Across the continent with a coffee Roaster – Seattle
Well, the above pictured map pretty much sums it up. In November of 2008 I flew down to Seattle WA to pick up my Diedrich IR12 roaster. It was a 2800 mile drive back, across some beautiful country and I had some exquisite coffees along the way.
Going to the west coast for the first time felt a bit like travelling to Mecca. I’ve read for years about Stumptown, Albina Press, and Vivace and even sampled some of their coffees but there is nothing like visiting them in person. After landing in Seattle I picked up my Penske cube van (I was told that Uhauls were a bad idea) and valiantly but nevously drove my big truck into Seattle to get my first west coast coffee. My first stop was Vivace at their newest location across from the REI store. I had sampled their Dolce and Vita espresso blends a few years back. I can’t remember which one I prefered at the time but one of the blends has a very distinctive “funk” clearly evident of Monsooned Malabar in the blend. I’ve played with MM in blends at home over the years and can see how it can be interesting in a blend but its really not my favorite.
After visiting Vivace, I managed to visit both Stumptown locations, finishing at the roastery. Luckily I was early enough to participate in their daily public cuppings. I chatted with their roaster, Wolf, about my trip and we cupped numerous coffees including a beautiful Maragoype from El Injerto in Guatemala. I loved the idea of regular cuppings involving the public. I think it is a perfect way to introduce people to experience the complexity of coffee and connect them to the whole seed to cup chain.
The next morning I met up with Leah Warren of Mercanta Coffee at Victrola Coffee. Mercanta just recently set up North American warehousing for some of their coffees. I had the pleasure of sampling some of the coffees, including a beautiful Kenyan Thangathi, before I left on my trip and I was meeting with Leah in person before picking up coffees from their Portland warehouse.
I had the pleasure of spending the rest of the day training with Chris Davidson of Atlas Coffee Importers. I first met Chris at a roasting workshop in Minneapolis at SCAA conference. At Atlas’ training facility we cupped like crazy, and roasted a bunch of coffees for single origin espresso and also played with blending. One highlight, if you could call it that, was Chris exclaiming “Hey, here’s your defect” as we cupped a Sumatran. It’s so rare to find defects in specialty grade coffee and I gleefully came over to experience rotten fruit taste myself.
I woke up the next day filled with excitment. The big day was finally here. I was off to Bremerton to pick up my roaster from Phil and his wife Leah who run Ootopia coffee roasters. They had decided to buy a bigger roaster, an IR24, for their wholesale roastery. I spent a few hours with them, hearing about thier experiences in the coffee business. It was good to get Phils perspective, especially reminding me that passion and ideals are great but in the end, it is a business and the numbers have to work in order to be sucessful. Loading the roaster into my truck was interesting to say the least. Their neighbour had a forklift to help get it into my truck and it just cleared with 3″ to spare. They handed me the awesome old school manual for my roaster and off I was for Portland, but that is another story…