Small coffee is the best coffee: Tiny Dorothea goes full-time in the Central District

Mahoney living the dream in the CD (Image: CHS)

Mahoney living the dream in the CD (Image: CHS)

Just over a year ago, the aroma of coffee wafted through the air calling customers to a purple house to get their caffeine fix at Dorothea Coffee.

The tiny coffee shop has since served many regulars and the occasional visitor along the Central District’s Jackson St. Earlier this month, owner Conor Mahoney expanded the shop’s hours from just weekends to seven days a week. Mahoney, who fell in love with java and the communities that fill coffee shops as a teenager, has transformed his dream of opening and running his own into a full-time into a reality.

“It feels really good,” Mahoney said. “It was a leap of faith to leave my job and try to do it full-time, but it felt so much safer knowing that I liked doing this enough to put up with it seven days a week.”

Mahoney and his partner have lived in the upper floor of the house on Jackson between 28th and 29th avenues for five years. When the daycare below them shut down two years ago, he began renting the downstairs, too.

It didn’t really click for Mahoney that he could make the shop a full-time gig until earlier this year, he said.

Mahoney worked at coffee shops during his college years when he studied humanities and economics at Seattle University. After graduating, he ended up getting a finance internship with Theo Chocolate and stayed with the company with six years.

He left the job about a month ago and started opening Dorothea seven days a week shortly after that.

While he hadn’t intended on staying with Theo for that long, it taught him the business side of running an ethical, organic, fair trade shop.

At the core of any coffee shop is, of course, the product, which begins with the beans.

Mahoney gets his beans from two suppliers — Coffee Shrub and Red Fox Coffee Merchants — who he said seek out under-appreciated bean locations that soon after often become popular in the coffee world.

He moves through the beans, which he roasts on site, based on what he’s feeling week-to-week. The menu frequently changes keeping regulars and himself interested.

“Sometimes you’ll see a menu and it’s mostly just scribbles because I ran out of something and just wrote something else in,” Mahoney said.

The shop where customers can get a pour over, drip coffee, cold brew or tea is small. Four stools provide seating at the bar and there’s a few other seats on the porch.

A neighbor popped in during CHS’s interview with Mahoney seeking a cup of coffee like someone asking to borrow a cup of sugar. It’s like hanging out in Mahoney’s kitchen — or in this case at his home coffee roastery and bar.

“The thing I like the most is that this space is so small that when someone’s sitting there and someone else comes in pretty quickly, just because people are people, they start talking to each other,” Mahoney said. “… So it’s fun to watch people talk to other people that they otherwise wouldn’t talk to.”

Mahoney’s got regulars, so obviously they like what he’s doing. Newbies, he said, are sometimes caught off guard by the quaintness of the shop and lack of an espresso machine. Some of those people turn around and walk out. Others he feels just order something to be polite but some are pleasantly surprised by the shop.

While Mahoney’s not adverse to adding espresso to his offerings, it would require a lot of modifications to the space, he said. It’s not something he’s planning to add anytime soon.

“One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about not dealing with espresso is that I can focus on … just roasting for (pour over) and doing one thing right as opposed to losing the focus,” Mahoney said.

Each morning’s coffee is a precursor to choosing the day’s route, according to Mahoney. Not unlike one of Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities,” Dorothea, the shop’s namesake. Dorothea is described as a bustling city with many paths to take.

Dorothea is located at 2812 South Jackson Street and open from 6 to 11AM  weekdays and 7 AM until 2 PM on weekends. As Mahoney doesn’t yet have any employees, usually he’s the one serving brews behind the counter, but Mahoney’s partner and his friends provide support when needed.

For more information about Dorothea or to buy beans online visit dorotheacoffee.com.

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