Victrola Coffee Roasters is a local chain of three Seattle cafés, with this, its second outlet, doubling as both roastery (to the left) and café (centre and right). Occupying a gorgeous, spacious and bright 1920s building on the steeply-sloping East Pike Street, it’s a lovely spot, just a block away from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room. I know where I’d rather be.
Victrola has been going since 2000 and roasting since 2003. In 2007, the roastery and café opened and since then all Victrola’s coffee has been roasted here. Just as the café is a bright, airy space, so is the roastery, separated from the café by tall windows which run all the way to the back.
Victrola offers a house-blend (Streamline) on espresso, plus decaf and a single-origin which changes every month or so. There are two single-origins on pour-over, which change every few months, available through the V60. There’s also a cafetiere option, but no bulk-brew. The full range of beans are for sale from the retail shelves at the back.
There’s also a selection of soft drinks and a limited range of beer. If you’re hungry, there’s a decent selection of sandwiches, salads and cake.
I 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.
Elm Coffee Roasters is a relatively new addition to Seattle’s excellent speciality coffee scene, having only opened in December 2014 and celebrating its six month anniversary not long before my visit in the summer of last year. On 2nd Avenue in downtown Seattle, it’s very close to King Street Station, which makes it the ideal spot to start your coffee tour of Seattle if arriving by train or bus. Which I did, Seattle being the last stop of my coast-to-coast journey that had started in Portland, Maine. And I didn’t go, because I forgot to check my phone and didn’t realise how close Elm was when I got off the train! And I’m still kicking myself even now, nine months later.
It’s not just that Elm is a beautiful, large, uncluttered sun-drenched space and an amazing location for a coffee shop. It’s also a roaster, with all the coffee being roasted in the Probat at the back of the store, in plain view for all to see. In that respect, it’s like Stoked Roasters + Coffeeshop in Hood River, or, for UK readers, Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Coffee. Best of all is a coffee menu that lets you try absolutely everything!
Coffee with a conscience, community coffee, social coffee; the list goes on. The idea that a coffee shop can do more than just serve good coffee seems to be taking off, with several social enterprise coffee shops springing up, with some London’s leading society enterprises being featured in Issue 15 of Caffeine Magazine. However, while in Seattle, I was lucky enough to visit Street Bean Coffee, a pioneer in this area which first opened its doors in 2009.
Sitting in the shadow of Seattle’s futuristic Space Needle on 3rd Avenue, Street Bean doesn’t wear its heart on its sleeve. Rather than relying on pricking your conscience, Street Bean is happy to stand up on its own two feet as a coffee shop, something it does very well. Street Bean is a multi-roaster shop, quite a rare thing in the US, offering single-origins and blends on espresso, a wide range of single-origin pour-overs and the obligatory bulk-brew (yet another single-origin option).
By the time you read this, Street Bean will also have starting roasting in the space next door, with initially a 1.5 kg roaster, which will be used for training. Check its website for more on what Street Bean does.
Welcome to the third and final instalment of Brian’s Travel Spot, following my three week adventure across the United States. The first instalment, imaginatively entitled New England, covered my time on the east coast in New England: Boston, Providence and Portland, Maine, to be precise. The second instalment, Heading West, covered my journey west, by train, from Portland in Maine, to Portland in Oregon, a total of just over three days on the train, although I had a couple of stop-offs along the way. This, the final instalment, covers my week in the Pacific Northwest and my flight home.
I wrote Brian’s Travel Spot to enable you to follow my adventures as they unfolded. Unfortunately, as the trip went along, the Travel Spot got further and further behind, so now you’ll be reliving my adventures. As with the first two posts, I’ll update this post every few days, in between my normal Coffee Spot posts, the idea being to capture the highlights, with the emphasis on the travel rather than the coffees shops (although they feature too).
Milstead & Co., in Seattle’s Fremont district, is tucked away almost directly under the Aurora Bridge, which vaults far overhead across the Fremont Cut. It was recommended to me by several people, including no lesser an authority than Slate. Fortunately I was staying, completely coincidently, about a 15-minute walk away along Highway 99. Having bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t found many multi-roaster coffee shops in America (Boston’s Render Coffee being a rare exception to this rule), I suddenly seemed to be falling over them in Portland (Either/Or) and Seattle (Street Bean), with Milstead being the latest example.
Milstead & Co. offers two options on espresso (while I was there, a single-origin and a blend) and three single-origins on Aeropress (no bulk-brew filter here!). The drink types/sizes are fairly standard, although no-one was phased when I ordered a decaf cortado (which wasn’t on the menu). Like Portland’s Either/Or, Milstead rotates the coffee as and when it runs out, usually putting on two 5lb bags at a time. To give you an example, while I was there, one of two espresso options (the one I had!) ran out and was replaced by a single-origin Guatemalan that was also on the filter menu.
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.