Coffee Tourism: Seattle (SCAA 2015)

Grand Slam in Seattle

*(Click on Specialty Coffee Association of America to learn more about this stellar organization.)

*(Click on Specialty Coffee Association of America to learn more about this stellar organization.)

In my quest to learn as much as I can about Specialty Coffee, I decided to attend the SCAA* 2015 in Seattle in April. My reasons were twofold:

  1. I wanted to see what types of Risk Management tools and strategies the different segments of the industry employ. That is my day job, after all and it fascinates me as much as coffee. (honest!)
  2. I figured that I would glean more education from three days at the event than I would in a year’s worth of doing what I was currently doing: ordering coffees from different roasters, reading everything I can and bugging my local baristas.

Then, when my 23 year old son told me he could take a few days off from work and make it a Father / Son trip, it was ON!

I could write four or five different blog posts about the trip and how enthralling Seattle is; how impressive the SCAA is as an organization; how the Chihuly Museum is a MUST see; the omakase to end all omakase experiences at Shiro’s sushi (trust me, go!)… but since this blog is dedicated to coffee tourism, I will limit this post to the great experiences we had outside of the SCAA.

My son's great photo taken at Vivace

My son’s great photo taken at Vivace

Having read James Freedman’s book “The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee”, I was eager to go visit a shop that he spoke so highly of: Espresso Vivace. It turned out to be a touchstone for us – one of those places that you go back to multiple times on the same trip, even though there are so many others to try. The reason? The espresso. With definite Italian notes, the only way I can describe it was to say it was “(chocolate) truffle-like”. Whereas a chocolate truffle represents the concentrated decadence of chocolate, these espressi also reflected the roast’s decadence of flavor.

A crappy photo of a ridiculously good espresso.

A crappy photo of a ridiculously good espresso.

ince I am not able to have milk with my coffee, I’m always looking to try a new milk-substitute so I don’t completely miss out on that wonderful combo. At Vivace, I had my first hemp milk macchiato. The nutty and sweet flavor was delicious.

Other stops on our journey of note were Zeitgeist, our first stop for espresso and Stumptown on Pine St for a pour-over of their single source Colombian from Narino.

After what felt like 1,000 espressi on the Expo floor, I was jouncing for a pour over...

After what felt like 1,000 espressi on the Expo floor, I was jouncing for a pour over…

 

The Grand Slam

Our best experience “outside of SCAA”, however, had to be at Analog Coffee in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Here’s what two factors comprise a Grand Slam experience for me:

  1. Great product – In this case a delicious Yirgacheffe from Herkimer Coffee in Seattle
  2. Great engagement – In this case with the owner/barista on a number of subjects from the shops origin, the owner’s philosophy and even some practical brewing tips (in this case when using a Kalita Wave).

 

If I get a great product but no engagement, that’s fine but it’s not a Grand Slam. If I get great engagement but the product is iffy, that’s neat, but disappointing. When you get both: a coffee experience that is memorable for the quality of the product AND you walk away appreciating and understanding more about specialty coffee? To me, that’s the absolute best.

And think what it says about the owners of Analog that they were that willing to be magnanimous on the week when the highest percentage of coffee geeks in the world was in their city (and probably many, like us, visiting their shop)! If there was ever a week to hide in the back until the geeks went away, it was that one!

There are SO many other spots I want to try in Seattle… looks like another trip needs to be in the works!

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