OVERALL GRADE – A
This summer in Seattle, I visited the Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room located at 1124 Pike Street in the Capitol Hill District. The pride and joy of Starbucks, this place is truly a unique experience. And I loved it!
When we walked in, I was a bit overwhelmed. It was a gorgeous building, with tall ceilings, wood tones, and shiny metal catching my eyes. My senses were overloaded watching the moving conveyor belts, the smells of coffee, and the sounds of coffee beans hitting roasting pans. The giant display board featuring the coffees currently being roasted frequently changes and flips letters, adding theatrics to the enormous space. The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, calls the roastery “the Willy Wonka of coffee.” A very grown up version, I would say.
There was an employee at the front to welcome and guide people in. He briefly explained the tasting room to us as an exclusive roastery featuring very special and rare coffees. Starbucks brings these rare coffees to roast and brew only for the tasting room. This is not like your local Starbucks – you don’t come here to order a java chip frappuccino or a pumpkin spice latte (Needless to say, my kids were pretty bummed about that.). Only highbrow coffee drinkers come here.
We toured the building at first, watching all of the moving parts within the roastery. Men in aprons, roasting the beans took some time to explain the process to us. We watched as roasted beans traveled via pneumatic tubes to glass containers at the coffee bar for serving. Coffee beans don’t get much fresher than that! There was even an area where the beans get bagged via machine, for bags that are only sold at the roastery.
When we finally were ready for coffee, we stepped over to the coffee bar. We were incredibly confused as there was no menu or line to order. Eventually, we stepped up to the bar to get some help. Apparently, any employee can take your order at the roastery via a wireless handheld device and have it delivered to you shortly after. Along with the different coffees, small sandwiches and pastries were available to order here.
Similar to a wine tasting bar, Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room allows you to sample various exotic coffees. You can also taste the same coffee brewed in different ways by state of the art machines, noting the differences in texture and flavor, based on the brewing technique. They also create new signature drinks, as well, just for the roastery.
On the lower level is an ornate espresso bar but looks more like a chemistry lab. Starbucks has definitely succeeded in creating the spectacle of coffee-making. Glass containers sit atop fire and glass bubbles filled with water. Here you can sit at the bar and try different espresso made with various reserve beans. Comfortable chairs and tables provide also ample seating, but this place does get busy quickly. Come early to avoid the afternoon rush (and get your fill of caffeine!)
Off to the right side of the entry is a small shop area. Here, you can buy things unique to the store like bags of their reserve coffee, mugs, teas, or other gifts. There is also a restaurant within the building called Serious Pie, run by award-winning chef Tom Douglas. In addition to serving lunch and dinner, Serious Pie makes the pastries for the coffee bar.
Keep in mind the roastery is a bit pricey. Starbucks can charge more because these coffees are their exotic blends and are not around for long. While visiting, be sure to visit the unisex bathroom; an interesting concept that not only works, but is very well done. There is even a one way mirror overlooking the roasting area so patrons have something to look at while washing their hands.
There is every attention to detail at the Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room. For coffee connoisseurs, this place is akin to coffee nirvana. Great service, a beautiful ambiance, and superior coffee make the roastery a must-do while in Seattle.