• Roaster Spotlight: Velton's Coffee Roasting Company—The Interview

    As noted last week, we had the great opportunity to sit down with Velton of Velton's Coffee Roasting Company to chat about roasting and coffee in general! Check out the full text of the interview below, or the video version above!

    Full Interview

    Seattle Coffee Gear: We’re here with Velton from Velton’s Coffee Roasting, how’s it going today sir?

    Velton: It’s good!

    SCG: Awesome, so you were kind enough to sit down with us and go through some questions about your process and about Velton’s! So my first question is what led you to get into roasting the first place

    Velton: I’d been in coffee quite a while, I’d been a barista for 10, 11 years or so, and where I was working at the time, I was managing Bauhaus Books and Coffee down on Capitol Hill in Seattle. They had opened Top Pot, and when they opened the second Top Pot they decided to get into roasting. They had enough of their own accounts at that point. I had told them a few years prior that if they did get into roasting that that was the next step that I wanted to take in coffee, and that I was very curious about it. To their credit when they opened the second Top Pot and put the roastery in they made me the head roaster. I didn’t know what I was doing for a while but we figured it out! That was around 2001.


    SCG: That’s a common theme I’ve heard. I know people who I work with and friends who are amateur roasters, everyone who really wants to get into roasting, but nobody really knows what they’re doing when they get started because it’s a complicated thing!

    Velton: It’s complicated and one roaster can supply a lot of coffee shops, so there just aren’t as many positions in roasteries as there are in coffee shops.

    SCG: Exactly. So in terms of how you run Velton’s, what do you look for when you’re purchasing green coffee?

    Velton: So we’ve got a few blends, we have to make sure we can maintain those. So there’s that. Then we always have about 8 different single origin offerings at a time. We try to keep a well-rounded offering of those. Some that are more approachable for folks, some that we feel will work well as espresso, some that are a little more wild that might still work for espresso but aren’t for everyone. So when we’re running low on some of those I’m trying to replace them with something similar. And always, of course, coffee is agricultural. So there’s different harvest seasons around the globe, so we’re always trying to buy what’s in season, as much as possible.

    SCG: So on that note, having some variety is maybe more important to you than specializing in a specific roast type, level, or origin?

    Velton: Definitely. I’m trying to have a little something for everyone. We always want to have a couple that are a little more wild, maybe bright. We also want something that’s very approachable, just nice filter cups of coffee. Something that, there’s a lot of coffees that taste great on a cupping table, but you might not want to drink a full pot of it. So we want one of those for someone if that’s what they’re looking for. So yea, variety is the goal.

    SCG: Do you have, regardless of whether you’re selecting coffee to roast, a process that you find, whether it’s washed, natural, or honey, that’s your favorite?

    Velton: It’s probably washed, that’s generally going to be my favorite, but there are exceptions to that. I definitely really enjoy naturals, and I think natural processing has gotten so much better. I like naturals a lot as espresso. As filter I might like four to six ounces, but it’s rare that I’m going to sit down and drink a pot of a natural. Again there have been exceptions, there have been outstanding ones that have come along.

    SCG: We kind of talk about the notion that the first time you have a natural your response is “how does anyone drink anything other than this? This is incredible!” Then you drink a hundred naturals and think “well that washed was really good though, maybe I do like the balance, and I do like that it’s a little bit easier to drink multiple cups.” Then eventually you hit a point where you think “well they’re both great, different times for different coffee.”

    Velton: I feel like that’s where I’m at. I like them all, as long as they do it well and the green was great to begin with, yea.

    SCG: Do you have any tips for ways to help develop your palate? That’s a question we get a lot.

    Velton: I think being conscious while you’re tasting the coffee. Even if you like cream and sugar, get in the habit of taking a few sips while it’s black. Let it cool a little bit, you’ll start to get more flavor as it cools. I think if you’re conscious about it while you’re drinking the coffee, and what you’re tasting. And it’s fine to cheat and look at the bag and see what they’re telling you you should be tasting. Then you just slowly build a vocabulary in your head that your palate starts to tie into.

    SCG: Do you have a favorite brew method for coffee?

    Velton: I would say my very favorite is pourover. I just feel like I get the clearest description of the coffee that way. But I totally love espresso. So my go-to is pourover when I really want to learn about a coffee, but I do love to see what it’ll do as espresso as well. It’s hard for me to find an espresso I don’t like.

    SCG: That’s generally how we approach coffee in house too, and how we recommend it to people. If there’s a really complex roast we always recommend it as a pourover because it’s the only way you’re going to get everything out of it.

    Velton: Yea, and usually the flavor descriptors are designed for that.

    SCG: Do you have any tips for somebody who maybe is an amateur roaster trying to turn it into a business?

    Velton: Definitely just keep tasting your roasts all the time. Try to trust your palate. If it’s your roastery, there’s so many ways you can roast a coffee and have it turn out well, but make sure you like what you’re doing and you’re not trying to roast just for your customers.

    SCG: This is one of my favorite questions. I don’t know how valuable it is, but it’s really interesting to me so I always ask it. Do you find that your environment has shaped the way that you roast? Or do you think that as a roasting culture develops it tends to guide the culture in coffee shops in a region.

    Velton: A little bit of both. I think they feed off each other. I’m not really sure.

    SCG: It’s a tough question, we’ve talked about it with folks in the past and I notice, being from the Midwest, from Detroit, the culture in coffee shops there is vastly different than what we find in the Pacific Northwest. While I haven’t spent a lot of time in coffee shops on the East Coast I know in New York it’s a very different vibe with roasters and with shops. I wonder how much local culture is influencing that, or if when you get into the specific parts of coffee culture there’s influence from roasters touching local coffee shops.

    Velton: I think in the Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest, we’ve had a pretty ingrained coffee culture. Maybe to a degree longer or greater than most elsewhere, but it was more dark roast oriented for a long time. A lot of the roasters that popped up over time have kind of modeled themselves that way and it’s taken a little longer. But I don’t feel it’s that way anymore. We have enough of a third-wave coffee culture in Seattle that the roasters that pop up now don’t feel like they’ve got to feed into the dark roast culture if they don’t want to. So it’s changing. It took us a little longer to change here maybe than elsewhere.

    SCG: That makes a lot of sense. This is probably a question that ties in with what you were saying about offering something for everybody. Do you ever find yourself chasing something with your roasts? Or do you generally let the coffee speak for itself and let it inform the way that you’re roasting?

    Velton: Again both. It’s kind of a two-way street where I have ideas up front about what I think this coffee will taste like so I roast based on that. Then I'll taste it and maybe take it in a different direction based on what I’m tasting. I definitely influence the coffee based on my expectations but then the taste will influence how I roast it right back. So they work together.

    SCG: My last question, and this is a hard question to answer, but do you have a favorite roast that you’ve done before?

    Velton: Favorite roast? No [laughs]. Every year there’s a couple of coffees that stand out to me. Sometimes they were ones that I didn’t expect them to be. More often than not if we buy a $30/lb geisha, and they’re hard to move so we don’t often to that, but quite often it’ll be the best coffee we’ve had for the year. Then other times you’ll get a $3/lb Peru that just blew everybody’s doors off. It was just so well balanced and had a little bit of everything going on. So every year we get a couple that stand out, but I wouldn’t say there’s one over the last ten years that’s the one.

    SCG: That’s a great answer! I appreciate your time!

    Velton: Thanks!

  • Roaster Profile: Velton's Coffee Roasting Company

    Velton's Coffee was one of Seattle Coffee Gear's first roasting partners. In light of this, we couldn't wait to sit down with them for another edition of our Roaster Profile series. This week we'll look at the history of Velton's roasting, with an interview with Velton himself to follow next week!

    Pacific Northwest Born and Raised

    Velton's Roasting is owned and operated by Velton himself in Everett, Washington. This industrious roaster starting working in coffee in Seattle Washington in 1989. Velton quickly developed a passion and desire to learn about everything coffee, from cupping to running a bar, and eventually to roasting.

    Since getting into the industry, Velton has been able to explore roles in coffee from the Pacific Northwest to Hawaii. Eventually, he found himself going from a desire to learn about roasting to making it a profession.

    Velton's Coffee Roasting Company

    Velton's philosophy is to try to offer a range of coffee rather than get tunnel vision on a specific roast level or origin. This results in a rich array of roasts that will sure please any coffee drinker. Between light, sweet single origins and darks singles and blends, Velton really does have a coffee for everyone.

    We love Velton because we're able to get candid, down to earth answers to questions without needing to read between lines. This openness and friendly style of communication makes it easy to enjoy partnering with this experienced, ever evolving roaster. Check out our range of Velton's roasts in our catalog, and check back next week for our full interview with the man himself!

  • Roaster Spotlight: Elm Coffee Roasters — Part 2

    As we teased last week, we recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brendan Mullally, founder of Elm Coffee Roasters, to chat about coffee, roasting, and running a business. We already provided a rundown of Elm last week, so without further adieu, check it out!

    What led you to roasting?

    I worked in coffee for about ten years before I started Elm, and I had no roasting experience! It was all front house management, training, all that kind of stuff. As to why, honestly it was just the flexibility in choosing what we want to serve. I did a lot of multi-roaster shops while I was managing, and it was never consistently what I wanted from coffee. The ability to determine what we serve was a huge part of it, ethical sourcing was a huge part of it, paying good prices was a huge part of it. I've worked in coffee since I was about 14 in Seattle, then Santa Fe, then New York. I had no roasting experience when I decided to open up a roaster! I hired someone to help.

    You talked a little about ethical sourcing, that’s important to us when determining roasting partners. Do you have a core philosophy surrounding this?

    I wouldn’t say it’s a philosophy, but more of a practical approach, which is work with importers I know are paying good prices, not just to the producers but to the pickers as well. There’s only a few, I would say. You know, asking for the information on the prices the pay to the producer, not everyone will do that, but some will. Some will give it to you in a price that doesn’t make sense, so being able to ask them to make that make sense to you is important.

    Would you say that getting into roasting shifted your view of the countries you source from, or the other way around, that you chose those countries based on your understanding of them?

    I would say the former. When I was just buying roasted coffee I, for one thing I don’t think my palate was as developed. After we started roasting coffee, if anything for logistics, we’ve narrowed our focus to Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Honduras, simply because if there’s more transparency in those places the price to quality ratio is a lot higher.

    I ask because it’s interesting how the politics of different regions affect the ability to purchase from them. When we write about regions, the instinct could be to avoid conversations on transparency and politics, but it’s also kind of impossible.

    I agree, and transparency is not something that just happens. Even though we try to do that, sometimes it’s not successful. That has a lot to do with politics.

    Everything else aside, when you look at quality of beans, what do you look for?

    First is nothing wrong with it. That’s the thing I learned first. 99.8% of coffees you can cut out immediately because they're agey, or fermenty, all sorts of things can go wrong with coffee. After that, something that’s a little more fruit forward with interesting characteristics. Sweet, clean, then we roast it to highlight the fruit. We’re pretty light, but I wouldn’t say we’re on the super light end of the spectrum. We try to have acidity and balance. That was the weirdest thing, picking coffee that’s clean was the weirdest and hardest part.

    What do you think was hardest when it comes to the business or art of roasting coffee?

    I would say from the business side, just getting started. I had no business experience. I wrote a business plan and showed it to a friend who who’s an entrepreneur and he said it was terrible, so I had to tear it up and write another 60 page plan. I learned how to make projections, all that stuff. I asked 15 different institutions for financing, it just took a long time. It took 2 years to open.

    On the roasting side, learning to cup well took a while. Especially sample roasts. I thought I had a pretty good palate when I was doing barista training, but, mine’s not even that great, our roaster John has a great palate. It’s just something you have to keep doing constantly.

    The last part was people management, that was hard to learn.

    What do you think the biggest ongoing challenge is?

    Well distinguishing yourself. There’s a lot of roasters these days. Roasting well, light roasting coffee is very hard. The window is extremely small, if it’s too light its sour and vegetal. We don’t particularly like roasty flavors in our coffee, so we don’t like to go that far. If anything we’ll edge a little more roasty if we can’t find that sweet spot.

    But otherwise, inventory control is hard, can’t buy too much, can’t buy too little. If we buy too little, prices go up, if we buy too much it gets agey.

    Was your initial setup similar to what you have now?

    This is what we had when we started! I hired my friend to help start the roasting program. He helped set up everything, taught me how to roast, everything.

    Do you have a favorite roast that you’ve done?

    That’s hard to say. I would say now, maybe just because we have it, I would say the Ethiopia Worka Sakaro is probably the nicest Ethiopian coffee we’ve bought in a long time. It’s extremely good. It’s really floral and fruity but not too bright, a big body.

    What would be your biggest piece of advice for amateur roasters looking to go pro?

    Man, hmm, know your market. Who you’re selling to. Don’t roast too light, don’t underdevelop the coffee. Have fun. It’s going to be really hard, but have fun. Harder than you think it’ll be, times 1000, but have fun. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

  • Roast of the Month: Bluebeard Coffee Roasters — Santa Maria Yucuhiti


    This month's roast of the month is a delicious single origin from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters: Santa Maria Yucuhiti!

    This Mexican single origin features some enticing flavor notes, and definitely doesn't disappoint. We loved the rich and creamy taste of caramel and chocolate with the sweetness of blood orange. This washed process roast is also smooth enough to enjoy as a daily drinker, so consider grabbing a couple of bags more than you might for other single origins.

    As with many lighter single origins, the best way to enjoy this roast is as a pourover. This will allow you to get the most out of the coffee's more complex notes. It also helps control acidity, so that the flavors aren't overwhelmed with "coffee" taste. We think you might just love this roast enough to want a whole pot pourover to yourself! So check out Bluebeard's Santa Maria Yucuhiti here today! We're pretty sure it's a coffee you'll love!

  • Roaster Spotlight: Elm Coffee Roasters — Part 1

    Here at Seattle Coffee Gear we love to get to know the roasters that we partner with. It's real, genuine connections that fuel the coffee industry. We had the fantastic opportunity to sit down with Elm Coffee Roasters' owner and founder, Brendan Mullally, to talk all things coffee. We're excited to bring that to you next week. In the meantime we wanted to provide a bit of background for those who aren't familiar with this incredible roaster!

    Seattle Born and Raised

    After years of experience in the coffee industry in New York City, Brendan decided to move back home to found Elm. The cafe and roastery opened in 2013 in the heart of Seattle's Pioneer Square with a focus on providing great coffee in a great environment. In our opinion, they do just that. Elm specializes in light, delicate roasts packed with complex flavor. Between their desire to present interesting, drinkable coffee and their concern for ethical sourcing, we find it easy to recommend Elm's product.

    Of particular note is the atmosphere in the café. High ceilings, lively music, and a bustle of activity inside and out define the feel of a morning at Elm. Brendan explained to us that they're using the same equipment and space that they've been using since 2013, and the command that staff have over the machines is evident. From tasty, beautiful lattes to carefully crafted pourover, we can't recommend a stop by this café enough.

    None of this would matter, of course, if the coffee wasn't excellent.

    Light Roasts and Complex Notes

    One of the reasons we love Elm so much is because of their clear focus. Rather than try to check every box, this is a roaster that works to perfect a specific kind of roasting. They do this with coffee from specific places. They focus on coffee from Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Honduras. These are countries that they've had the best success sourcing from at the right price. It also gives them the ability to dial in great roasts from each region year after year.

    As of the time of this writing, Elm's offer is 5 roasts. Two Ethiopias, two Colombians (one a decaf) and one seasonal blend. With some roasters, this would indicate a lack of availability. In Elm's case, it's because each roast is so very good.

    Of particular note this year is their Ethiopia Worka Sakaro.  We loved it so much that we featured it as our coffee of the month for July. This roast's notes of black tea, jasmine and lemon are all distinct and noticeable. This is a running theme with Elm's roasts, and it makes them a great roaster to work on your palate with.

    We're very excited to continue to work with Elm Coffee Roasters, and we hope you'll be happy to try them. Check out our selection of Elm roasts on our site here, and stay tuned next week for our full interview with Brendan.

  • Roast of the month: Elm Coffee Roasters—Ethiopia Worka Sakaro

    Delicate and Delightful

    This month's Roast of the Month is Elm Coffee Roasting's fantastic Ethiopia Worka Sakaro!

    An extremely delicate roast, this single origin offers an incredible combination of flavors that
    are exciting and interesting every time you brew. Upon opening a bag of Ethiopia Worka Sakaro you'll be met with aromas of vanilla, smooth coffee, and flowers. It's inviting and delicious even before and during brewing.

    The intensity of the floral and vanilla notes in this roast are striking for a washed coffee. An incredibly bright and delicate mix of flavors comes together across the palate to delight. The vanilla is smooth and direct, with floral notes hitting around the edges of the palate. All of this combines with a rich coffee flavor that is strong for a light roast. Because of this, Ethiopia Worka Sakaro is a great every day roast.

    While we love the flavors and aromas of this roast, like many other delicate and floral coffees we do strongly recommend brewing it as a pourover. We also recommend you pick up a couple of bags of this one! Since this roast is a single origin, it likely won't last forever!

    Grab a bag of Elm's Ethiopia Worka Sakaro here today!


  • Roast of the Month: Toby's Estate—Colombia Aidé Garro

    This month we're featuring an exciting, complex, and surprising single origin from Toby's Estate: Colombia Aidé Garro.

    Fruity Delight

    This delicious roast comes by way of it's namesake, producer Aidé Garro. The beans were grown in San Carlos, Urrao, Antioquia at an elevation of 200 meters. These beans are of the Caturra Chiroso variety and were wet-processed.

    One of the joys of this roast is how much of the original bean comes through. It's fruitiness is a clear remnant of the cherry surrounding the bean on the plant, but without the fermented taste of a natural. Specific notes of watermelon, cherry, and lime, as noted by Toby's, are present. These combine to create a delicious overall flavor with a buttery smooth mouthfeel.

    Easy Drinking Complexity

    Because this roast doesn't have the strong flavor of a natural, it means that it's easy to drink. We find this roast as an excellent way to get into more complex coffees because of this. This roast is best enjoyed as a pourover to pull the most delicate notes from the coffee. While you can brew it in a drip brewer, we do recommend against a press, as this coffee was specifically designed for drip methods.

    Get your own bag of Toby's Estate—Colombia Aidé Garro here today!


  • Olympia Coffee's Fair For All Program: An Interview with Honor Forte

    Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. has long been a Seattle Coffee Gear favorite amongst the roasters featured on our website and in our subscription service, supplying our customers with dynamic single-origin offerings and fantastic blends. Beyond just their delicious coffee, the company has challenged themselves to provide the best working conditions and wages possible to all people involved in the creation of their product through a new program called Fair For All.

    We met with Olympia Coffee's Director of Sales, Honor Forte, to chat more about Fair For All and how it will affect those involved in the farming and processing of their coffees, as well as what customers can expect with the implementation of the program!

    Thanks for sitting down today, Honor. Can you share what you do for Olympia Coffee Roasters?

    I am Director of Sales for the company, so I help any of our wholesale partners. Anybody that’s not our coffee shops that serves our coffee, I help them through onboarding and getting connected with training. I do consulting to help people build their bars efficiently, using the experience from our own four coffee shops—soon to be five. I do outside sales. So, finding new clients and directing inquiries to become partners. And I also do daily marketing. Not so much our big marketing plans, but I do our Instagram posts or interact with magazines or publications that maybe need photos of us or whatever else.

    I studied photography and printmaking—that’s what my degree is in. I just love photography and want to do that, so I basically do that because I love talking about the brand of Olympia Coffee and I love taking photos. It puts a creative element into my daily life, which I like.

    So, you went to school for Photography and Printmaking. Where did coffee come in to play?

    I sort of got recruited for a coffee shop job. I knew the person who was hiring baristas. This was 2008, and I just had a normal coffee job. I liked it. It was fun. But it wasn’t a career path or anything like that. I don’t think I had a career path or plan or anything at that point. (laughs)

    I went to Philadelphia after going to school in West Virginia and started working at a place called Ultimo Coffee that served Counter Culture at the time. I learned a lot really fast and realized I wanted to work for a roaster, someone that was sourcing green coffee in a Direct Trade model. That was really appealing to me. At the time I thought, “Direct Trade is the name of the game in coffee right now. Who’s doing it?” That brought me to a point where I became aware of Olympia Coffee and what sort of things they were trying to pioneer in Direct Trade.

    When I was looking at where I wanted to go work, Olympia had just been bought by two of its employees—Sam and Oliver, the owners. They were moving towards a 100% Direct Trade model. Their goal was to get to a place where every single coffee they sourced was Direct Trade. They were in a small, appealing town. They had a lot of things going for them. I also really liked that it was baristas who bought the company, managed by people who came from the bottom of the company, up.

    I moved out to Olympia in 2011 and started as a barista, moved into delivery driving and sales, and now I’m Director of Sales seven years later.

    You talked about Direct Trade. Olympia is introducing a Direct Trade requirement called “Fair For All.” What exactly is that, especially for those who may just think of it as Fair Trade?

    That’s one of the first things we talked about: is this just going to evoke images of Fair Trade? We think the answer to that is yes, and that’s good. Customers are so familiar with it and think so highly of it, we think it’s okay for people to think about that.

    Let’s talk about Direct Trade. It’s this awesome thing that happened in the industry as we moved away from this idea of working with huge co-ops and having coffees blended together. Fair Trade was a response to unfair values, slave labor, and people being taken advantage of at farm levels. But Fair Trade has always been limited to co-ops, big groups of people, and also has set values. There aren’t necessarily scales that depend on how high the quality of the coffee is.

    Direct Trade is a response to that. It’s awesome. What Olympia Coffee has been doing for the last seven years is building relationships to create new coffees at the farm level and pay prices appropriate to the quality level of that coffee. That’s resulted in us paying more that double Fair Trade prices to all of our coffee farmers. We crossed a point in 2016 where one hundred percent of our coffees, including our decaf, were Direct Trade. That’s where every single coffee in our lineup is built from the ground up, with the coffee farmer, paid at more than double Fair Trade price, and with continued partnerships existing around those coffees. We return year after year to build new coffees or new systems in place to make that relationship better with the farmer.

    If you would’ve asked me two years ago—this is the dream. You know people aren’t being taken advantage of and farmers have an opportunity to grow a better quality of life through working with our company. They have incentives to want to increase the quality of their coffee to make more money.

    Oliver, our green coffee buyer, started to see a breakdown into who was still left out of this story. That’s what Fair For All answers. Fair For All is our commitment to work not just with coffee farmers, but also with laborers. This includes coffee pickers, coffee processors—any hand that has a role in creating one of our products. We want to make sure that those people are making sustainable wages.

    A really easy to understand example is that a Geisha can go for more than $50 per pound as opposed to a more traditional coffee at $2-4 per pound. But the people who actually picked that Geisha varietal might be making a less than sustainable wage at the farm. So, we’ve always incentivized farmers, farm owners, and co-ops wards to create higher quality coffee. But we’ve really left a whole group of people out of the story as an industry. So Fair For All is us creating written and verbal agreements depending on the culture and the location where we say we aren’t going to purchase coffees where people were taken advantage of in any part of the creation of that product.

    How is the quality control maintained when these farms are all over the world?

    We’ve already visited our coffee farmers for years. Since 2016, one of our standards of Direct Trade is that we visit each of our farmers at least once a year. So we’re already aware and in contact with those farmers. We will now guarantee a sustainable minimum wage to all laborers involved in the production of our coffees (pickers, processors, and farm workers), set seasonally with the farm owner or cooperative board.

    The thing that makes this possible, I think, is a lot of our exporting partners—people like Caravela in Colombia—are on the ground there to uphold the things we are requiring. They’re the ones that are there all year round saying, “Olympia Coffee wants to pay this amount of money if the people you hire are paid this amount. Can you agree to that?” They are basically upholding our vision.

    It takes a lot of infrastructure worldwide to be able to do these things. But we’re at a point now where we know all of our partners, and the seven countries we work in regularly (nine we’ve worked in during the last year), have these processes in place to ensure these systems move forward. We can say a coffee is Fair For All and know that is true.

    The other thing that I haven’t said is that we will only work with farmers who provide safe working conditions free of unnecessary danger, oppression, and violence and with access to clean water and healthy food.

    How has it been received by the people you’re working with?

    A thing worth clarifying is that we started this essentially last year. We didn’t have the term Fair For All nor did we know how to communicate it with the public, but we’re already in the middle of releasing a lot of coffees that are Fair For All. They already meet these standards because these things have already been in place. Especially in places like Colombia where there is a ton of infrastructure and traceability. It’s just a matter of really communicating our goals and what we’re looking for in places like Kenya or Ethiopia, where we are working with really big groups of people and co-ops. They are a little bit harder to trace what’s happening and I’m guessing that Kenya and Ethiopia will be some of the last coffees to go Fair For All in our program since we’re not working with as many small, individual farms. I think it’s going to be more complicated than it is “hard.” People aren’t responding badly to it, because once again we pay more than double the Fair Trade price for our cheapest coffees.

    We’re interested in really incentivizing these things so that no one feels like they are being taken advantage of. It’s not just another regulation. We want to pay appropriately for these coffees.

    I feel like I’m constantly seeing Olympia Coffee being recognized in different publications. You guys were just on National Geographic’s website, you’ve been all over Sprudge. It really shows that all of the effort that you guys are putting in to your programs is worthwhile, but that’s been happening for years. I guess a question that I have is why? Why add this next step, especially as you guys continue to scale larger? What drives you to want integrate a program like this that could be seen as more challenging?

    That’s a great question. You know—we always view ourselves as a quality of life company. Anytime we’re asking “Should we do this? Should we do that?” in any sort of planning meetings, we’re always talking about quality of life for farmers, staff, and customers. I’ve found it to be true that Olympia Coffee’s ownership, management, sales team, anyone onboard really—the decisions we make to exist the way we do come down to better quality of life for all people involved. So I really think that this is just another way that we can move forward in improving the quality of life for more people with our products. And that’s really cool to me.

    Beyond the official word, honestly I think Oliver and Sam (the owners of Olympia Coffee) really just want to create a better world and want to look at their company and know that they are making decisions that are really good for the people around them. We are ultimately a corporation that exists to thrive. We have to make money. We’re a business. But all wrapped up in that is the desire to really benefit the people that we work with.

    I’m convinced of that more and more. I’ve been with Olympia Coffee for almost seven years. The whole time I’ve been there, when I see Oliver and Sam presented with questions about where Olympia should invest itself to better specific things at the farm level, I’m always really proud of the decision that are made. Even if it costs us more. Even if it costs us profits. All I can say is that I really think they want their company to be something they’re proud of.

    Totally. What kind of changes will customers see? Will prices increase?

    They are going to see labels on our bags that say “Fair For All” instead of Direct Trade. We’ve decided to move away from using the phrase “Direct Trade” just to simplify it and give people one thing that they can trust and know exactly what it means. Fair For All encapsulates everything that we want to be. Our goal is that every single coffee that we offer will fall under the Fair For All program.

    I don’t think prices are going to increase. This is really a system of verifying what has already been happening at a lot of our coffee farms versus adding a new price level. What you’re going to have as a customer is more traceability and clarity on what you’re buying rather than a higher price.

    Right on. What exciting coffees are coming down the pipeline that people can expect to see soon?

    Our very first Fair For All coffee was roasted on January 22nd. That coffee is called Colombia Aldemar Rodriguez. It is a micro lot from a single producer in Colombia. It’s very traceable already, so we’re able to have it meet our Fair For All standards because we know this person. Aldemar has created coffee specifically for Olympia Coffee and his micro lot is fully traceable by Caravela in Colombia. After that you’re going to see a string of several micro lots in Colombia that all meet our Fair For All standards and are labeled as such. All of them from single producers. All of them scoring more than 90 points on Coffee Review.

    Beyond that our Colombia San Sebastian Resereva, which is a product we have about 80% of the year, is also meeting Fair For All standards but is not labeled as such yet—because it’s brand new. And then slowly throughout the year, we are going to add that to all of the coffees we can verify. Hopefully within the year you’ll see it in the entirety of our line.

    Burundis are here too and are also Fair For All from Long Miles Coffee Project. You might see those in coffee competitions through out the year as people often compete with our Burundis.

    Any other exciting things we should be keeping an eye out for?

    We have the two shops opening! We just opened our West Seattle location. Our Proctor location in Tacoma should also be opening within the first half of 2018. More info on that on our social media!

    Thanks for sitting down with us Honor!

    Purchase coffee from Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. here!

  • 12 Days of Coffee: Ruby Coffee Roasters - Cheers Holiday Blend


    Ah the holidays - a time of merriment and glee! Everything feels a bit more sentimental - meals with friends and family, drives through your old hometown, Christmas movies from your childhood. Tidings of comfort and joy abound! With all this good vibes coloring the season - you need a beverage to match! Look no further than Ruby Coffee Roaster's Cheers Holiday Blend. It's the perfect seasonal offering to fill your mug with and clink to a healthy and prosperous 2018!

    We're excited to spend twelve days of the month highlighting delicious coffees coming from roasters near and far. All of which are available in the holiday blends section of our website! Reach for a mug and pour yourself a little holiday cheer with your coffee!

    Ruby Coffee Roasters:
    Cheers Holiday Blend

    A little background on the blend from the Ruby team...

    We look forward to working on Cheers every year and the fourth time around was no different. This year we decided to start with a microlot from Finca de Dios in Fraijanes, Guatemala, which has a nice cakey sweetness and some soft fruits that fit right into our vision. We paired that with Kenya Gachatha and Ethiopia Yabitu Koba to add some wineiness to the cup and take the roast just deep enough to coax out some spice notes. We’ve been brewing it on the Kalita Wave with 32g ground medium-coarse, 500g filtered water, lasting 3:30-4:00. It also makes a seriously decadent French press. Try a 1:16.5 ratio (grounds to water), steeped with very little turbulence for 10+ minutes and make sure to skim the brown muck from the top after breaking the crust. Enjoy with cherished family and friends. Cheers!

    "Holiday Light"-ning Q+A Round answered by their crew...

    What is your favorite holiday scent? The smell of Cheers in a favorite mug (lame answer, we know)
    What is your favorite Christmas movie? Jingle All The Way with Arnold Schwarzenegger
    What are your favorite winter activities? Skiing: cross-country, downhill
    White lights or colored? Colorful Coffees demand colorful lights! (but only the non-led type)
    Gift-wrap or gift bags? Wrap, obviously.
    Bows or curly ribbon? Curly ribbons if moms are the ones wrapping.
    Steady lights or twinkling? Twinkling, as long as they’re not flashing. A gentle twinkle is magic.
    Angel or star tree-topper? Classic star. No questions.
    Real tree or artificial? Only real trees in rural Wisconsin. Cut ‘em ourselves then burn in February.
    Long needles or short? Whichever is less prickly.

    Ruby Coffee Roasters big plans for 2018...

    Plenty of tasty coffee! We’ll be continuing to work with many of the same talented and dedicated producers that we worked with this year and in years past. We’re particularly excited for the coffees we have arriving very soon from Burundi--some of the most remarkable and intriguing lots we’ve tasted!

    We’re also working on a website redesign, which will create a nicer experience and add functionality that’ll help us serve our customers better.

    Click here to buy Ruby Coffee Roaster's Cheers Holiday Blend! 

  • Spotted Cow's Hello September Open House

    IMG_7035 Photography courtesy of Landon Montoya

    There’s just something about the shift from August to September. The sun sets a bit earlier, the mornings are a little cooler, and kids are headed back to school. Whispers of the impending arrival of pumpkin spice echo from café to café. Coffee just tastes a bit more pleasant. What better way to usher in the changing season than by having a party? Seattle Coffee Gear happily joined Spotted Cow Coffee Company for their Hello September Open House this past weekend alongside local gelato purveyor Gelatiamo. The event offered exclusive coffee tastings, special beverages, raffle prizes, delicious nitro cold brew, and even free hot dogs!

    Joining the Bustle

    The Spotted Cow is positioned perfectly at the northernmost end of the Mill Creek Town Center, where a collection of diverse shops meets residential homes and apartments. Here locals congregate each Saturday for a boost of caffeine amidst the smell of freshly roasted beans and a flurry of conversation. The café and roastery has been a hub for community throughout its history, and owners Brian Parker and Rachelle Gehrig wanted to celebrate all that their shop has to offer.

    Seattle Coffee Gear has proudly carried a collection of coffees from Spotted Cow since 2015,

    Photography courtesy of Landon Montoya Photography courtesy of Landon Montoya

    and we surely weren’t going to miss out on the opportunity to participate with this special happening.

    Equipped with the Chemex coffee makers, Bonavita Gooseneck Kettles, and paper filters in hand – our SCG team set up a tasting station for patrons to enjoy while waiting for their beverages to arrive. Tyler Marshall, customer service specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear, prepared two of Spotted Cow’s newest offerings – Ethiopia Misty Valley Blend and Panama Finca San Sebastián.

    By sharing these new varieties, many customers were able to experience flavor profiles they hadn’t before. The notes were so robust it caused one customer to proclaim in surprise, “Oh my god – this coffee DOES taste like blueberries.”

    A Bit More About These Coffees

    Photography courtesy of Landon Montoya Photography courtesy of Landon Montoya

    Misty Valley Blend – Sourced from Ethiopia’s Misty Valley, this coffee is grown at 1,750 – 1,950 meters by various smallholder producers in the Yirhacheffe region and processed naturally. Boasting notes of melon, blueberry, and milk chocolate Misty Valley is an excellent example of offerings from Southern Ethiopia’s Gedeo Zone.

    Panama Finca San Sebastián – Credited with producing some of the best coffee in the world, Panamanian offerings are always exciting to come by. Grown in the Boquette volcanic region and fully washed, Panama Finca San Sebastián pops with flavors of Meyer Lemon and stone fruit. Deliciously well rounded, it’s a classic cup of coffee.

    Seattle Coffee Gear’s Chemex Recipe

    Coffee: 40g
    Water: 600g at 202 degrees Fahrenheit
    Bloom: 60g water for 1 minute
    Brew Length: 4 minutes

    Musings from the SCG Crew

    “People were super excited about the Misty Valley that they were tasting – big heady notes of blueberry for sure. It hasn’t been released yet but is sure to be a big hit! The owners are amazing and committed to making the Spotted Cow a long lasting destination for perfect coffee. A big shout out to the entire Spotted Cow team for making it not only a fun experience for us, but for everyone who visits.” - Tyler Marshall, Customer Service

    We look forward to many more events like this with Spotted Cow Coffee Company and other friends of SCG!

    Purchase Spotted Cow Coffee here!


    Spotted Cow owners Rachelle and Brian with the winner of the Hello September Raffle! Photography courtesy of Landon Montoya Spotted Cow owners Rachelle and Brian with the winner of the Hello September Raffle! Photography courtesy of Landon Montoya


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