Next time you’re sipping coffee in a coffee shop and you happen to feel your feet dangle a bit as you sit on one of those high stools in front of a window, try and whisk your memories back to when your feet really didn’t touch the floor. Maybe you’re 5 or 6 and you’re sipping hot chocolate or warm steamed milk somewhere in the world. Can you remember the coffee shop? Can you remember who you were with?
The first time I stopped into Caffe D’arte’s new flagship in Pioneer Square and I tasted a sweet coffee drink called Dolce Fine, I had a flashback to a little Italian cafe we used to go to in Coquitlam Centre when I grew up. It was called Darlings or Darling Cafe and it was an adorable Italian Cafe with ornate white metal chairs and pictures of fancy desserts on the walls and it served gelato and my dad would have coffee and we’d sit in the shop with our treats and watch the world go by. Sometimes when the aromas of coffee and ice cream blend together in the air I think of being small in that cafe when all I had to think about was being in that moment eating ice cream with my dad. The Dolce Fine is kind of like that fragrance mixed into a coffee-there is cream and coffee and sugar and it’s decadent and cold.
I’ve known about Cafe D’arte for a while, but I didn’t realize it is actually a BIG little coffee shop. If you live in Seattle, you might have been to their Pioneer Square flagship or their other shop near Pacific Place and had their coffee in a few other stores, but they also have a big factory in Federal Way and they supply coffee to MANY coffee shops, hotels and places all around the world. When I was invited to visit this factory, of course I wanted to peek in and see where all this coffee comes from. (If you know me, you know I love to see where food comes from and where things are made.)
Seattle is so lucky to have Caffe D’arte. It has been in business since 1985 and it is integral to the coffee fabric that makes the Seattle coffee scene. Joe Mancuso, the General Manager, has been there since the beginning and I could listen to him talk about coffee forever. It is so refreshing to hear people who are passionate about what they do.
This company is really into helping the people they supply with coffee learn how to make the coffee well and we saw a group of wholesale buyers touring the factory while we were there. I even learned how to make a steamed milk heart in their training caffe and I hope they start doing coffee classes for everyone. Don’t we all want to be able to make fancy art at home?
All the beans arrive in giant burlap bags from coffee producing areas around the world. Some are fair trade, some are organic and some even arrived when we visited. Can you imagine ALL these beans traveling in ships and crates. If coffee beans could write their adventures, I’m sure they’d have a lot to tell.
And maybe that’s the story of good tasting coffee. There is so much that goes into making coffee and I’ve visited a few coffee farms around the world. I remember seeing coffee beans being dried in the sun at a farm in Kona, Hawaii ages ago and I couldn’t believe they started as berry-like fruit growing on trees and they still had to be roasted to turn into actual coffee; beans like the ones I saw drying are sorted and processed in a factory like this Caffe D’arte facility. I was surprised to hear that this factory even has a bunch of metal detectors to take out any metal pieces that find their way into coffee bean bags. As consumers, we take so much for granted in the processes that make up our food.
The most interesting thing I learned about Caffe D’arte is that even though it is a big company it operates like a small roaster. There are many roasting machines in this factory and they are not very techinical-the machines don’t have a lot of fancy automated parts or computers or even blinking lights. The people who operate them have been working here a long time and they seem to have internalized the science of coffee and watching them is like watching artists at work. There is a lot of tasting and smelling and collaboration and people here seem to be happy helping these beans find their coffee potential.
It was amazing to see a wood coffee roaster in this factory too. This machine is from the 1940s and it is stunning. We don’t have many wood coffee roasters in the United States and hearing the wood fire crackle as the coffee roasted just seems so perfectly Pacific Northwest. The taste it gives the coffee is very unique and I wanted to just pull up a chair near the fire and smell the beans roast all day.
Beans roasting and crackling has to be one of the most heavenly things in the world. I’m am so glad this company is in the Pacific Northwest. It makes it easy to visit more often.
Just the other day, my husband and I popped in because I wanted him to try the Dolce Fine, and I perched at a stool in the window with my feet dangling. There was a women to my right looking out the window too. While we were all staring out the window watching the world go by a barista walked up to her and apologized for something. Maybe they made her the wrong drink. Maybe something else. But for whatever the reason and totally unexpected to her, he handed her a coupon for her next drink free. I love seeing things like this.
Kindness. And good coffee.
We need more of this in the world.
(PS. I toured the Caffe D’arte Factory and I received some product to take home but I was not required to post my experiences or tell you how much I loved it and of course the thoughts above are my own.)