Visited: Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
Seattle is ubiquitous with Starbucks coffee. The coffee shop and roaster originated in Seattle’s Pike Place, where you can still visit the flagship store. It retains the original branding from the company, although to be honest, it’s a just another Starbucks, and one usually with a line down the sidewalk.
This isn’t to knock Starbucks, certainly. I’ll always favor a local coffee shop, but I’ve had good experiences at Starbucks and have enjoyed their coffee.
HOWEVER… all bets are off when we’re talking about the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. What is it? A friend accurately described it to us as the “Willy Wonka factory of Starbucks,” and with a free afternoon in Seattle we discovered it to be a veritable coffee playground.
The Reserve Roastery is like a wonderland of Starbucks coffee-ness. We caught it at its peak, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when the place was swarming with locals and tourists alike.
What is it? It’s a coffee shop and roaster writ large. The open floor plan includes a cold brew coffee bar with cocktails. A counter serving flatbreads, pastries, and other food. Another counter selling whole bean coffee by the pound. An area with collections of beans, brewing equipment, and other paraphernalia. A large circular bar for ordering coffee. Multiple seating areas. And two levels of coffee roasting and packaging equipment in full view.
When you describe the place, you start to sound like Stefon from SNL. “This place has got everything…”
Give yourself plenty of time to explore the roastery. It’ll most likely be crowded, but we were able to wend our way through the throngs and find a spot to sit and enjoy our coffee.
First stop was the cold brew bar, where they craft cocktails – both alcoholic and non – using a variety of cold brews, some infused with fruits and spices.
The drinks are beautifully presented. Beth ordered the Cascara Lemon Sour, made with cold brew, barrel-aged maple syrup, and lemon.
Check out the full menu here.
On the lower level you’ll discover more seating and a full view of the roaster itself.
We timed it perfectly – just as we came downstairs, one of the roasters fired up the machine.
The total roast only took about 12 minutes. As it progressed, she showed onlookers examples of beans, from green beans to beans as they made their way through the roasting process. At the end she pulled some out and instructed us to crack them open and smell them.
Afterward we wandered up to the coffee counter and joined the line.
You can order just about anything, from shots of espresso to brewed coffee, to specialty espresso drinks, pour over flights, Clover drip coffee.
We gravitated toward the specialties, and ordered a pair of hot chocolates for the boys, a cardamom long black, and a cardamom affogato.
While we waited, we admired the large rectangular coffee counter, buzzing with activity. There are multiple espresso machines, pour over stations, Clover drip machines, all at work.
Copper tubing winds its way throughout the space. Several lines connect the roastery directly with the coffee counter, so fresh beans fill the hoppers for the baristas.
The boys of course loved their rich hot chocolates. My cardamom affogato was wonderfully spiced, with a cardamom/sugar rim and cardamom syrup in the espresso and hot water. As much as I loved the drink, I realized that Americanos are not my style.
The cardamom affogato, however, was wonderful. An expertly pulled shot of espresso over cardamom ice cream. The two components played together beautifully.
Whatever your feelings about Starbucks, the Reserve Roastery is worth a visit. It’ll most likely be busy, so it’s not your place to hole up and study, but it truly is like Willy Wonka’s factory: a sight to behold and experience.