My relationships with coffee were always pretty tight. I started drinking it when I was at school and then continued all the way through university. There is a part of me that truly believes that coffee may have been the reason I was able to navigate between classes and part-time jobs during all five years while working on my degrees. Somewhere around that time, I understood that caffeine had stopped affecting me the way it affected others and my love for coffee continued on the basis of comfort and routine. And sometimes there were weeks when I had a menu consisting of seven to nine cups of coffee a day (I guess such revelations are actually needed to explain why I decided to change my life style and how damn difficult it was). Luckily, those days are long gone and today I enjoy mostly good quality decaffeinated coffee or regular ones a few times a week.
Ironically, I changed my coffee drinking habit when I moved to Seattle. Obviously, the irony is in Seattle being the home of the very first Starbucks coffee shop in the world. There are also an excessive number of good cafes with great selections of freshly roasted and grounded coffee drinks but Starbucks is my topic today.
Particularly, I want to tell you about its Roastery and Tasting room that not every Starbucks lover knows about. While the very first store hosts hundreds of tourists every day in Pike Place Market since 1971, the Roastery is located nine blocks from it on 1124 Pike Street. It is a pretty impressive building that keeps its doors open from 7 am till 11 pm daily.
The heavy front doors do not allow the coffee aroma to escape the building and the legendary topless mermaid logo on the façade greets customers showing its double tail. Just a quick aside here, buying Starbucks for years, I knew there was a girl on their cups. I knew the girl was green and was wearing the crown. But a mermaid?! Topless?! Seriously?! Anyway, the logo was hand-carved from copper specially for the Roastery and there is no other Siren like this in the world.
The building has 9 major areas to discover:
- The Scooping Bar. Customers can taste and discuss different coffee types, and buy a fresh scoop of it to enjoy later.
- Storage Silos. These huge containers hold green coffee from all over the world waiting to be roasted.
- Micro Roaster. (PROBAT 25). This is a custom machine used to roast Starbucks Reserve coffee that is served in the Roastery. Being MICRO allows for extra control and precision.
- The Copper Cask. Manufactured here in Seattle from hand-hammered copper, this enormous cask serves as a resting stop for coffee beans after roasting. The peak flavor is achieved here before coffee beans are packaged. (An interesting fact: the cask is perforated in a way to allow light shining through it to form a world map across the Roastery floor.)
- Main Bar. The place to stop and actually enjoy a cup of the freshest brewed coffee or espresso.
- Pneumatic Transfer Tubes. In the middle of the Roastery, a custom-engineered pneumatic system holds the beans through their journey from a loading bay all the way to their final destination such as a package or a cup of coffee.
- Small-Batch Roaster. A custom PROBAT G120 roasts Starbucks Reserve coffee to be shipped worldwide. It is a great stop to ask Master roasters questions or just watch them ply their craft.
- Coffee Experience Bar. This is the place to discuss and experiment with coffee during one of the classes with a Starbucks Coffee Master or to explore on your own.
- Coffee Library Mezzanine. The room to learn about more than 200 book sources on coffee, have a meeting, or look at the roasting operation as a whole.
The journey of the beans
within the Roastery
in a quick glance looks like this:
Arriving at a loading dock (the Roastery’s north end) ⇒
bags are delivered to the green-bean staging area ⇒
the coffee is placed into the tubes (6) ⇒
the tubes deliver it to the silos (2):
a) coffee beans to be served/sold in the Roastery are hand ⇒ carted to the Micro Roaster (3);
b) coffee beans to be shipped out are loaded into tubes for delivery to the Small-Batch Roaster (7); ⇒
roasted beans are delivered to the copper cask (4) ⇒
after the rest period the roasted beans are delivered via tubes (6) to the silos (2):
a) above the main bar (5);
b) to the scooping bar (1) or
c) to be bagged for shipment around the world.
It is worth mentioning that besides the stops to discover, the Roastery has a unique interior design that includes two-sided raw steel shaped fireplace. The main bar was manufactured and handcrafted in the United States of solid teak and stone marble. It even has its own coffee plants growing on the windowsills! (The passionate gardener in me insisted on stopping and taking a couple of pictures of the plants too.)
There is, of course, a gift shop to enlarge the collection of the Starbucks cups and other souvenirs, and Serious Pie – a famous Seattle wood-fired artisanal pizza restaurant.
Honestly, I found the Roastery and Tasting Room to be a more exciting spot for the Starbucks lovers to explore than the first coffee shop. The company’s history feels very authentic here, and it is easy to be admired by its 40 years of experience with 60 countries to be found in and more than 21,000 stores to be opened since the day one. By this said, I think I am going to get a cup of freshly brewed coffee to celebrate Friday. Cheers!