Slate Coffee Roasters, Ballard

The sign from the window of Slate Coffee Roasters in Seattle: the words 'SLATE COFFEE ROASTERS', one word per lineI wrote about Slate Coffee Roasters last summer: I’d been so impressed with the amazing coffee tasting flight that I wanted to write about it there and then. So I did. Today it’s finally the turn of Slate itself, which occupies a rather unprepossessing building in Ballard, in suburban Seattle. Although from the outside it might not seem like much, it’s worth the trek, since Slate’s possibly the best coffee shop I’ve ever visited (since my visit, two more branches, Pioneer Square and University District, have opened).

It’s also a remarkably small spot. There’s a pair of tables outside, one for either window, and another table at the pavement’s edge, along with a couple of benches. Inside, there’s a pair of window-bars or you can do what I did and perch at either end of the counter on a bar stool.

The real draw is, of course, the coffee, which is all roasted in-house, and served from a pared back menu which puts the focus firmly on the coffee. There’s also a small selection of cakes and savoury snacks. Slate is all about speciality and, in everything it does, it tries to be special, from the coffee to the service.

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 read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Slate Coffee Roasters, on 6th Avenue, at this point a quiet road in northwest Seattle.
  • There are two tables out the pavement outside, one for each window.
  • There are also two benches, around a small table which is opposite the door.
  • One of the benches.
  • The right hand of the two tables outside. Hang on, what's that sign say?
  • I see... 7 am to close. But when's close?
  • Oh no! Am I too late? Thankfully not! Close is actually five o'clock (six on Friday/Saturday).
  • The view from the right-hand side of Slate.
  • There's more around the corner on the left.
  • If you can't find anywhere else to sit, there's always this bench...
  • However, I prefer these two bars stools at the left-hand end of the counter.
  • The view from the end of the counter, looking towards the window. Check out the slate floor.
  • If you like, you can sit here, at the window-bar.
  • Alternatively, there are four more stools over this side...
  • ... and there are also more bar stools at the right-hand end of the counter.
  • Obligatory lighting picture. Times two.
  • There's a little retail section in the far corner, at the back on the left.
  • Slate roasts all its own coffee, which (interestingly for the US) is sold in grams.
  • You can buy small bags (125g) or large ones (250g).
  • There are more bags of coffee behind the counter...
  • ... where you can also find Slate's impressive array of awards.
  • So, what's on offer? Espresso, of course, from the two-group La Marzocco, front & centre.
  • The view of the espresso machine from the stools at the right-hand end of the counter.
  • The single grinder is for whatever single-origin is currently on the espresso machine.
  • Everything else, including decaf, goes through the EK-43 grinder.
  • At the other end of the counter, you'll find the filter coffee with its own set of grinders.
  • Alternatively, if you sit at the left-hand end, you get this view of the espresso machine.
  • There is also nitro-infused, chilled pour-over on tap.
  • Slate has full table service. Sit down & a menu, plus a glass of water, will be brought to you.
  • I had the curated tasting flight, which included this deconstructed espresso + milk...
  • ... and this lovely single-origin Tanzanian hot chocolate.
Photo Carousel by v4.6

Slate Coffee Roasters was recommended by my friend Kate Beard, so I made it my first stop after arriving in Seattle and settling into my motel. However, as I wandered up and down hilly, suburban Seattle, I wondered if I’d come to the right place: it really didn’t seem the sort of neighbourhood that would host a world-class coffee shop. How wrong I was!

After a little hesitation, I found Slate and again did a double-take. It seemed so small, too small, in fact, to house somewhere with such a glowing reputation. Once again, I had to unthink my thoughts. Really, I should have more faith in my friend’s recommendations.

Slate really is very small though. A stand-alone, single-storey building, with a broad pavement (which is made good use of to increase the seating capacity), Slate can seat maybe 14 inside and a similar number outside in fairly cosy fashion. Essentially a rectangle, long side facing the street, it’s maybe twice as wide as it is deep. The central door is flanked by generous windows, making the interior a wonderfully bright space, particularly with its white-painted walls and ceiling, plus counter made of pale wood. The darkest thing, other than the black, plastic bar stools and black La Marzocco espresso machine, is the gorgeous, slate-tiled floor. I rarely have floor-envy, but if I could have prised up those tiles and somehow got them home with me, I would have done (although I shudder at the thought of the excess baggage charges on the plane!).

A large part of Slate is given over to the counter, which occupies the back two-thirds of the store on the right-hand side. Effectively an L, on the far right (top of the L), there are three bar-stools, while on the back left (bottom of the L) there are two more. The ones on the right give a birds-eye view of the filter coffee being made, while the ones on the left provide behind-the-scenes access to the espresso machine which is directly opposite the door. There’s a low bench against the left-hand wall, but the majority of the seating is provided by the two window-bars, although you’ll have your back to the counter if you sit here.

Walking in, I looked in vain for a menu, but there isn’t one, since Slate offers full table service. As much as I’m a fan, it’s a little incongruous in somewhere so small. However, it was a day of overcoming my preconceptions and I soon recovered from my shock!

Slate really is all about the coffee. There’s a single-origin on espresso, which changes every day or so, depending on the barista’s mood and how it’s tasting. If you ask nicely, Slate can pull a shot of anything (including decaf) that’s in stock using the EK-43. There’s also pour-over (again, using whatever’s in stock) and a nitro-infused, chilled pour-over.

Once you’ve gotten over your shock and taken a seat (I fear I must have looked very bemused), you’re given a glass of water and handed the menu. This offers all sorts of goodies and while I indulged myself in the Tasting Flight (which you can read all about the post I devoted to it), if you just want a coffee, then Slate will happily do that for you too.

5413 6TH AVENUE • SEATTLE • WA 98107 • USA +1 206-701-4238
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, Savouries
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 Local Visits 18th June 2015

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5 thoughts on “Slate Coffee Roasters, Ballard

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