Seattle Coffee Community, Fake or Fiction?

Whew! I’ve been waiting to find a place to post my thoughts. So when I couldn’t find one, I created one. Before I go on,…

Wanderlust Coffee Company opened May 30th, 2007 in Modesto, CA. (It was later closed on December 6th, 2007). It was owned by 5 people; Rob and Dalynn Schnepp, Jack Ensign, Stephanie Ensign-Solano, and Tony Serrano. Wanderlust featured coffee from Ritual Coffee Roasters and Barefoot Coffee Roaster and it was this way that I had my first experience with “specialty coffee”. Before the shop opened, all the employees were to be trained by both roasters. Andy Newbom, Owner of Barefoot Coffee and Chris Baca (also from Modesto) of Ritual Coffee came in to train employees. Chris was the first person to train me on proper espresso extraction and helped set-up the base for the theories and practices which I currently use. I vividly remember telling him, “Porta-what?” I later was given a Barista Magazine by Tony Serrano, it was the anniversary issue with Stumptown rockin’ the cover. I remember reading the magazine while on a smoke break at Wanderlust while drinking a cappuccino on a bus bench we had put together. It was then I started to believe I could be in coffee for a while. I saw an article by Baca on CoffeeFest Chicago and was curious as to how I had managed to be trained by him and not fully utilize the knowledge and experience. A Newbom sighting as well, he rocked the picture on the front of the article from Guatemala on Finca El Injerto. Back to Wanderlust; We took two company trips, one to Ritual and one to Barefoot. I went on the Barefoot excursion. Barefoot had this small training space in the back of the café that they had still been roasting in at the time. I couldn’t believe we were allowed to train in the back of their café and observe them at work and ask questions. Their hospitality and community-feel set a new ‘bar’ level to an extraordinary. It’s something I appreciate about the relationship I’ve developed with 49th Parallel via Trabant Coffee and Mike Gregory/Tatiana Becker. 49th has been open and always willing to share as much as possible. In fact, the entire B.C. crew, Mark Prince, Colter and Barrett Jones, etc… have all provided refreshing knowledge on my treks up there. Again, back to Wanderlust and NorCal. The community is strong in the Bay Area, small and rapidly growing, but strong. The people who know it, love it and fully understand why it’s awesome. What a great concept, a community of people willing to share their information, whether you were a seasoned barista or a newb asking “Porta-what?”…


Fast Forward

Visited Seattle, Moved to Seattle, Barista Trainer at Trabant, Quit Trabant, Judge at USBC.


What an amazing USBC. I think we can all agree that the skill and talent level was ridiculously awesome. Portland was an amazing city. The Portland baristas were all so open and friendly. A thought occurred to me after my first day judging that has set my mind to a cluster-f_ck of questions and research. Is Seattle still Coffee City, and is Portland planning a mutiny to take it from beneath us? Seattle has rough competition, Vancouver, B.C. 3 hours North, and Portland, OR 3 hours South. Often in conversation with coffee folk around here, the subject is quality and community. Vivace, Victola, Vita, Stumptown, Zoka, Trabant, Herkimer, Tougo, Aster, Zeitgeist, Darte, Makeda, Neptune, Verite, Mokas, etc… We’re everywhere. The spro slingers carry a reputation to the outside world as being “Seattle Baristas.” This Coffee Mecca is crawling with over-caffeinated baristas in a city “based” on the very thing they do. But when’s the last time there was a Barista Jam in Seattle outside of trade shows? When was the last Throwdown that didn’t occur on a competition weekend? Regardless of their occurrences, it’s the motivation that is needed in the background. This community is large and weak, but not weak in capabilities. There were 4 parties at this year’s CoffeeFest Seattle. As far as I am aware, there was only a single throwdown in Seattle last year, which was at Stickman. (Which by the way Dismas, was ‘off the chain.) Where is the very “guild” that should supposedly propel this community or at least support it and why aren’t they doing anything to help? But this doesn’t fall on the shoulders of anyone. Coffee communities are an amazing thing at all levels. Everyone is willing to share their questions and knowledge, it feeds us, and it sometimes even keeps us up at nigh.  A coffee community consists of coffee professionals, consumers, farmers, roasters, importers, etc. and anyone else willing to learn or teach anything related. We are professionals set on educating the public, the pursuit of amazing coffees and the desire to push the envelope. I feel as if some of the baristas around here feel above their counterparts as opposed to the recognition that a rising tide floats all boats. There’s some taboo on the idea that this market is cut throat. It was pointed out to me that people often carry a misguided notion about some over-flooded market saturation. So why don’t we help each other? Why isn’t there a place or group of people where people gather, regardless of who they are or where they’re from, open to all, for the love of coffee and to further and promote specialty coffee? Sadly, you can’t base a community on once a week, hour long slurping sessions, but I thoroughly enjoy those. Naturally, when I found out about the projects coming from Visions, I was ecstatic and jumped on board. Visions Espresso has some plans and are currently working on putting together a training venue to be used at their SoDo  location for a plethora of things. I’m excited to se where they take it. Maybe this is the nudge we need to re-think our current ‘bar’ level. Will this help promote the expansion and development of new and current ideas. Will Seattle and Portland have to duel Nordic cup style fo the PNW coffee domain… the Ultimate Coffee Throwdown… ***Mark Prince, you ready to host this?*** If I’m correct, that would be piercing, tattoos, heels, tight jeans, PBR and an occasional tamp or portafilter flying down a hill on a fixed gear bike. How does that sound? I guess time will tell…


If you’re reading this, and understand what I’m trying to do, help me by doing something, embrace and share your knowledge and capabilities. This industry is getting more and more amazing and our  community is one of the most ethical, eco-friendly, economically intelligent, socially responsible group of people that happen to set high standards and deliver quality everyday. We’re a little crazy to a lot of people.


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One Comment on “Seattle Coffee Community, Fake or Fiction?”

  1. 04/07/2009 at 8:59 pm #

    Glad you’re here. The Seattle coffee scene does seem to have the “after the gold rush” feel. Maybe a PNW Cup modeled on the Nordic would be just the thing to bring us all together.

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