Burien Press in a larger map

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June 5, 2009 4:03 PM

Vivace roaster and baristas launch Watertown Coffee in old glassblowing gallery

Posted by Melissa Allison

Watertown1The beautiful marble bar with brass footrail is in use again at James Nowak's old glassblowing gallery across 12th Avenue from Seattle University's baseball field. (The sign above the door still says RGB Design.)

Used to serve coffee there years ago, the bar now serves as the ordering point for coffee, food and alcohol at a new coffeehouse started by three former Vivace employees.

Watertown Coffee opened about four months ago with espresso drinks and an interesting vegetarian and vegan menu -- macaroni and cheese with garlic bread ($6.95), vegetarian chili with cornbread ($6.95), barbecued seitan with potato salad ($6.66 --get it?).

Last week, it started selling beer, wine and liquor. Happy hour is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Behind the bar today was Daniel Perry, who roasted coffee with Espresso Vivace owner David Schomer for seven years and worked as a barista there.

Watertown2Today's cook was a very busy Amy Vanderbeck (left), who has made coffee in Seattle since 1985, beginning with a Nordstrom espresso cart and moving in 1989 to Vivace's original espresso cart outside Washington Mutual on Broadway. That's just a year after Schomer started the cart, back when espresso drinks were still fairly new to Seattle.

Their partner at Watertown is Amy's sister, Katy Vanderbeck, another longtime Vivace barista.

Perry said that glassblower James Nowak still works his magic behind the coffeehouse, and some of it is on display in Watertown's light and airy digs.

Laura Klingenstein, a student of international studies and French at Seattle University, said she comes about three times a week. "It's a really good study space -- open, good lighting, free and good wireless," she said. She and her friends like the board games, too, which they play when they're not studying.

watertown3This afternoon, Klingenstein ordered a "Laura Palmer" -- half lemonade, half iced tea and a dash of vanilla syrup over ice. The name is a play on a fairly well-known drink called the Arnold Palmer, which is half lemonade, half iced tea, no syrup. Laura Palmer is also the name of a character in the 1990s television series Twin Peaks, which is set in a small fictional Washington town. Laura is found dead in the pilot show, but it's no reflection on the drink.

Here's a picture from the outside, and a map to Watertown:


View Watertown Coffee in a larger map

(Thanks to Coffee Club of Seattle for the tip about this new place.)

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June 5, 2009 1:19 PM

Seattle Coffee Works opens, awaits espresso-drinking man

Posted by Melissa Allison

Seattle Coffee Works 1Seattle Coffee Works opened this week in a bigger space just across the alley from its old store on Pike Street.

The main bar is going strong, but the roaster is still being assembled and the slow bar -- where customers will be able to order a coffee brewed with a vacuum pot or Melitta drip brewer -- is still being completed. More about the move here and here.

I'll post more pictures when everything -- including a 16-foot mechanized espresso-drinking man -- is in place.

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June 5, 2009 11:00 AM

Mayor visits Peet's Coffee on Broadway, where business is strong despite nearby construction

Posted by Melissa Allison

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels visited the Peet's Coffee & Tea on Broadway last week to see how it's doing now that Sound Transit is starting to build a light rail tunnel across the street, where Espresso Vivace used to be.

"Other than a little bit of noise that's inconvenient, they've done a really good job of keeping everything organized and not closing the streets all the time," Shelli Harrison, who manages that Peet's location, says in this article about how contruction affects retailers.

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June 4, 2009 1:19 PM

Candlelight coffee tasting at Mokas Cafe & Coffee Bar tonight

Posted by Melissa Allison

Mokas.jpgThe idea came about through serendipity, when Mokas lead barista Alex Negranza was doing a coffee tasting -- known as a cupping -- years ago, and the electricity went out.

He found that by candlelight, the cupping was both surreal and more focused, and he's doing it again tonight at Mokas Cafe & Coffee Bar at 329 Fairview Avenue North in South Lake Union.

The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 8:30 p.m. with a showing of art work; the cupping of more than a dozen coffees will happen around 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., when it's dark enough outside.

It's co-sponsored by Visions Espresso Service, whose owners, Dawn and Pat Loraas, also own Mokas and a slice of equipment maker La Marzocco. Visions -- an espresso equipment seller and servicer -- is creating a coffee school called the Coffee Enhancement Lounge for baristas, roasters and all other coffee folks. Sarah Dooley of Visions will teach some of the classes, and she's recruiting others to teach classes there as well.

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May 29, 2009 3:38 PM

Seattle Coffee Works opens Monday with a new roaster in the old Johnny Rockets

Posted by Melissa Allison

Seattle Coffee Works took delivery today of its new carrot-colored Diedrich roaster, which will be a highlight of its new location, set to open Monday in the old Johnny Rockets at 107 Pike Street. "Buy local," said co-owner Pipo Bui, posing below with the roaster from Sandpoint, Idaho.

Seattle Coffee Works 025.jpg

Below is a picture of the space this afternoon, which is going to keep Bui, her husband Sebastian Simsch and other co-owner Katie Shaw busy this weekend. The Johnny Rockets sign is still above the store, but will be replaced in a couple weeks by a 16-foot espresso-drinking man. The owners decided to light just the coffee cup from which he continually sips. Lighting the whole display day and night would have kept awake the folks next door, at the Green Tortoise Hostel.

Seattle Coffee Works 027.jpg

More information here about Simsch's vision of Seattle Coffee Works as a coffee experience center.

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May 28, 2009 6:02 PM

Coffee Club of Seattle meets in the coffee club that is Seattle

Posted by Melissa Allison


Coffee Club of Seattle's new chief organizer.

In some ways, Seattle itself is a great big coffee club. But if you want to get official, the Coffee Club of Seattle will accept your reservation for any of its four or five monthly events. Be warned that you're competing with about 600 other people who get e-mail about the gatherings, many of which are filled within hours.

The guy sending the e-mails is self-employed computer programmer Michael Allen Smith, and he tries to keep the groups between 15 and 25 people to encourage conversation and not overwhelm any coffee shops.

Smith moved to Seattle from San Diego a couple years ago and took over the coffee club meet-up in January. He tries to schedule four or five events a month, about half of them casual get-togethers at local coffeehouses and the rest educational fare like brewing demonstrations, coffee cuppings and roasting tours. Recent meet-ups have been at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Makeda Coffee and Trabant Coffee & Chai.

Smith drinks four to five double espressos a day, plus tea. He also likes a good French press and rarely orders a drink with milk, although he made an exception on a trip to New Zealand, where the milk comes from grass-fed cows.

He got into coffee during college (Ohio State) and began home roasting in 1998. He knocked that off after moving to Seattle, where "they can do it much better than me."

Besides scheduling meetups, Smith also has a couple blogs devoted to coffee -- and -- and a few that are not, including (they're his initials, and it has nothing to do with bicycles), and

You can sign up for Coffee Club e-mails here. The group usually meets on Sundays at 2 p.m. and occasionally during weekdays. So far, most of the meet-ups are free.

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May 25, 2009 1:36 PM

Krispy Kreme reconsiders its Depression-era coffee pricing

Posted by Melissa Allison

Remember the sales spike Krispy Kreme saw after dropping coffee prices precipitously last fall? (As an example, a 16-ounce drip coffee went from $1.65 to a dime.)

As of March, the man in charge of Krispy Kreme stores in the Northwest said coffee customers were buying doughnuts, too.

Apparently not enough.

Now two Krispy Kreme stores -- at 1900 1st Ave. S. in Seattle and in Clackamas -- require another purchase to get the coffee deal. It's a test to decide what to do about the Depression-era pricing campaign at all the Northwest stores.

"They were experiencing a level of coffee-only purchases which will cause us to either require a purchase or discontinue the program. If the test becomes permanent, we will develop marketing materials to communicate the change to our guests," the man in charge -- Gerard Centioli -- said in an e-mail.

(Thank you to the reader who alerted me to the change.)

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May 22, 2009 4:11 PM

Downtown construction, lower rents hurt coffeehouses, which have stepped up discounts

Posted by Melissa Allison


Tougo Coffee owner Brian Wells finds discounts are more important in business than residential neighorhoods.

While some downtown retailers struggle with the recession, coffee shop owners feel the pinch from construction and shifting office space.

For Brian Wells, who opened Tougo Coffee last year at 2113 Westlake Avenue, a nearby sidewalk closing for construction meant a lot of people crossed the street before they reached his shop. On the flip side, he got business from the construction workers.

Now the sidewalk is open again, and Wells has posted a special: $1 off any beverage with a sandwich, wrap or salad purchase between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Wells finds that discounts are more important for attracting customers in business-heavy areas than in residential neighborhoods like the Central District, where he has another Tougo Coffee.

A few blocks north, Cafe Mae at 1009 8th Avenue North launched a buy one/get one espresso drink and tea special from 1 to 3 p.m. to attract new customers after some of its regulars moved along with their offices to lower-rent space downtown.


Christina Gasperetti at Cafe Mae said lunchtime sales have slowed since nearby office workers moved to cheaper space downtown.

The cafe also stopped carrying sandwiches because it has fewer lunch customers, said Christina Gasperetti, who is a barista and ambassador for the cafe and its adjacent fitness center, 5focus. It still has soups, pastries and smoothies.

Coincidentally, both coffeehouses are named for the owners' children, Tougo and Mae.

Here's where they are:

View Tougo Coffee & Cafe Mae in a larger map

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May 20, 2009 12:20 PM

Album cover artist designs Caffe Vita t-shirts with coffee seeds, flowers, cherries

Posted by Melissa Allison


Caffe Vita introduced the second of its coffee series T-shirts today. The first was the seed, now comes the flower. Next -- the cherries, of course. Designed by local artist Robert Mercer, they cost $15 at Vita stores and online.

You might notice a resemblance to The Shins' album cover "Wincing the Night Away," which Mercer designed.

Here's Shins mastermind James Mercer talking about his half brother, Robert, in a 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article: "(My brother) is the more urban, hip version of me," Mercer laughs. "He's the coolest guy I know. When I started to get to know him, I was so impressed."

Robert Mercer also worked as a designer at Starbucks until last year.

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May 18, 2009 12:08 PM

Gypsy Java Cafe gets new owners, drops the "Java"

Posted by Melissa Allison

Gypsy Cafe 002.jpgThe coffee shop in the original Archie McPhee space on Stone Way is now The Gypsy Cafe, although that's not reflected on the sign yet.

New owners Debbie Galassi (pictured) and her boyfriend, Ben Steele, bought the shop in March, shortly after she was laid off by Starbucks. Although she was an administrative assistant -- more typing than pulling shots -- she learned to make espresso drinks there and through Caffe Vita, which supplies Gypsy's java.

Steele, who sells medical equipment, learned the cafe was for sale online while cruising for bars for sale. Gypsy's former owners moved to the East Coast, and the timing was right for Galassi, who declined to say how much they paid for the business.

They've been closing at 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, but recently got their beer and wine license and plan to start keeping the place open later -- maybe until 10 p.m. -- for the happy hour crowd.

Here's the place, a few blocks east of the Fremont Troll and across the street from the roaster and wholesaler Pura Vida Coffee:

Gypsy Cafe 003.jpg

View The Gypsy Cafe in a larger map

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May 15, 2009 2:26 PM

Sumatran coffee farm video from Caffe Vita and One Pot

Posted by Melissa Allison

Caffe Vita and One Pot held cuppings shortly after they returned, and now there are photos to see and coffee to buy from the farms they visited.

Here's their video from the trip, with underscore by Brian Eno and David Byrne :

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May 13, 2009 11:29 AM

Dilettante Chocolates founder shares photos, thoughts from Venezuelan coffee estate visit

Posted by Melissa Allison


Coffee worker teaches children to play guitar in the plantation's outdoor kitchen.

Last week, Dilettante Chocolates founder Dana Davenport returned from a visit to Dominguez Estate in Venezuela, the source of a coffee Dilettante sells only on weekends to table customers at its Mocha Cafe and Martini Bar at 538 Broadway East.

I asked him to share thoughts and photos from his trip, and his e-mail response was so perfect that I'm posting it directly (he's now chocolatier and coffee master for Dilettante, which Seattle Gourmet Foods bought a few years ago):

Hi Melissa,

It has taken me a few days to get back in the saddle so to speak. Yes, I took tons of pictures.

The purpose of my trip to Venezuela was to work with our Estate Direct coffee grower, Enrique Dominguez, to confer what processing procedures are best to achieve the flavor profiles we are seeking. Obviously, it was an educational trip for me - first time -- to this estate. I was pleased to see they were employing natural composting and the farm remains insecticide and chemical fertilizer free.

The topography of the region is unique. The township is Guarico (a farming mountain village of approximately 5,000 inhabitants) nestled in some of the Andes' oldest foothills. This translates to unique soil conditions.

Continue reading this post ...

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May 7, 2009 5:52 PM

Two more Top Pot Doughnuts investors sue; court dismissed 5 of 11 counts in first investor lawsuit

Posted by Melissa Allison

Remember the investor who sued Top Pot Doughnuts in February, saying her slice of ownership in the company had been diluted? A judge dismissed five of 11 causes of action in Jan Johnson's case on April 24.

A day earlier -- April 23 -- the lawyer who represents Johnson filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of two other Top Pot investors. In the new lawsuit, Robert and Virginia Dickson allege that they have never received a return on their investment.

Unlike the earlier lawsuit, which included details about Johnson's early investment, the Dickson lawsuit does not say how much money they invested or when. John Du Wors, the lawyer who filed both lawsuits in King County Superior Court, did not return my telephone calls.

Top Pot's attorney, Josh Brower, said, "As with Ms. Johnson's lawsuit, we expect to resolve it quickly."

Brower also said that the Dicksons invested a little more than $300,000 and received $150,000 and stock in the company in return. "We think the Dicksons have been treated fairly," he said.

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April 29, 2009 5:05 PM

Photo of the old Espresso Vivace building being worked over by bulldozers on Capitol Hill

Posted by Melissa Allison

Espresso Vivace owner David Schomer, manager extraordinaire Brian Fairbrother and a host of baristas pulled many a fine ristretto in the beautiful brick building being worked over this week by bulldozers on Capitol Hill. They're plowing through two blocks on Broadway to make way for a new light rail station. Here's the scene this morning, handrail still standing:

Old Vivace building

Vivace closed that location last July. Here's how it looked for months before the tear-down:

Continue reading this post ...

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April 28, 2009 5:03 PM

Is Seattle big enough for two coffee-themed walking tours?

Posted by Melissa Allison


A latte art demostration at Caffe D'arte with audience participation is part of the new Coffee Bites & Sights walking tour.

If Seattle can support two ghost tours (here and here), why not two coffee-themed walking tours?

For almost a year, Seattle has had the Seattle Coffee Crawl. This month, Coffee Bites & Sights debuted. Some stats:

Price: The Crawl is $20 in advance (rising to $24 this summer). Bites & Sights is $69.

Time: The Crawl runs Friday through Sunday (plus Monday and Tuesday beginning May 18), 10 a.m. to noon. Bites & Sights runs Wednesday through Saturday, 1:45 to 4:15 p.m.

Rain or shine? Yes. It's Seattle.

Tour size: Max of 15 for the Crawl, 14 for Bites & Sights.

Caffeine consumption: The Crawl is all about beverages, with samples of three coffees and a hot chocolate along the way. Bites & Sights features foods, like espresso-smoked sea salt caramels, mochaccino cheesecake and mocha-braised short ribs.

In common: Coffee made on a celebrated Clover machine; debunking the Starbucks-supported myth that its store in Pike Place Market is the original.

Places visited: The Crawl starts at Seattle's Best Coffee in Pike Place Market and ends at Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square, with stops in between at Seattle Coffee Works, Dilettante Mocha Cafe, Trabante Coffee & Chai and Monorail Espresso.

Bites & Sights starts with a Flatliner Cocktail at Oliver's Lounge in Mayflower Park Hotel and ends atop the Space Needle, with stops at Caffe D'arte, Chocolate Box, The Confectional and the newly remodeled Starbucks at First and Pike. A monorail ride takes the tour to The Cheese Cellar (cheddar cheese rubbed with ground espresso and lavender, of course) and the Space Needle's dining room for mocha-braised short ribs (or cedar-wrapped salmon or vegetarian crepe lasagna, on request).


Seattle Coffee Works co-owner Kristi Cromwell, left, talks to Seattle Coffee Crawl participants. The walk's guide and owner, Vicki Schuman, is second from the left.

How they're doing: Vicki Schuman started Seattle by Foot last summer with the Coffee Crawl. She plans to hire more guides and add three tours this summer: A broader walking tour of the city, a pub crawl and a sports-and-bars walk with her husband, sports writer Jim Caple, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer sports columnist Art Thiel.

Angela Shen started Savor Seattle Food Tours in 2007 and now has three tours and six other guides. Next month, she's launching an "Off the Beaten Path" tour of new places at Pike Place Market for people with more adventurous palates.

On competition: "It's too early to tell [how much competition the other coffee-oriented tour presents]. People can go on the original Seattle Coffee Crawl and then have money left over to do something else. It's the best value for their money." -- Vicki Schuman, Seattle Coffee Crawl

"Her tour is great. I've been on her tour. It's a very different experience and is $20, and mine's $69. Hers is strictly focused on the beverage, and for me that's part of it, but it's more about the other things like cocktails, latte art demonstration, shortbread cookies. It's about experiencing the bean in all its forms." -- Angela Shen, Coffee Bites & Sights

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April 24, 2009 1:17 PM

The Sumatran coffee was better than the civet coffee at Caffe Vita this morning

Posted by Melissa Allison

Or maybe I just have cheap taste. Caffe Vita cupped four coffees this morning, and three were from farms in the Aceh area of Sumatra -- a region devastated by the 2004 tsunami.

The three Sumatran coffees were my idea of perfect -- full flavors, big body, low acidity. I'm still learning what those terms mean in coffee, with help from experts like Caffe Vita's buyer and roaster, Mason Sager, who holds free cuppings for the public on Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m.

We also tasted civet coffee from Java, the island southeast of Sumatra in Indonesia, and it was not nearly as spectacular. It gets a lot of cachet -- and a lofty price -- from how it's made: Wild cats called palm civets digest the coffee cherries, then the seeds are collected from their scat, washed and eventually roasted.

Indonesian coffee exporters A. Syafrudin and Asnawi Saleh said each producer of civet coffee -- also called Kopi Luwak -- will put four or five civets in a cage for about a month each year to do their digestive magic. Syafrudin said the animals leave their scat on big rocks out in the open, where it's easy to find and "harvest."

Here's a photo of an Asian palm civet (photo from the Czech Republic's Brnenska Zoo):

Asian palm civet

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April 23, 2009 1:00 PM

Another Sumatran coffee tasting at Caffe Vita, 10 a.m. Friday

Posted by Melissa Allison


Indonesian coffee exporters A. Syafrudin and Asnawi Saleh will be at Caffe Vita's tasting at 10 a.m. Friday.

The bad news is that I screwed up when I told you Caffe Vita's cupping of Sumatran coffee was on Wednesday at 10 a.m. I was looking at the wrong month's calendar.

The good news is that Caffe Vita did, in fact, have a tasting of Sumatran coffee -- including civet coffee or Kopi Luwak -- at that time. They always have tastings at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays.

The even better news is that there's another Sumatran cupping tomorrow (Friday) at 10 a.m. It's free and open to the public.

The grower who was expected to attend didn't make it to Seattle, but two guys who are responsible for bringing a lot of Sumatran coffee to the U.S. will be there. They are exporters A. Syafrudin of PT. Sabani Internasional in Jakarta and Asnawi Saleh from the parent company, PT. Indokom Citra Persada in Surabaya, East Java.

Caffe Vita has held several tastings of Sumatran coffee since its roaster and green coffee buyer, Mason Sager, and Michael Hebb of One Pot visited that Indonesian island last month.

They share moving stories about the area and the growers they met, along with divine Sumatran coffee they tasted and bought.

Sager explained that the Kopi Luwak -- coffee that's eaten by wild cats called civets, then retrieved from their droppings before being processed and roasted -- contains particularly good coffee, because the civet "has an uncanny ability to seek out and eat the ripest coffee beans it can find."

With a completely straight face, Hebb said, "It's really, really pure in its flavors. It's incredibly well washed."

Sorry about the screw-up, and hope to see you at 10 a.m. Friday (tomorrow) at the Caffe Vita on Capitol Hill, 1005 E Pike St.


Mason Sager and Michael Hebb pouring Sumatran coffee for Caffe Vita guests.

Below is a map showing where Syafrudin and Saleh are from, and the Aceh area of Sumatra that Sager and Hebb visited (via 28 hours of flying followed by a 14-hour road trip):

View Sumatra, Jakarta and Surabaya in a larger map

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April 21, 2009 6:26 PM

Caffe Vita hosts tasting of civet (and other) coffees with growers from Sumatra

Posted by Melissa Allison

In Indonesia, it's called kopi luwak and in East Timor it's kafe-laku. The rest of the world knows it as civet coffee.

Whatever you call it, the coffee is eaten by a palm civet or toddy cat, then retrieved from its droppings before being roasted. It's some of the most expensive coffee in the world, going for more than $100 a pound.

Caffe Vita is hosting a coffee tasting on Wednesday at 10 a.m. where you can try it and meet some of the farmers who grow (and presumably harvest) it in Sumatra. They're from the Aceh region, specifically an area called Gayo where people have grown coffee for hundreds of years. That's the area that Mason Sager from Caffe Vita and Michael Hebb of One Pot visited last month.

Vita and the farmers will also cup coffee grown in the foothills around Lake Tawar and Lake Toba.

The free public cupping is at the Caffe Vita on Capitol Hill, 1005 E. Pike St.

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April 21, 2009 12:08 PM

Haggen closes TerraVida coffee shops, tests self-serve kiosks for Bellingham-roasted coffee

Posted by Melissa Allison


Self-service kiosks are being tested in Redmond, Federal Way and Kent.

The Bellingham-based grocery chain Haggen closed its three TerraVida locations this month, but continues to sell TerraVida coffee from its grocery shelves and is testing a self-service kiosk called TerraVida Coffee Express at three of its stores.

Because of strong customer demand, Haggen will keep selling TerraVida coffee through its grocery stores and is testing self-service kiosks at Top Food & Drug stores in Redmond, Federal Way and Kent, spokeswoman Becky Skaggs. Concordia Coffee made the kiosks, which were installed last fall.

TerraVida coffee is roasted to Haggen's specifications by Tony's Coffees & Teas, a Bellingham roaster that started in 1971 and is the old-timer in Whatcom County's burgeoning coffee scene.

Other Bellingham coffee names include Hammerhead Coffee Roasters, a chain of 24-hour drive-through shops called Cruisin Coffee, Woods Coffee in Bellingham's popular Boulevard Park on the waterfront and Moka Joe Coffee, which roasts only beans that meet an ethical coffee triumvirate: organic, Fair Trade and sustainably grown.

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April 20, 2009 12:53 PM

Cursing Puyallup boy founds Stumptown Coffee, takes on New York City

Posted by Melissa Allison


At the original Stumptown Coffee in Portland a couple years ago, Steve Kirvach (in the back) roasts small batches on a Probat.

New York magazine profiles Duane Sorenson, who uses the "f" word in almost every quote.

Sorenson is the picture of pure entrepreneurship. After getting his first taste of the coffee business during junior high school in Puyallup, he started organizing events like food-and-coffee pairing dinners.

Nicely dodging the housing bubble, he spent $8,000 that was supposed to be a mortgage down payment on an old Probat roaster in the mid-'90s. Sorenson worked at a beer shop to save money for his first Stumptown cafe, which opened in 1999.

A decade later, Stumptown has five cafes in Portland, two in Seattle and is set to open a roastery in New York City next month and a Stumptown cafe there this summer.

"This town is ridiculous," he told the magazine. "Make a good cup of coffee for your neighbor, [expletive]!"

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April 13, 2009 8:34 AM

More cupcakes, coffee coming to Capitol Hill

Posted by Melissa Allison


Love & Loss by Roy McMakin in Olympic Sculpture Park.

Artist Roy McMakin is designing the interior of the new Verite Coffee and Cupcake Royale, scheduled to open this summer at 1111 E. Pike Street on Capitol Hill.

He's the one who created the giant red ampersand at Olympic Sculpture Park.

The new building on Pike, sometimes called just Eleven Eleven, was designed by well-known architect Tom Kundig.

It will be Jody Hall's fourth Verite Coffee and Cupcake Royale.

In case the cupcake side of that equation is your thing, check out my story about the new cupcake accessory business being started by one of the many layoff casualties of Washington Mutual's takeover by JPMorgan Chase.

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April 11, 2009 8:36 AM

We missed the really good stuff in San Francisco

Posted by Melissa Allison

Sometimes that'll happen on a road trip. We got busy and didn't travel far for our caffeine fixes yesterday, so it was a lattes and macchiatos at the chain La Boulange (bitter, even in the latte) and the Coffee Club Beans and Brew in Carmel (photo below -- yum).

For what it's worth, two people -- including my go-to source for all things beverage -- recommended Ritual Coffee Roasters and Blue Bottle Coffee. Next time.

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April 9, 2009 4:24 PM

Original Peet's Coffee & Tea in Berkeley reopened this week

Posted by Melissa Allison

Peet'sThe smell of coffee is potent when you walk into the original Peet's on Vine Street in Berkeley. The feeling of nostalgia is not.

The shop reopened yesterday after a remodel, and a little room in back pays tribute to founder Alfred Peet and others with photos, articles and paraphernalia. But the store isn't as amazing as other Peet's coffeehouses, including the one in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.

No matter: It's an institution in Berkeley, and at 4 p.m. the place is crowded and the line is a dozen customers long.

Alfred Peet opened this store on April Fool's Day, 1966, the beginning of the "specialty coffee revolution" in the U.S. -- which basically meant turning away from Sanka and toward good espresso.

Starbucks' founders learned a lot about coffee roasting from Peet, and one of them -- Jerry Baldwin -- eventually bought the company, before it went public. He stayed on Peet's board and another Starbucks founder, Gordon Bowker, has served on the board as well.

Peet died two years ago, his coffee legacy firmly established through a beloved dark roast and a publicly traded coffee shop chain that has managed to grow profits even in this economy.

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April 9, 2009 9:03 AM

Can we get some good coffee around here?

Posted by Melissa Allison

Sacramento: Coffee wasteland? If anyone has suggestions, please send them.

The best coffee event since Portland was after lunch yesterday in Ashland, Ore.: Turkish coffee-flavored gelato at Mix Sweet Shop on North First Street. It's the only time I've enjoyed eating coffee grounds. The creme brulee gelato was mighty fine, too.

Looking forward to San Francisco later today, home of Peet's Coffee & Tea and Caffe Trieste, where opera is sometimes on the menu.

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April 8, 2009 9:22 AM

Road Trip Second Stop: The Original Stumptown

Posted by Melissa Allison

Thumbnail image for Inside StumptownA gray morning in Portland means long lines at Stumptown.

We stopped by the original, at 4525 SE Division St., which has been here since 1999.

Beside the snaking line stood Stumptown's old Probat roaster with a spotlight on it. They still use it to roast some single-origin beans, including the Costa Rican, Honduran, Ethiopian and Kenyan coffee we picked up.

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April 7, 2009 11:02 AM

Road Trip First Stop: Victrola Coffee and Art, Seattle

Posted by Melissa Allison

It's a gorgeous day in Seattle, and I'm headed south on a road trip with my friend Jenny, who's moving to Houston.

She had her first Seattle coffee here two years ago, and now she's having her last -- as a resident. It's a tall nonfat latte, and she's tasting the cinnamon notes this morning.

I'm sorely tempted by the vegan brownie by Domovoi Happy Foods, owned by former Victrola barista Curt Waller. He launched Domovoi in 2007 and now sells brownies, wraps, sandwiches and salads at 21 Seattle spots including Victrola, Fuel and Tougo.

The key to his super rich vegan brownies is Earth Balance buttery spread. My other pressing question was about the name Domovoi. "It's from Slavic mythology, a protective spirit of the home," Waller told me last week. "It has personal meaning, because when I was a teenager and young adult, I made newspaper dolls and I called them that. I made hundreds and left them everywhere I went as good luck charms. It's a good symbol for food because it's a litttle man who lives under the stove."

Check out a drawing of a domovoi at Waller's web site.

Here's where I'm hangin' before we head south:

View Larger Map

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April 3, 2009 5:12 PM

Seattle Coffee Works tears up old Johnny Rockets, builds "coffee experience center"

Posted by Melissa Allison


The model for espresso-drinking man, which will be lit up above the entrance to the new Seattle Coffee Works.

Look out, Hammering Man.

A 16-foot neon espresso-drinking man will soon be installed above the new Seattle Coffee Works on Pike Street and could outshine the Seattle Art Museum's shoulder-pivoting hammerer.

After two years in his original shop, Seattle Coffee Works owner Sebastian Simsch is moving across News Lane into the old Johnny Rockets near Pike Place Market.

Simsch is not intimidated by the new Starbucks half a block away, which has gotten a lot of attention for its old coffeehouse design.

"We love Starbucks. It's good for us. It says that this is a gourmet coffee aisle," he said, sweeping his arm to show Pike Street. "If you want corporate, go to them. If you want gourmet coffee, come here." Oh. That kind of love.

Simsch plans to open the new shop in June and is buying his first roaster, which customers will be able to visit in a little storefront next to the main cafe. Meanwhile, he is guest roasting with Velton's Coffee Roasting in Everett.

The new cafe will have a quick-order area and a "slow bar" where customers can relax and enjoy coffee that takes a little longer to brew, for example in a vacuum coffee pot or Melitta drip brewer.

"My dream has always been to have a coffee experience center," Simsch said.

Here's where it will be, a couple blocks from Hammering Man:


Sebastian Simsch is turning the old Johnny Rockets into a new Seattle Coffee Works.

View Larger Map

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