While moving down the coast to SCAA headquarters in Long Beach, California from my home town in Seattle, Washington, I took a little extra time along the way to visit member shops. This is my report!
My first stop on the tour was my last stop in Seattle. After the morning of last minute moving, coffee and a good lunch were undeniably necessary. I headed to Trabant Coffee, one of Seattle’s best bars. I had a cortado and a squash, kale, and caramelized onion sandwich. This shop has become a fixture of the U-District neighborhood. They’ve managed to keep things innovative by creating their own flavor syrups in house and offering exciting seasonal drink recipes. Stopping here also gave me the chance to say goodbye to Pierce Young, a Seattle barista who became a good friend during my stint in the city.
Then it was off to the races. Another stop was necessary a few hours later in Olympia, Washington. Olympia is a unique town for Washington, or any place, because it’s one of the few small towns with a fairly vibrant coffee community. Olympia is home to Espresso Parts, Olympia Coffee Company, and Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters. Together they are responsible for employing a good portion of the Olympia population, and the cross-employment and cross-population of ideas makes it an extremely interesting, innovative, and delicious place to visit.
My destination on this trip was clear though: I was off to Batdorf & Bronson. I needed to say goodbye for two reasons. First, I wanted to see Heather Ringwood, mentor and friend for many years now. I have spent quite a few hours with Heather at her desk, doing volunteer work for SCAA, learning about her extracurricular dog training, and soliciting her feedback on life in general. Heather was at the office, but busy as usual and so she handed me off to Jenya Campbell, another friend and B&B’s production manager.
Jenya took me on an exciting tour, detailing exactly what she does at the Batdorf facility. It was great to learn more about her role, and it was fun to hear the excitement in her voice in the week following SCAA’s 24th Annual Event in Portland. It is nice to see the impact of what was learned at a coffee event coming directly back into someone’s work environment. Jenya was full of new ideas to promote sustainability, improve output, and facilitate easier assembly of deliveries.
She also took me to the second thing I needed to see: the Batdorf training lab. This lab is one of the best kept secrets in the Pacific North West, and stopping by always reminds me of what great work Batdorf has done not only for their own employees, but for specialty coffee in general. So many of the staff has donated countless hours on behalf of The Specialty Coffee Association of America for barista competitions, Barista Guild events, and research and committee work. It is impossible not to be grateful to such a giving organization.
After Batdorf, I decided to set my sights on Ashland: home of the famous Ashland Shakespeare Festival, and a town I bet would have a good food scene. When Noble Coffee came up, I thought, sure, that’s where I’ll go.
Noble was the most unexpected and delightful stop of the tour. The staff was very friendly, despite not knowing the pesky tourist asking if she could take photos of the bar. The shop offered multiple varieties of espressos. The space comes across as knowledgeable and welcoming. It is a gathering space for a community that loves to taste. A great feature at the shop was the bike rack, located indoors to keep the rain off on drizzly days. The coffee was excellently prepared and the team even recommended another stop – the Japanese hot dog stand down the street. So lunch was just as tasty as the mid-morning coffee break!
After Ashland, I headed to Santa Cruz. It was a long day of driving, but I wanted another excuse to get to that wonderful beach town. I have visited Santa Cruz twice in the past year, but it was time to wake up once more in one of the most relaxing places on earth. It also helps to walk in to the local coffee shop, Verve Coffee Roasters, and find a USBC national finalist working the espresso bar. Jared Truby was there and made me the Verve special; a “1 & fun” or a single espresso and a single cappuccino served simultaneously.
Then I drove over to the new Verve Roastery, where my friend Ian Levine, the production roaster, led me through the new space. While I’d been there once before to ride a mechanical bull at the La Marzocco Party during the South West Regional Barista Championship, I’d hardly gotten to see the details of the space. Some notable standouts included a collection of wine-related books, a custom-built adjustable cupping table, and the mystery box, recently shipped back from Portland, Oregon. I think it was a new roaster, but I’ll never know!
I rounded out the day in Santa Cruz with Cippino at Phil’s Fish Market. It’s a classic Italian Seafood stew that, as Truby puts it, “Will melt your face.” It was a delicious meal before the final stretch to LA.
Stopping by just a handful of shops reminded me that Washington, Oregon and California have so much coffee to offer their local communities! The hardest part was choosing where to go – I could easily spend days visiting San Francisco, Portland, Seattle or Olympia, and everywhere in between. I was grateful that all these member shops opened their doors to me and shared their stories, and I’m hopeful that I will get to visit or see them again very soon!