Day 4 – Go north young man

November 9, 2007

Today is the day I make the mighty venture North, me and my trusty steed…

I start off at the Denny st. Vivace to get my mind right and plot my course. Using my well defined google map I decide to try and hit the two Zoka stores, Tom Thai for lunch, lighthouse and maybe a Vita. The path north is a daunting collection of hills and busy unfamiliar roads. One of the Vivace employees tries to dissuade me from biking by suggesting a less effort intensive bus option but I am not swayed. I bundle up, adjust my schnazzy new bag and hit the road. The ride is actually rather nice and not even all that confusing. I cruise down and pump up hills, shooting across the bridge and landing the U district in good time. Hunger has made Thai toms my first stop but I was to quick for my own good and had 20 minutes to kill before they opened. I slide across the street, pick up a shirt at a thrift store and find Toms ready to feed me when I am done. I know this is a beverage blog, but I feel that Tom’s needs to be included. This small whole in the wall shop restaurant is fantastic. There is not much seating, it is very crowded and noisy, and possibly the best pad thai I have ever had.
After this extremely satisfying experience I make my way to the Zoka University store… more hills… I cannot believe the tenacity of the single speed bikers in this town, I would have died without gears on this adventure. I have not even locked up my bike in front of the shop before Lindsey, the trainer for Zoka, pops her head out to say hi.

University Zoka

I met this classy lady last year at the USBC as she was coaching Zoka’s two barista competitors Kyle and Maqui. We chat for a minute and she then takes me on a quick tour of the shop… which is actually kind of two shops. The main original café is large in a long style layout. The large amount of seating is filled to the brim with students and laptops. Tons of wood, great light and a warm atmosphere are obviously factors in the steady flow of people. Lindsey also shows me their new addition to it that is at the moment separated from the main café by a large sliding door. They only recently got this space and now use it for training and overflow during the peak hours. I am treated to a double shot from Roseanna in the main café and then we all split a French press of an Ethiopia Aricha seven…. Simply amazing.

aricha 7

This cup is in contention for the best of the week so far. It is stellar and lively. Very reminiscent of an Idido Misty Valley but far more balanced, in check and clean. I sip on this as she rushes around preparing a barista jammy jam sort of workshop for some of Zoka’s wholesale customers. I also run into Tracy Allen who is a USBC and WBC certified judge that I had met at past competitions. He graciously invites me to participate in a milk tasting they are holding that day. I kill off a little time before this savoring the rest of the Aricha seven and typing away.
The milk tasting is well approached and informative. A representative from Sunshine dairy leads us through the different factors affecting the quality of milk such as farm practices, pasteurization and temperature. We taste four types of milk, ALL skim! Which, while mildly cruel makes sense after a touch of thought. Like cupping, you want to magnify the flaws to see them more clearly and skim puts the bar right up there. Before it is over I have snagged a few ideas to try with blended milks when I get back to Chicago and a new bias against over pasteurized milk. I linger a little longer in the main café as I get my bearings and then proceed to the Green Lake Zoka (which I believe is their original location).

After a few more hills I am soaking in sweat while locking my bike up in front of yet another coffee shop, deja vu is really starting to set in at this point. Given my late start this morning it is fairly dark out already and the warm interior of the shop is very inviting. I find it to be massive.

zoka greenlake
It is large square layout with the bar along one wall sporting a giant red 4 group FB70. This store also has a clover up and running. I secure myself a double espresso and a cup of a Nicaragua COE finca Santa Isabel. It is a lovely little delicate cup but I still find myself missing that Aricha from the U store. It is very interesting seeing the different ways people take the clover. I would love to see a Clover jam set up where every one gets together and has to dial the clover in for 3 coffees or so and then they are all cupped and scored against one another. The shot I get has a little fuller body than the U store shot but in all other ways is very consistent. The barista Amy (?) humored my nosiness and seemed well versed in the craft. I kick back in a big comfy chair and read an article from the new Barista mag. I coincidentally pick a selection ever so appropriately authored by Trish Skeie (Zoka’s green coffee buyer). Its about helping to train cuppers and coffee graders in Africa and is the sort of feel good inspirational stuff that helps motivate even the most apathetic.
The night is moving on rapidly and I figure I should do so as well. I decide to scrap the Vita stop and head straight to Lighthouse. Interstingly enough they have a Gothot tuck away in back (the same type of roaster we use)

It is a short downhill bike away and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful for skipping Vita as I made it to Lighthouse just minutes before they close. A fellow by the name of Chris is behind the bar and he pulls me one of the best shots I have had all week. The blend (which he knew the details of off the top of his, something I am always grateful to find) was simple, not overly fruity or daring, but a good solid rich shot a;; the same. More than anything he just nailed the extraction effortlessly and you could tell it. We talk for a while and I immediately develop a solid respect for the man. He is utterly out of the loop with regards to the coffee culture drama circle “coffee fest?” but he has been pulling shots for 11 years and has a very solid grasp on what he is doing because of it. Since they are closing, I pack up and head out, another full day of coffee in the bag. The bike back to the hotel is fantastic… all of that going uphill finally pays off as I cruise down essentially one road the whole way there. I take one stop for an interesting photo op. in front of a cable company.

family fun

Once I get back in touch with Nick its all burgers and rock n roll. Then we rest.


One Response to “Day 4 – Go north young man”

  1. l3ahkn1ts Says:

    I had no idea this many coffee places existed in seattle. I guess I just don’t notice them because my mind is trained to look for starbucks and tullys. I’ll definetly keep my eye out more for the places you’ve suggested.

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