Every day Seattle coffee drinkers order espresso pulled from a La Marzocco machine without knowing much of the company's rich Italian history, or the fact that the US headquarters for the leading espresso hardware manufacturer in the world is located right here in Ballard.
That's likely to change with La Marzocco’s Showroom and Cafe opening last weekend, the first such project for the 89-year-old company and (to my knowledge) the first cafe operated exclusively by a coffee hardware manufacturer.
While the opening might have been drowned out by the larger celebration for KEXP's new Queen Anne location, with which the showroom shares a space, La Marzocco's plan is startlingly ambitious.
Instead of working with one coffee company, the cafe will follow the increasingly popular multiroaster format by bringing in a new coffee every month. Only unlike other multiroasters, these "Roasters in Residence" will have tons of access to the shop itself. With every new coffee comes an entirely new menu, created by the roasters and executed by the cafe staff; one might serve a pour over as their brewed option, and the next might opt for an AeroPress. Each roaster can even change the physical setup of the bar itself. Everything is done to showcase that particular coffee.
"We're like a permanent popup," says Joe Monaghan, president of La Marzocco USA, whose staff of handpicked baristas buzzed around like lab technicians as we walked through the space before the grand opening.
The "showroom" component of the new space is designed to showcase La Marzocco's line of home espresso machines. The unfortunate truth about making espresso at home is in order to do it right you'll need to spend a few thousand dollars. But for those on a quest for the perfect breakfast nook americano, the machines on display are top-of-the-line. Every Sunday the showroom will even host a brewing workshop, with lessons on how to do everything from extract espresso to steam perfect, velvety milk.
A few questions do remain. Changing the menu every single month might be a little too ambitious. And La Marzocco is, in the cafe's first year, focused on showcasing coffee from their partners, potentially leaving upstart roasters totally out of the loop. Only time will tell whether this extremely exciting concept proves sustainable in the long run.