Visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle has long been on my list of things to do. A pet project of Howard Schultz, the Starbucks roastery is where you can experience the roasting process, try out some unique blends that become Starbucks Reserve coffees, and try your preferred coffee blend via several different brewing methods.
The Seattle location is the original pilot, which is now being replicated in Shanghai, Chicago, New York City, Milan, and Tokyo.
Given how much I enjoy coffee (and Starbucks coffee at that!), it seems silly that it’s taken me two years to finally get around to visiting. But it’s taken that long for the timing and company to align.
I have included the roastery among other things to do the last several times our friends and family have visited, but when the weather cooperates, we typically opt for outdoor activities.
Brian doesn’t drink coffee so even on crummy weather days I wasn’t about to drag him down to Capitol Hill to spend a morning watching me taste test. And while I don’t mind doing activities by myself, I thought a tasting experience would be more fun if I went with someone else.
The timing and company finally aligned this past weekend when we hosted my inlaws, both of whom enjoy coffee! We had other plans that took us downtown for the day and decided to start our morning at the roastery before taking advantage of the beautiful weather and the other outdoor items on our list.
We arrived at the roastery around 8:30 a.m. and it was already buzzing with activity. I checked in with a girl near the entrance to see if there was anything we needed to know about what we were seeing—any guided/self-guided tours, etc. But she said no, we were just free to wander and taste.
I was a little disappointed—other than visiting a small roastery in Hamburg where everything was in German (and thus incomprehensible to me), I’ve seen and heard very little about how coffee beans journey from farm to cup and was hoping to learn more about the roasting process during our visit.
The building and set up were amazing and it was fun walking around all of the equipment, but I would have enjoyed reading more about what I was seeing.
We made the most of our wandering, taking pictures from both the upper and lower levels of the building, exploring the coffee library (where I suppose I should have grabbed a manual and read about the roasting experience myself!), and finally ending at the coffee bar to place our order.
My mother-in-law was kind enough to treat us to a shared tasting experience—the Origins flight, which had three 8 oz. pours for us to taste.
Our flight comprised the Coasta Rica Vista Del Mar Yellow Honey, East Timor Peaberry, and Gravitas Blend No. III, which were in small pots on a tray with a series of glasses.
The cards were beautifully designed and had tasting notes on the back, which we reviewed prior to diving in.
We each tasted in the order recommended, trying them all black before doctoring up the ones we really liked for further enjoyment. My favorite was the Peaberry, although the Gravitas was a close second.
I didn’t mind either one black, although I typically take my coffee with some half and half, and the Yellow Honey, while too bitter for my liking when black, was also good once I added a splash of cream.
After our tasting we made our way around the front of the roastery, taking a look at the items in the gift shop. There were some really cute ornaments, and you could also buy the five types of coffee they were roasting in-house that morning.
While I was exploring, Brian and his mom found an informational brochure that outlined the roasting process, identifying the various equipment in operation as you walked around the roastery!
I have no idea why the girl I spoke with didn’t mention it—it was exactly what we were looking for when we arrived! While we quickly looked it over, we had a busy day ahead and weren’t able to retrace our steps through the whole place guided by the information.
It was unfortunate because while we were able to read it later that day, it certainly would have improved our experience to have had it in front of us at the time. Oh well—something to look forward to on a future visit!
Despite the information snafu, I would still recommend visiting the Starbucks roastery if you enjoy coffee and have any interest in the roasting process. It was a wonderful way to start the day, it’s in the midst of multiple things to do and places to eat on Capitol Hill, and while Seattleites may not want to admit it, it’s a quintessential Seattle experience to pop in a Starbucks location.