Sipping the sublime
By Carolyn Tamler; Photos By Jonathan Kull
Sipping the sublime--
Area coffee roasters create a fine cup o’ joe – with a conscience
Starbucks may have been the start of a great coffee roasting tradition in Seattle, but excellent coffee roasters have spread north. Today, there are at least 10 roasters in Snohomish County and five in Island County, each with a unique feature or specialty.
All of these coffee companies share a common ethic: To purchase the finest coffee beans available and to roast them to perfection. All would agree the quality of their coffees would match those of the finest roasters in the world, and all of the owners use the same word when describing their attitude toward their business: passion.
Velton's in Everett
Velton Ross carefully places a coffee dripper onto a scale and proceeds to weigh his ground single-origin coffee into its cone. He slowly pours hot water into the cone as he watches the scale. He fills his cup, sniffs the aroma and put the coffee to his lips. Ross, a seasoned-coffee maker, seems happy with the current cup and batch he roasted.
In 2011, Velton’s Coffee Roasting Company in Everett was named the “Most Influential Local Coffee Roaster,” by Seattle Weekly magazine. They proclaimed: “Velton’s small-batch roasting rocked many a barista’s world, blending hand-crafted precision with a passion for letting each coffee’s natural strengths shine through in the finished product.” Velton’s has received the highest score ever given to an espresso blend (94 for the Bonsai Blend) by Coffee Review, and the company has received many other industry accolades.
Velton’s, established in 2007, is a small, quality-oriented wholesale coffee roaster. Hidden in the Lowell Park neighborhood just south of downtown Everett, Ross roasts his coffee from different regions of Central America and Africa. He prides himself on having a passion for creating top-quality coffee that evolved from more than 20 years working his way up from barista to roaster.
He spent more than a decade, including a four-year stint in Hawaii, as a barista and managing various cafes before he started roasting in 2000. Ross’ enthusiasm and passion for coffee roasting shapes his business and the quality of what he creates.
Along with their signature blends, Velton’s offers a rotating selection of single-origin coffees, all of which are available on the website, veltonscoffee.com, or at select locations (see website for details).
Silver Cup Coffee Roasters creates One Cup.org
Silver Cup Coffee owner and founder Christian Kar established the company in Lynnwood in 1995 and has been roasting award-winning coffee ever since. Silver Cup Coffee is carefully roasted in small batches and packed by hand.
In 2010, after reading World Vision President Richard Stearns’ book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” Kar felt a calling to do something more with his business. He contacted the World Vision office in Federal Way to see how Silver Cup could help. Together they came up with a plan to leverage donations from the sales of award-winning Silver Cup Coffee with existing grant-matching partners.
The One Cup Project is what Kar terms a “more than profit” enterprise that allows consumers to become benefactors simply by purchasing coffee. One Cup donates $2 from the purchase of each bag of coffee and a matching grant funds the rest of the bag’s cost, so the entire $11 from the purchase goes to World Vision. World Vision works with children, families and their communities to fight poverty and injustice.
Participating in the One Cup Project and purchasing Silver Cup Coffee provides the customer with excellent coffee while making a contribution to a worthwhile organization. To date, The One Cup Project has generated more than $84,000 (including matching funds) to fund World Vision projects in Africa.
Silver Cup offers coffees to suit every taste, from specially formulated blends to unique single origins, all roasted to bring out the subtle flavors of each. There is always a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee if a customer is ever not totally satisfied.
To learn more about getting involved in The One Cup Project, visit the website: onecup.org
Spotted Cow in Mill Creek Town Center
The Spotted Cow is a local family-owned coffee house that roasts its beans in their shop every day. The Spotted Cow was established in 2003, but current owners John and Lisa Ware purchased the store this past June and completely remodeled it. The Spotted Cow is known in the community for its artisan-roasted coffee, handcrafted ice cream and specialty drinks. They also feature fresh pastries and scones from Mon Amie Bakery and FROST Donuts. Lunch items and light meals are offered throughout the day.
The Spotted Cow’s decor is best described as a fusion of rustic farm experience and modern life. In the northwest corner, there is a small stage where local musicians are invited to perform.
Lisa says, “Our goal at The Spotted Cow is to provide world-class coffee in a comfortable and friendly environment. We obtain the highest quality beans, while being socially and environmentally conscious.” The Wares buy organic, Fair Trade beans as often as possible.
Recently, the Wares started working with Mission Lazarus Coffee Farmers in Honduras. They buy their beans directly from Mission Lazarus, with no middleman, so that the farmers make more profit from the sales of their beans. The mission helps the children of the farmers by providing food, clothing and education. They hope to send their roast master, Josh Montoya, to visit Mission Lazarus in the coming year.
“There is a real story from bean to cup when you purchase a pound of our Honduran Roast,” John commented. “As a consumer, you can enjoy a fantastic cup of coffee, knowing that you are helping make a difference in the lives of others.”
For information about their coffees, services and ethics, visit the website: spottedcowcreamandbean.com.
Whidbey Island Coffee Roasters
Three of Whidbey Island’s coffee roasters (there’s four inall) have stories that weave together: Gary Smith provided the beginnings of the coffee world on Whidbey Island when he established the Mukilteo Coffee brand in 1983. Locals may remember his first shop on Lincoln Street in Mukilteo. Smith provided the roasts that were first used by Dan Ollis on an espresso cart that inspired Ollis to create Whidbey Coffee Company. He trained Mike Donahoe to be an artisan coffee roaster and Donahoe now owns Honeymoon Bay Coffee Company in Oak Harbor.
Mukilteo Coffee has become a major wholesaler. Under the Pacific label, they sell more coffee in Hong Kong than does Starbucks. Owners Gary and Beth Smith are proud to buy their coffee directly from the coffee farms, forming a relationship with the growers and focusing on sustainable practices. From their roasterie and café in Langley, they provide a firsthand look at what it takes to roast the coffee as well as provide a venue for organic meals and musical performances.
Whidbey Coffee has 15 drive-through locations on Whidbey Island and elsewhere in the Puget Sound and operates a quality roasting operation in Seattle under the Victrola label, which has three retail outlets in the Seattle area. Whidbey Coffee makes its own blends and specializes in distributing a variety of Whidbey brand coffees to grocers throughout the region.
Honeymoon Bay Coffee sells its roasts to many military exchanges and other businesses off the island, as well as to local retailers on Whidbey and provides a unique coffee tasting experience at its roasting facility in Oak Harbor. Mike and Katie Donahoe are artisan coffee roasters. Their roasting facility offers a unique tasting opportunity for visitors. At the Oak Harbor store, there is a boutique coffee roasterie, an espresso bar and a tasting room where customers can sample six or seven different roasts.
Taking a coffee tour
There’s no question that there are a lot of coffee roasters to tour in Snohomish and Island counties. Why not make it a two-day adventure, with a stay in Anacortes or La Conner or some other town along the way. If you are a coffee aficionado, you won’t be sorry.