Every now and then something comes along that is so special that it immediately jumps out at you. Such is the case with the wonderful Slate Coffee Roasters of Seattle and its amazing coffee tasting flight. Slate is a coffee shop/roaster that has been going for a couple of years now and somewhere where the focus is more clearly on the coffee than anywhere else I’ve been. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the coffee tasting flight.
I’ve written about Slate as a Coffee Spot in its own right, while this Saturday Supplement is solely about a detailed description of the coffee tasting flight because I feel it deserves the attention. I’d already been forewarned by my friend Kate Beard about Slate and its amazing deconstructed espresso (more of which later), but it was the coffee tasting flight that jumped out at me, partly because it has no price attached.
Why? Because the coffee tasting flight is pretty much what you make of it and its charged accordingly. Think of it as a 45 minute, personal curated coffee tour. Want to taste the same coffee four different ways? No problem. Want to explore the differences between processing methods? You got it.
June 2019: My visit to Slate was one of my personal Coffee Spot highlights. I’m therefore deeply saddened to learn of reports of mistreatment of the staff.
You can see what my coffee tasting flight consisted of after the gallery.
For my coffee tasting flight, I put myself entirely in the hands of Kyle, my barista. In between serving other customers, Kyle took me on a journey through coffee and beyond. Perhaps because I kept him talking for so long, my actual tasting flight lasted about 90 minutes, not that I was complaining. I could have been there all day; in fact, Kyle was probably only saved by the fact that Slate closes at five o’clock, otherwise I might have been there for hours more!
We started with a pair of Brazilian single-origins, one naturally processed (coffee cherries left to dry in the sun before the flesh of the cherry is removed) and the other a pulped natural (most of the cherry is removed before drying). These were served as pour-overs to highlight the impact of the processing method. And boy, was there an impact!
Even I, with my notoriously undiscerning palate, could immediately tell the difference between the two. The pulped natural was very drinkable, a well-rounded coffee. In contrast, the natural was much brighter and fruitier, although it mellowed as it cooled. Even so, I’m not sure I’d have wanted more than one cup of it, while I could have drunk the pulped natural all day.
Kyle followed that with a deconstructed espresso. This an espresso shot (of a washed Ethiopian Guji), a glass of steamed milk and the two combined, the idea being that you can see how the different constituents impact each other. I’ll quite often have an espresso and have it again in milk to compare the taste, but I’ve never had the milk on its own as well.
The espresso itself was good, but not as punchy as I’d expected. However, it was the milk that was the real eye-opener. This came from an organic, grass-fed local herd of Jersey cows and isn’t homogenised. It was easily the best milk I’ve tasted. On its own, it was rich, creamy and intensely sweet. It was also beautifully steamed: combined with the espresso, the latte art held its pattern right to the bottom of the glass.
The milk here was still the star; normally I’d describe how the milk changes the taste of the coffee, but in this instance, it was more how the coffee changed the taste of the milk. It’s really helped change the way I think about milk and I can see it becoming more of a factor in speciality coffee over the coming years.
The final coffee part of the tasting flight was a nitro-infused, chilled pour-over. Slate has tried cold brew, but has yet to make one the staff really like. Instead, Slate brews a large pour-over (Ethiopian natural), which is left to cool, then it’s chilled and infused with nitrogen (much as beer or stout is).
It’s served from a tap into a chilled glass and is a really refreshing drink. On the plus side, it’s much more drinkable than any cold brew I’ve tried. It also compares well to the coffee-infused beers I’ve sampled. However, there’s still something about cold coffee (as opposed to coffee I’ve left to go cold) that I really don’t like and this was no exception. Once again, I’ll take my coffee hot, thanks.
The final course was what Kyle termed “dessert”: a single-origin Tanzanian chocolate, served as hot chocolate, with a spoonful of liquid chocolate on the side and with a candied orange peel, half-coated in chocolate. It was nothing short of amazing: on its own, it was zingy, not something I’ve ever experienced with chocolate before, while in milk, it was sweet, but not sickly, and incredibly smooth, although the awesome milk was clearly playing its part in that.
I thoroughly enjoyed my tasting flight and would recommend it to anyone. However, while I’ve said that Slate is more focused on coffee than anywhere else I’ve been, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it’s just for coffee geeks. One thing that came up early and came up often during my tasting flight was the fact that coffee is a hospitality industry.
At Slate, as much as the focus is on the coffee, the attention to detail on the hospitality side was also impressive, particularly in America, with its blight of counter service. At Slate, you’re offered a seat, given a glass of water and a menu and things are taken from there. The speciality coffee industry could learn a lot from that too.
|5413 6TH AVENUE • SEATTLE • WA 98107 • USA|
|Monday||07:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Slate Coffee Roasters (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 17:00||Seating||Counter, Window Bars, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 17:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 17:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||07:00 – 18:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||08:00 – 17:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||18th June 2015|
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