Seattle and Starbucks have always been synonymous with each other, ever since the company elevated the coffee business in the 90s to what it is today. Heralding the next generation of Starbucks coffee is the Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Capitol Hill, a wildly popular pilot project to be expanded to several locations in the near future. It opened back in December, but I wanted to return a few months later to see if it still lived up to the hype it generated in its first opening week.
The Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room is a massive, totally interactive space dedicated not only to roasting the coffee for Starbucks’ Reserve line, but also to providing tasting opportunities to the public of their daily roasts. The space is also a collaborative project with notorious local restauranteur Tom Douglas, who developed all the cafe’s food offerings, as well as opened a Serious Pie location in the back corner of the building.
The Tasting Room hosts a number of public tastings periodically throughout the day, advertised on their mounted board. The board also notes what is being roasted at any given time, and by whom.
Starbucks projects that up to 1.4 million pounds of coffee will be roasted at this facility in it’s first year, and will serve as a supply hub for all other Reserve locations to be opened in the near future. For the locals, there is a scooping table, where the day’s roasted beans can be scooped fresh into bags and taken home. There’s also a massive gift shop for visitors to browse and take home their own little piece of the roastery (yes, I definitely stocked up on gifts for family and friends back home).
Of course, this wouldn’t be a review without my thoughts on the food and drink at this place. I find it really interesting that they’ve entirely discarded the typical Starbucks drink menu, and instead, replaced it with something very…next level. The drink menu is broken down into brewed coffees and espressos from the selection of roasts made on the premises, unique specialty drinks (no frappucinos here, sorry), and other non-coffee drinks.
I thought I’d go for a classic grande latte with their specially made orange-infused syrup, and a bagel with their herbed cream cheese. I knew this place would be more pricey, though all in all, $10 for the lot wasn’t too terrible.
The latte was good, though next time I’d ask for extra syrup, as the orange flavour really wasn’t there. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll know I’m not a huge coffee fan, so if I drink it, I want some other flavours in there (cue the coffee snobs scoffing). Overall though it was nice, mellow, and well-made. Definitely a latte I’d return for. I also appreciated the barista sensing my confusion when asked which espresso I wanted in my latte (there’s more than one?) and was quick to offer a recommendation that would pair well with the orange syrup. The bagel was so tasty, almost like a pretzel bagel with the salty exterior and that near-glazed crust. The herbed cream cheese wasn’t exactly strong on any particular herb flavour, next time I’d like to try the honey butter they also had available.
I have to say, one of the reasons I really wanted to come back later after the initial opening was to see if they preserved the little perks that come with this place – the little shortbread cookie, and the glass of sparkling water. Too many times I’ve been to a new restaurant or coffee shop when it’s opened, dazzled by all the little extra touches and perks that makes the experience that much more special, only to return a few months later to find that they’ve all been nixed. Here, though, you still get your order on a cute little wooden tray, with a small glass of sparkling water and the little shortbread cookie.
Overall, I think this place is pretty cool, I’d definitely bring out of town visitors here to see the whole roastery operation and to try out the special menu items. It also really doesn’t hurt that there’s a Serious Pie location in the corner. However, as a semi-acclimated local, I probably wouldn’t come here for an afternoon study session. It is totally hectic and packed with intrigued visitors, and the usable seating areas are pretty minimal. But it is definitely a place you have to experience at least once in Seattle.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, 1124 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101