Next time you’re in Seattle, you have to check out the new Stumptown retail location on 12th near Seattle University (1115 12th Ave). This is the first retail location for this roaster, outside of Portland OR, where the company is well-placed as one of the leaders in the Third Wave coffee movement. Stumptown has built a reputation for expert, perfect-pitch sourcing of green coffee, as well as a true, hands-on policy of social responsibility and awareness in origin countries. Stumptown is utterly real in this, totally authentic. Anyway, Jason Prefontaine and I made our way to the store to have a coffee, while sort of hoping to run into Duane, Stumptown’s founder.
It turned out that Duane wasn’t around because he was busily working on his second new location west of Broadway (616 East Pine St). This will be Stumptown’s second retail opening within two weeks! However, our visit was well worth it anyway.
First, there was the staff we met. The Stumptown people are completely dedicated, coffee fanatics. Some of them have even relocated from the operation in Portland to work in Seattle. It is evident that a lot of energy goes into training at Stumptown. Besides being eager and excited about being part of what is bound to become one of Seattle’s most important cafes, everyone we met spoke with expertise on a wide range of coffee topics to a surprising level of depth. This is very unusual in this industry–where working in a coffee venue can be just a job. Will, our barista, prepared our order of four amazing macchiatos and ristrettos on a new semi-automatic La Marzocco Mistral, all the while chatting happily about Ethiopian Wondo Coop coffee, which we also tried in brewed form, prepared manually French press style. (It had a surprising fragrance of lavender). Knowledge, passion and the absence of compromise are evident everywhere.
Then there is the store itself. If you are familiar with Seattle espresso bars, you will probably be delighted by one of the freshest design treatments ever. Stumptown’s interior is virtually perfect, contemporary Modern, verging on minimalist. Tasteful and interesting wood textures and grains, are combined with effective non-intrusive lighting. Floor to ceiling windows and the building’s exposed brick supporting-walls (now attractively retrofitted in anticipation of the Big One) create coffee’s version of the Clean, Bright, Place.
Since Stumptown’s focus is coffee with some loose leaf tea options, the equipment is simple. A hot water tower and a handful of French press pots are used for preparing brewed coffee and tea. A low-profile semi-automatic three group espresso machine, and two Mazzer grinders for espresso drinks are arranged at the front of the bar. A small glass pastry case is built into the side bar for displaying treats, including some from Wallingford-based Mighty-O. The menu board is equally elemental, hand written menu options against a background of black slate.
Downstairs there is an extensive operational area–not directly related to the retail store. Here it was explained Stumptown will eventually roast coffee locally on premise. Right now a training and tasting area for wholesale customers is in place and a small sample roaster. It was also exciting to hear that Stumptown plans to carry out twice weekly cuppings for customers, to highlight and raise awareness of their coffee. This offering goes way beyond the norm, even in a coffee intensive town like Seattle, and shows again just how dedicated these guys are to spreading the word about great coffee.
Stumptown is a welcome addition to the Seattle scene. Love what you’ve done so far!!!