In a massively overhauled auto row-era showroom at the base of Capitol Hill, Starbucks has created a coffee experience so large, you’ll need a map.
It’s got a big name, too.
The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room opens to the public on Friday at the corner of Pike and Melrose after a couple of nights of entertaining big coffee VIPs during the Seattle-headquartered company’s annual investors meeting. Hours are 7 AM to 11 PM, daily.
“It’s the ultimate expression of Starbucks,” Roastery general manager Coulter Smith told CHS on a pre-opening tour of the
20,000 15,600 square-foot roasting facility, cafe, and restaurant. Smith is a company veteran who began his Starbucks career as a barista. He’ll manage at least 32 of them here — “We’ll see if we need more” — and around 100 employees total.
CHS first broke the news on the goliath plans for the project in the former home of an art supply store and Volvo dealership just over a year ago in September 2013. It wasn’t the first time Starbucks decided to innovate in coffee-rich Capitol Hill. And the project with a base construction budget of $2.3 million (UPDATE: Sprudge says plus about $1 million in equipment) probably won’t be the last. But it will probably be the only one requiring Puget Sound Clean Air Agency approval. As part of the plan, Starbucks brought along frequent collaborator Tom Douglas and his Serious Pie. Both Douglas and Starbucks have signed long term leases with the building owners who selected coffee over beer for the future of the one-time Packard dealership.
The Roastery, in the time it takes some of the smaller restaurants on Capitol Hill just to get their construction permits, has sprung into reality in its new, changing neighborhood as what will likely instantly be a draw for visitors to the city, coffee fans, and a small army of coffee pros looking for a gig in a green bean to cup environment.
It is the largest Starbucks on the planet.
The roasting and packaging operation employs a team of one dozen. They are charged with producing what is expected to be up to 1.4 million pounds of Starbucks Reserve-quality coffee beans. Twin Probat roasters — one tiny at a 50 pound capacity, the other not much larger at 260 pounds — fill the enormous open space with the smell of a good roast and will supply the “Scoop Bar” and the serving bars with their product as well as gear up to supply what is expected to be some 1,500 global Starbucks Reserve cafes by the end of fiscal year 2015.
The bean roasting is fully on display and designed as a centerpiece to the action inside the room — there’s even a one-way mirror above the restroom’s open sink area so visitors can watch the back end of the operation while washing hands.
Starbucks people involved in the project like to say the experience is a “theater of roasting” intended to share the company’s “passion” for coffee excellence.
“We strive to share this passion through the finest coffee experiences, and we’re proud to introduce the Starbucks ReserveTM Roastery and Tasting Room,” the company’s “fact sheet” on the Roastery explains, “where coffee will roasted literally within feet of where it will then be handcrafted with care by the cup.”
Food and coffee porn by Starbucks
There are several options for exactly where in the Roastery and how that hand crafting will give you that special cup. Beans are available by the ounce at the scoop bar with a selection of varieties and an exclusive roast for sale. At the main bar, you’ll find the most straightforward experience where you’ll be welcome to choose your old standard but also be encouraged to try out more exotic preparations like the Shakerato — espresso shaken over ice — or a sparkling espresso with mint. You can also order food from Starbucks buddy Douglas — more about his Capitol Hill Serious Pie outlet, below — who supplies Dahlia-born pastries, salads, and sandwiches — coffee rubbed turkey? — for the bar.
More, um, experiential coffee consumers, are welcomed to the western lower level’s Experience Bar, where the more fancy pants of the Roastery’s eight methods of brewing will be on display. Go with the siphon if you’re into science.
Stay for the pie.
Douglas’s pizza joint and bar fill the northeastern edge of the Roastery with a softly separated area that will look out onto Melrose Market (and towering construction cranes) when the secret-keeping window gauze comes down. There is room for around 70 customers to come in for lunch starting at 11 AM and stay for dinner until 11 PM. There is booze. There is coffee. There is pizza pie. Another big crew of employees man and woman the restaurant.
After all of that, you can browse the shop area with a curated selection of Seattle-sourced goods like Glassybabies. But we recommend you take a rest in front of the fireplace with a good book. You’ll probably find something fun to read in the Roastery’s coffee library — just to the right of the Experience bar. Or you can just look at the map.