It’s a massive 15,600-square-foot space that’s equal parts coffee shop, roaster, pilot project, tourist attraction, pizza restaurant, museum, and an exceedingly stylish place to hang out. The official name: Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.
The first thing to know is this: Reserve is Starbucks’ highest-end line of coffee, sourced in tiny (for Starbucks) single-origin batches growers from the world’s most credible coffee regions. It’s not even available at most Starbucks, just about 800 of its 21,000 stores globally.
Here it’s the only type of coffee brewing...via eight different methods. The drink list isn’t posted above the counter; walk in the door and a barista brings a handheld menu, provides guidance if you want it, and takes your order on the floor. Like a Genius Bar, for caffeine.
All of the company's Reserve coffee used to be roasted at a facility in Kent. Now it happens here, as a sort of backdrop to this new style of coffee service. The whole operation debuts Friday, December 5 at 8am, though regular hours will be 7am-11pm.
Like their boozier brethren, coffee drinkers are increasingly influenced by stories and relationships just as much as taste and proximity. And roasting is aesthetically pretty cool, especially if you’re Starbucks and have the ability to balance prosaic machinery in with stunning copper installations, including a set of pneumatic tubes that whoosh freshly roasted beans up across the ceiling and behind the café counter.
Though people in the Charbucks camp will no doubt roll their eyes, the company aims to get back to the coffee, while not alienating the PSL-drinking customer base. Whatever your feelings about the Mermaid, this massive new project is bound to get a lot of attention locally, nationally, and beyond. Especially in the following camps…
Aspiring Coffee Geeks
The official line from Starbucks is that the Roastery gets you “as close to coffee as humanly possible.” And it’s true; roasters are just a few feet away, and totally prepared to answer gawkers’ questions. The cafe is staffed with superstar baristas who moved here from Starbucks stores across the country and are proficient with those eight different brew methods: typical espresso, Modbar-style espresso, pour-over, Clover, French press, siphon, Chemex, and the very laboratorical-looking Kyoto drip. Whole milk is standard. The sunken area in back has a second coffee bar where the hardcore stuff happens, like flights (of brew methods, or origin beans) and pairings.
Lovers of Girly Espresso Drinks
If the nuances of Clover versus pour-over are lost on you, the mocha is made by melting actual chunks of single-origin chocolate into espresso and milk. The cafe menu has a few good gateway drinks, like a shot of espresso iced with mint and Demerara sugar syrup (one of three flavor syrups created by T-Doug’s people), and a float of sparkling water. An upside to that Genius Bar–style service is you can grill the Starbucks partner about anything unfamiliar without feeling stupid, or holding up the line.
The people who queue up at the Pike Place Market location will come here in droves. Starting this spring, Starbucks will even run a shuttle from the hallowed original (kinda) store nine blocks to the west. Locals now have a new destination to entertain visiting relatives in the coming weeks. The merch section here is largely local, from the Glassybaby “drinkers” made with four walls of glass rather than the usual three for better insulation, items from Hardmill Leathers, and pottery from great places like Foxtail and 5 Lines.
The building itself, originally a Packard dealership in the 1920s, is stunning on its own. And the level of attention paid to design here is so intense it merits both a map and a self-guided tour that downloads to your smart phone to fully absorb all the details. The vibe is part Willy Wonka, part midcentury modern—lots of copper, teak, and walnut.
Coffee aside, there are 100 primo seats, from round conferencey tables to cushy, living room-style seats and an actual fireplace. A fancy library-style room has a long table, lots of bookshelves, and a view of bags of Reserve roast scuttling by on a conveyor belt. If you avail yourself of the bathrooms, you’ll get a cool view of the roasting while washing your hands.
Tom Douglas Devotees
Dahlia Bakery does all the sweets here, from chocolate croissants to coffee shortbread, sandwiches filled with coffee-rubbed turkey, pretzel bagel breakfast sandwiches, and even kale salad. And oh hey, there’s a Serious Pie here! Serious Pie Pike (aka Spike in Tom Douglas staff parlance) will serve lunch and dinner and there’s a full cocktail bar with lots of amaro. It opens at 11 for lunch on December 5.
This is essentially the road map for Starbucks’ next few years. A second Reserve roaster-cafe will open in Asia in 2016 and the company is planning 100 new Reserve-only cafes in the next five years, with menus similar to this one. Target markets: New York, San Francisco, DC, LA, and Chicago. Oh, and local Starbucks fanatics can rent out the lower part of the space for parties and...weddings. (They're catered by team T-Doug.)