Being a Seattle native, I probably take the coffee (and it’s inherently perceived greatness) for granted. I’ve been around a billion coffee shops basically my whole life. It’s a part of every day for me, and I really just like everything about coffee – the way it warms you (or cools you over ice on a hot day), the way it wakes you up, and the way it just makes you feel good, like an old friend.
Here is Seattle, there are really three camps of coffee: low brow fast food or quick serve coffee you get on the go, major chain mass market shops that focus on consistency and broad availability, and then the specialty shops. Each have their place in my life, and I’m not the kind of person (or food fiend) that snubs my nose up at any one genre of coffee. I am, however, the kind of person that will spit the steaming hot mouthful of crap water back into the cup, or on the ground, if it tastes like a dog took a bath in a tub full of wet cardboard. Just because it’s coffee, doesn’t mean I’m going to drink it.
(click through to read the rest of my amazing revelation about specialty coffee!)
As a little girl, I recall going to Uptown Espresso in lower Queen Anne with my dad, right by the Space Needle, and I got a special drink – an “Almond Moo” (steamed milk with almond syrup in it, still just as good!). And as a college student, I looked for my moments of widsom at the bottom of a mug of French Press from the original Stumptown location in Portland, near my school (Reed) campus. Those days I took my coffee black, black, black. Maybe I thought the blacker it was, the more potential brain juice was in it? I dunno. But that was then…..this is now. Nowadays, the best cup of coffee is shared with close friends and loved ones, at home, in your morning jammies, just catching up on life. For me and my fabulous apartment, it’s curling up on the couch with that special someone, a cup of perfectly roasted brew and an incredible view of Mt. Rainier (which I luckily have every day it’s sunny).
I really thought I liked coffee, and I do! It’s been around me my whole life. But my level of like is nowhere NEAR a couple of guys I met the other day during a crazy cupping (that’s what the gurus call it when you taste a bunch at once) at a special place down on 1st Ave called Fonte.
DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further, let me just say this: if you are not a coffee fanatic, or you just want a latte and that’s all you care about – FANTASTIC. You can still go to Fonte for your coffee, and leave the rest of the details to the food nerds like me that want to know every detail down to what the farmer ate for breakfast the day he harvested the beans, okay?
If you’ve never heard of Fonte before, fear not, I also was not familiar till very recently. But now I know, and I can recommence with regular life knowing it’s a bit better with this resource. 🙂
Fonté Coffee Roaster is one of Seattle’s premium coffee roaster’s providing specialty coffee and tea for coffee retailers, restaurants and hotels. In ’92, they set out to create the most exquisite coffee blends in the world. Fonté’s Master Roaster manages a rigorous roast-to-order production process that involves shipping coffee on the same day of roasting, ensuring to-the-minute freshness to all customers.
They are hard core – they source, blend, roast by hand, sell and serve – all with meticulous attention to detail. You can check them out online visit www.fontecoffee.com, or head down and try some in person: 1321 First Ave.
Not only did I learn how to truly taste the value and flavor in a cup of coffee – and remember how to appreciate good coffee black, I found out there’s only a bajillion steps and important key factors that dictate the worlds best coffee. The guys at Fonte know it like the back of their hand, but what I found more impressive was the way in which they could explain it to me. I understood what they meant, I was able to start tasting flavors as well – once I was following along, and I actually enjoyed it!
So here’s the crazy of how this works:
- Fonte literally gets to test the beans before they buy, and the purchasing happens via auction.
- They get a bundle of sample beans before the auction. They roast and test them, rank them and then decide what they’d like to bid on.
- Then, they hit up the auction site on the right day for those beans (check out the auction site here: http://www.cupofexcellence.org/CountryPrograms/Nicaragua/2011Program/tabid/720/Default.aspx)
- And here is an example of the results from an auction: http://www.cupofexcellence.org/CountryPrograms/Nicaragua/2011Program/AuctionResults/tabid/739/Default.aspx
- Then they get the beans in, locally around Seattle, and they get to work on building their blends and roasting so they can fill their orders, some of which ship the same day as they roast. THAT is freshness people.
I have never had a sneak peek into how this specialty coffee world works, but now that I know, I’m totally hooked. I think Steve, the “big roaster man” as I call him, has a lot to do that. He’s a patient teacher and a wealth of information, and best of all, he’s excited to share that with everyone he meets.
And here are some auctions that are still coming up this fall (you’ll see a couple just happened, which means Fonte may have some awesome new beans to try out – if you’re close by and into it – or if you want to look online! They fill orders all over!)
CoE Guatemala 07/07/11
CoE Honduras 07/12/11
CoE Rwanda 10/13/11
Carmo Coffees 10/25/11
CoE Brasil 01/12/11
And if that weren’t enough, now they’re starting this amazing new option called “The Vault”.
“The Coffee Vault”
Registered members can source limited quantity, high quality single origin beans.
Beginning July 18, Fonté Coffee will launch a new program called “The Coffee Vault”. These hand-selected, extremely limited small lot coffees vary in price from $20 a pound and up depending on the bean origin. Fonté will source and purchase a specified amount of single origin beans which will be sent to the roasting plant and placed in a zero oxygen environment to preserve freshness. These rare, unroasted beans will be stored separately so each registered client can call or email Fonté Coffee with their weekly order. Steve will roast-to-order a one pound minimum of the reserved micro-lot coffee, shipping the following day.
If you want more information on this, you can contact Lara Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, really, whether or not you want to sniff a cup of coffee for 5 minutes before slurping and spitting a sip to get a feel for how quality it is, or you just want to get in, grab a cup and go (or stay for dinner in their precious cafe and people watch – SAM is across the street) Fonte is worth a shot (HA! Shot, get it? sorry)
I don’t go out of my way often to get something “special”, but what I’ve realized now is that I really don’t have to. Steve and Paul (the knowledgeable and gracious owner), make it insanely easy to know as much, or as little, as you want while still enjoying the simplest thing of all – the coffee.