This is a guest review by D. David Nettleton. If you’re interested in writing guest reviews for A Table in the Corner of the Cafe, feel free to contact me.
Thank you for joining me today all the way over here on the west coast. Today, we are just South of Seattle in a quirky city called Tacoma. Since you are only visiting for a short time, I have brought you to a cafe and roastery called Bluebeard Coffee Roasters, my favorite place in the city. Although it only opened up in the Spring of last year, if looks like it has been here forever.
Go ahead and pull up a stool next to me and stay a while. At this window-side bar, you’ll be able to witness a rare sight here in the Pacific Northwest—a clear, sunny day. The large wooden garage-style door is open, inviting the sweet, crisp morning air to flow through the cafe. Although the vintage Probat isn’t roasting any small batches of finely crafted coffee, the smell of the last roast lingers in the air. This, combined with the fresh air from the outside, mixes to create one of my favorite aromas on Earth.
There are a few tables occupied in this cafe, with the low murmur of quiet conversation hovering around them. As an intermittent stream of customers come in for their morning brew, you will hear the La Marzocco Linea three-group fire up to steam the occasional pitcher of milk, enabling the barista on duty to pour some fine latte art. The music playing in the background is a nice classical piano record. That’s right, a good old-fashioned record, played on a nice, warm, vintage-sounding record player. The road outside isn’t busy, so there is a nice, peaceful feel that reminds me of a quiet weekend in the suburbs. It is, of course, early Tuesday morning in a city of 200,000 and people are rushing to work downtown just a couple miles away.
The cafe is refreshingly spacious. You are almost forced to breathe a sigh of relief upon entering, whether you are going to sit up on the bar as we are, or relax on one of the black leather couches by the big, roll-up door. I prefer these couches because they give me a fantastic view of the Probat roaster, where I can watch Kevin, owner and roaster, pull out samples until the roast is just perfect for whatever origin he is working on. Bags of green coffee are stacked around this portion of the cafe, not to clutter the spacious area behind the counter, but to provide a relaxed, casual feel to the space. In the corner, you will find some unassuming gray metal shelves which house the selection of freshly-roasted coffees in paper bags, each handwritten with the origin of the beans and stamped with the date of the roast.
On the bar, you will find only the essential equipment. No fancy blenders, beer taps or flavored syrups adorn this area. You came here for the coffee. A gleaming Fetco brewer on the back wall next to the tall glass japanese-style cold brew tower proudly brews a single-origin drip coffee into a silver carafe. Up front, there is a case with a delectable selection of pastries, a cash register, two espresso grinders, and the La Marzocco. The solid gray concrete countertops, which match the floor, subtly accent the minimalistic feel of the coffee preparation area.
Having finished an amazingly clean cup of Honduras, I am having the barista, Mitchell, make an Aeropress of Ethiopia Kochere, their newest origin. Although there has been a lot of buzz about the Kochere this year, I have not tried any until now. The aroma is like a light fruit, reminiscent of a basket of assorted dried fruit. No distinct fruits are apparent (to me) but I can tell that it will be a very full-flavored cup. On my first sip, I am floored by the flavors in this cup. A mango stands out to me, combined with light melon, and dried apricot lingers in my mouth. As I dig into the cup and overcome my surprise at the blast of flavor, I start to taste more of the citrus flavors that the cup was hiding. Orange and lemon zest flavor this bright acidity, but the cup still has a very clean, dry finish. As the cup cools, the aroma mirrors the citrus acidity and gives a hint of Earl Grey tea. As the cup continues to cool and steam is no longer forming wispy trails over the top of the cup, the lemon is more pronounced and the dried fruit fades into the background.
Before you came in, I was finishing up a conversation with Mitchell about various Chemex filters, and my excitement over the new Able Brewing Kone. They have a few Chemexes here, and they pour them well. On their brew bar, behind the counter but in plain view, they have just about every brewing method you could ask for. With three different siphon pots, all-glass and wood-handled chemexes, an aeropress, porcelain V60s with your choice of regular paper filters or a Coava cone, a clever coffee dripper, french presses and press pots, and I’m pretty sure I saw a woodneck around here at one point in time. All the employees are trained to make coffee using any of these methods, and it is clear that they have tried them all extensively to discover the various benefits and downfalls of each.
If you aren’t a fan of coffee, at which point I have to wonder how you found the place, they have a limited but intriguing selection of other beverages. They have San Pellegrino, which they serve with your doppio, Mexican Coca-Cola, and a range of organic juices. Of course, they also have a strong selection of fine teas, almost ten to choose from. Perhaps you would also like to try their cold brew, as it is very smooth and lacks the “black coffee” taste.
I’d like to thank you for joining me at Bluebeard Coffee Roasters today, and I hope you’ll come back some time soon. This is one of my favorite cafes, and although I’m usually very critical, I can’t find anything too wrong with the place. Sure, if you’re looking to get a latte within thirty seconds, you’re out of luck here. Careful attention and thorough preparation are what sets these drinks apart from anything else around. For this privilege, you will have to wait a little while. Want a smoothie, shake, or Snickers mocha? You’re out of luck again. Is it fresh, delicious, painstakingly prepared coffee you’re looking for? You’ve come to the right place. I can’t think of a better way to start my day than to stop by Bluebeard and relax while drinking a latte or pourover, or even just picking up a pound of beans to enjoy later.
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About the Author
D. David Nettleton is a beverage enthusiast and web consultant from Tacoma, Washington. He dreams of a world where everyone understands what great coffee is all about, and tips their baristas generously.
He welcomes free coffee, beer, and good conversation via Twitter.