A couple of friends swear by this place. It is a hidden gem with the best espresso in town, they told me. I was intrigued. The fact that it is situated on the ground level of my office building made daily visit in the afternoon a ritual. It is an old roasting company, in fact the first ever in Seattle. It housed a 50lb Probat roaster that is probably more than twice of my age. Years of coffee dust, oil, and heat stained the metal showing off beauty of it aging like an old woman’s wrinkled face. In the afternoons when the sun comes out in Seattle, a flood of light pours through the double doors facing Post Alley, diffused through thick clouds of coffee roast. The aroma was shear heaven and the sound of the rotating drum is nostalgia. Shelves and shelves of coffee-making equipment from stove top espresso makers to Turkish coffee grinders made the place seem more like a museum. Dust on the shelves and the burlaps of coffee that sat lazily along one side of the walls said everything about the place: earthy and non-pretentious. It is a roasting company, a workshop, a factory; it is not a coffee shop. Patrons come by word of mouth. Pay by cash only for roasted beans or tea. A few of us that work downtown were inducted over the years that the owners, father and son, of the coffee company would make espresso shots for a buck which only goes into the tip jar.
Sipping espresso in small paper cups with the regular “VIPs” reminded me of the old TV show Cheers if it ever existed in a coffee shop. The air was always light-hearted and everyone knew everyone, eventually. The brief 15 minute stop in the afternoons were the highlight of my days. For months, I had really wanted to like the coffee company. Alas, I couldn’t lie to myself any more. The espresso was hard to swallow. I thought perhaps that was because of the fact that they were just not equipped to make good espressos from the hand pumped machine. Finally, I purchased a bag of beans and decided to make coffee at home using a stove top this morning. The first sip of the coffee made me really sad. I am not a coffee connoisseur but being a coffee addict should give me some right to judge. The second sip made me angry. The coffee tasted bad. Had I been lied to? Why do these people love their coffee so much? Did people fall in love with the place because of the owners? Because of the exclusivity and secrecy? The loyalty they had built over the years? What is the real reason that the owner refused to let people interview him? Why did they refuse to market themselves online but through word of mouth only? was it because they knew they’d be forced to improve, change to please their customers? Torrents of questions went through my mind as I drove to work with a cup of coffee barely drunk. My morning liquid sunshine did not come and instead, it was a darkening storm like that bitter rancid cup.
Thoughts of the Probat roaster that I had fallen in love with at first sight came to mind. I felt sorry for it. It was as if someone had taken a rare old school large format camera and shot crappy photos with it. I don’t know how I could bring myself to face the friends I had met at the coffee company. It feels like the end of an affair; one finds herself waking up from deceptions for she had fallen in love for the wrong reasons.
As I sat here with a fresh cup of Bolivia from Trabant writing this blog, golden sunshine is slowly returning to my heart. There is hope.