Stumptown Coffee Roasters – Capitol Hill Seattle

Stumptown Coffee Roasters – 12th Avenue Seattle, WA

Espresso Rating Updated 2014.03.10

  • Espresso – ⨷ ⨷ ⨷ ⨷
  • Cycle accommodations: Ample quantity, direct visual observation
  • Cafe setting: Quality design sensibility, excellent ambience, modern aesthetic
  • Interior seating: Cozy, comfortable, a few options
  • Exterior seating: Limited, exposed to the elements
  • Pastry selection: Average with variety

The legend existed.  We knew of it.  Our curiosity was peaked, yet we had not made the opportunity to discover it.  Multiple sources, from the young and hip, to the mature and  seasoned, provided accolades.  We are writing about Stumptown Coffee.

Stumptown originated in 1999 at their Division Street location, which stakes the claim of starting the coffee revolution in Portland.  Stumptown has an instructive website that is a resource, in addition to other informational morsels, for coffee brewing methods; including our own home favorite the moka pot!  Stumptown, along with Intelligentsia Coffee and Counter Culture Coffee, has helped to pioneer the concept of “Direct Trade” coffee.  They are also on the leading edge of “Third Wave Coffee” which seeks to elevate the culinary craft of artisan coffee blending, roasting, and brewing.   “Direct Trade” is a departure and differentiates itself from “Fair Trade” on the grounds of premiums paid to farmers, quality incentives to growers, limits on participation, and fees levied on participants.

Stumptown boasts five locations in Portland, two in Seattle, and one in Manhattan.  Our visit was to the 12th Avenue cafe in Seattle.   All of the cafes, it would appear from photographs on the website, have a tuned touch of design sensibility that create a unique and signature statement that is Stumptown.  At the 12th Avenue location, exposed timber structure, and finely finished natural wood fixtures, play a strong role in the style of the refurbished warehouse setting.  The steel shapes of the structural seismic upgrade are highlighted against the exposed masonry it reinforces.   A full glass storefront brightly lights up the interior with natural light, while a large blooming pendant light marks the stair to the lower level.  High backed cushioned banquettes create a co-op of social seating at the front of the house, and a linear bar at the back, provides space for those in more of a solitary mode.  A fine selection of music fills the voids remaining within the space, and match the modern edge of the cafe.

Provision for cycle parking is ample, and a handful of metal chairs provide for modest outdoor unsheltered seating.  The cafe was delightful.

We queued up to place our order and after just a few moments were greeted by a concierge or expediter.  This was a nice touch that kept the bark of drink orders at bay and from being the dominant auditory experience; it allowed the mild tones of conversation, and an excellent selection of music, to set the mood.  We particularly enjoyed the Seu Jorge acoustic Bowie covers playing. We were a bit anxious that the expedited espresso order would be prepared, and sit expiring on the counter, while we waited to pay.  Fortunately, this was not the case.  We reviewed the pastry assortment, which had a good variety of average looking selections.   A soda water compliment was provide upon request.  We noticed that the barisat was not pleased with the espresso pulls and discarded a few and apologized that he was not happy with the quality.  We appreciated that he took his time to make it right.  The aroma was robust and the crema a deep reddish brown that had a full quality.  The flavor had a good progression finishing with a  lasting coffee flavor that turned to sweetness.

Stumptown we give you four wheels out of five.  The cafe ambience and service was fantastic, and we enjoyed the energetic buzz in the cafe.  We have revisited many time from our first visit which and have received many quality espresso.  Perhaps a soda water complement for the espresso purist will cap off the finest espresso experience.

Paradoxical footnote: All the cafes we spend time to write about we recommend as destinations.  We provide the honest feedback and rating of the espresso experience because we are interested to help cultivate the best success for future visits.  Even though we may give the espresso experience a one wheel rating we can still love and recommend a visit to the cafe because of the overall character of place, amongst other qualities.

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