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Tony's Coffee: A coffee lover's paradise
Walking into Tony’s Coffee on 70th St NW and NW 3rd Ave, one immediately notices something missing.
Or, a lot of things missing.
Namely, where’s the over-plush seating? The pretentious art? The armory of flavored syrups? Heck, where’s the lattes?
There are none. Only drip coffee, Americanos and espresso shots.
Tony’s Coffee, which is an established company in Bellingham since 1971, recently opened a new location and is living the ascetic life in Seattle, eschewing luxury and focusing on just the craft of coffee. They opened operations back in April, only doing coffee cupping demonstrations, but have more recently opened up café operations, on August 20. For serious lovers of coffee, it’s not something to miss out on.
In any case, it’s a nice break from having to stand behind someone ordering a triple tall skinny nonfat latte with a shot of vanilla, a shot of nutmeg and a dusting of cocoa powder.
The masterminds behind the operation are David Yake, who has been with Tony’s Coffee for five years, and Erik Evenson, who was head roaster, coffee buyer and a barista at Zoka Coffee. He was also a barista for a year at Tully’s, but he didn’t talk about that.
What’s more is they’re serious coffee aficionados. But they’re not cocky or snotty about it. Instead, they want to help people learn what goes into every cup of joe.
Every Friday they host public coffee cuppings, a method used by green coffee buyers, roasters and producers all over to judge the quality of coffee, and a practice the folks at Tony’s perform nearly every day.
The coffee cupping is done in three stages: smelling the coffee grounds when they are dry, smelling them when wet and then taste testing. The last one comes with a spit cup, so people’s hearts don’t explode from being wired on caffeine.
At each demonstration, they test three cups of eight different coffees. This is done so the coffee can be tested for consistency -- a good sign of a good coffee -- and so different blends can be tested side by side, making it easier to notice the differences.
At last Friday’s demonstration, Yake and Evenson were friendly, conversational and most importantly not condescending toward the attendees. They took any and all questions and were boundlessly informational. In fact, it would be silly to include all of the information they expunged into this article, so readers will have to visit and find out all the gnitty-gritty details for themselves.
Yake and Evenson discussed subjects such as coffee flavors, how the beans are blended, why they smell and taste the way they do, the different kinds and sizes of beans, the different effects on agriculture and how that affects the end result, their relationships with farmers and practically any and every coffee-related subject that can be dreamt of.
The blends at the cupping ranged from citrusy and acidic to smooth and sweet. Although there was one which had a stronger, darker character, Yake and Evenson were quick to note that it was nothing in comparison to the Pacific Northwest region’s typically dark roasts. Rather than making the absolute darkest and bitterest blend, Tony's Coffee instead tries to find the best tasting and most consistent blend -- with help from the noses of Yake and Evenson, of course.
In addition to coffee cuppings, Yake and Evenson will talk to any customer about their blends, what makes them special, and even how customers can easily brew their own (darned good) cup at home. Even if it means Tony’s losing a regular customer. Though, Yake notes, customers can always come back to buy bags of fresh, whole bean blends.
Evenson said that the shop is trying right now to reach a critical mass of customers to sustain and develop the business. Instead of paying a huge upfront cost for all the overdone attire that cafes normally spring for in Seattle, they decided to let the coffee speak for itself and gain customer feedback until they are financially ready. Evenson said he hopes the company grows more in the near future.
Tony’s Coffee is open Mon-Fri, from 7 a.m. to noon, and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Coffee cuppings are held every Friday at noon. The shop is located at 7001 NW 3rd Ave. For more details, look at their website, tonyscoffee.com.