CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> 2 Cafes in Washington State

Back Buzz - January 2, 2008

[pumping heart] Herkimer Coffee, 7320 Greenwood Avenue North, Phinney Ridge, Seattle, WA

[pumping heart] Perfect Cup, 2747 Pacific Avenue Southeast, Olympia, WA

Before I continue with my summer of Scottish and Pacific Coast coffee, I really must complain about a place in Sheffield City Centre. I never expected to criticise a Caffé Nero, as the UK chain has proved to consistently deliver a well-made quality espresso. But on a recent pre-holiday evening I was passing by the Peace Gardens and felt in need of a caffeine pick-me-up. So I stopped into Caffé Nero, the same one at which I'd had a decent experience on two previous occasions.

But on this occasion I was shocked to see the young woman who served me pour my "double espresso macchiato" into a grande-sized takeaway cup. When I asked her why it was in such a massive cup she said they'd run out of the little ones. Did she mean both the espresso-sized cups and the cappuccino-sized cups? Well, I suppose anything's possible. But when I went to lift my "double macchiato" I nearly threw my shoulder out: the grande paper cup (16 ounces) was over half full, meaning there was a good 8 ounces of liquid. Now, how can one possibly make an 8-ounce drink out of two 1-ounce shots of espresso and a dollop of milk foam? As Caffé Nero prides itself on training its baristas, somebody should march this sad girl off into a refresher course, pronto!

And now it's back to the Pacific Coast for this month's review.

Last August I spent three weeks on the Pacific Coast, starting in Seattle near the top and ending up in Long Beach, California near the bottom. As Seattle, my favourite American city, was the starting point for my Double Shot Buzz columns, I was looking forward to my first 21st century visit. Sadly I was in the city for only 4 days, during which time I was busy loading my personal belongings from storage into a rental truck with the help of my friend Mistah Rick. On the first day of my visit before Rick arrived from the Bay Area, my friend Celia and I managed to visit two old friends: Caffé Vita on 5th Avenue North and Caffé D'Arte downtown.

On my last day before Rick and I started our road trip, we managed to find time for one new cafe. As we walked from Rick's cousin's house in Ballard up to the Department of Licensing in Greenwood, we stopped for breakfast at Herkimer Coffee, located across from the 74th Street Alehouse on Phinney Ridge. This part of town, located at the peak of the rising of the western shore of Green Lake, was named after Guy Phinney, a Nova Scotian who developed the estate that later became the award-winning Woodland Park Zoo, and he planted the formal rose garden directly adjacent. As we walked into the cafe on a sunny Friday morning, dogs were barking outside and the place, refreshingly away from the trendier parts of Seattle, was buzzing with locals. Our two cappuccinos were served in big brown cups, one with a nice ring rosette and the other served pure white. Made with Caffé Vita beans, they were very mild but quite pleasant, like good bedtime cappuccinos. Rick's breakfast was a muffin from Essential Bakery, and I had a pleasantly ample scone.

Opened in 2003, Herkimer Coffee roasts its beans daily and the coffees are available for retail and wholesale purchase online. The cafe offers free WiFi, and they have a second outlet in Ravenna. Although there is an award on the wall in the ladies' room for restoring the Greenwood/Phinney neighbourhood, Herkimer Coffee was inspired by the town of Herkimer, New York, where the owner grew up. The cafe's logo is the old Trolley Bridge in Herkimer from a 1903 photo. The bridge, built by the wonderfully named Beckwith Quackenbush of Mohawk, was completed in 1903 to take riders between Utica and Little Falls, and it was used until 1933.

After our breakfast it was onward and upward through our last day in Seattle. On Saturday morning we took off in our Budget truck down I-5 toward California. Some way past Tacoma we felt the need for our second coffee and breakfast of the morning, so we pulled off in Olympia, the capital of Washington State. Named after the Olympic Mountains to the northwest, this city has been the home of many famous people including cartoonists Matt Groening and Lynda Barry; musicians Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Courtney Love, and Ricky Lee Jones; and comedian Michael Richards.

As we drove down Pacific Avenue we spotted the Perfect Cup drive-through and pulled in, relieved that our 16-foot truck cleared the overhang. The nice girl behind the counter asked if we wanted our short cappuccinos wet or dry, and then she asked us if we were moving. Dry, we replied, and in a manner of speaking we were moving, as my belongings in the truck were on their way to my mother's garage in California enroute to being shipped to England. And we along with my belongings were in the process of moving 1100 miles from Seattle to SoCal. So yes, definitely moving as opposed to stationary.

We pulled up a little beyond the drive-through to have our breakfast. My blueberry scone was a bit poached in its plastic wrapper that had imparted the texture of a muffin, and it was the first glazed scone I've ever had. Rick's muffin with its lemon filling was more like a lemon jelly doughnut. But the cappuccinos were done well and reasonably tasty, considering they were single dry cappuccinos served in eight-ounce paper cups. The only thing I could find on the Internet about Perfect Cup is the fact that it got a perfect report from a recent health inspection. You certainly can't complain about that.

And now, as a New Year's treat, here's a recent completely unrelated e-mail conversation with a workmate about workplace injuries, parallel Elvises, and mistaken blues:

Today at work I was shelving a trolley of books predominantly in the 615s. I shifted my sore joints into a sitting position to shelve a book on the bottom shelf. When I stood up I felt something slice painfully into my back. On the shelf behind me was a ragged large plastic binder titled "Professional Development Diary", and as I examined the torn jagged bit of spine I noticed a faint tint of red. Knowing I hadn't kissed the spine with my red-painted lips I checked my back and found a long vertical scratch marked by little droplets of blood. I went into the toilet to examine and clean it, and fortunately it wasn't about to start gushing because I had only one tissue in my pocket. But it's quite sore, especially when I make any movement where my jeans slide up and down against my torso, which of course is every movement I make while shelving.

As I didn't want it to start bleeding again I thought of asking someone where I could get a large plaster. But then my line manager would have insisted that I file an accident report, and because of the danger of tetanus and septicaemia I would probably be taken to the hospital for observation (and to allow my wound to become infected with the latest version of MRSA), only to be dumped out onto the cold wet pavement once the hospital administrators discover I'm not an actual "staff member" or "employee", so they will decide I fall in the category of "university cockroach" (Grade 47 Lime Scale 0.15) and therefore I'm not covered for this work-related accident under the NHS.

So I prefer to remain silent. If, upon seeing me tomorrow, you notice swollen little blue veins surrounded by red rings of swelling all over my skin, don't become alarmed. Face it, JC ... you've really got to stop doing those Elvis impersonations in the library. They're wearing you out. I saw you the other day, by the 365s, doing your Jailhouse Rock. It's great, sure... I never cease to be gobsmacked by its accuracy (the way you rotated the Prisons Handbook over your head like that was amazing; I melted in a way only Priscilla could've known before me). But there's only so much a body can take. You're there, thrusting away, a-huh-ing at every student's request, gyrating across to the catalogue to musically assist them in their quest for books on cardiology and hotel management. And it's non-stop. Your poor hips never get a let-up. Elvis never knew when to stop, which is why he'd combine sleeping, eating and shitting into the one sitting. But look what happened to him. He ended up having to retire after he dislocated his waist. They say he ended up stacking shelves at a Kwiksave in Felixstowe... Hang on a minute...! You lived down there... And Elvis was American too! What a fascinating coincidence.

Were you wearing your white spandex jumpsuit inside out again? And got the zip caught in your flesh? Happens all the time. You should be more careful. I wish you wouldn't wear that, anyway. You look a bugger in it. Wait a minute -- I lived in Folkestone, not Felixstowe. I know they're similar -- 10 letters beginning F and ending e, with an s and a t and at least one o and an l -- but they're probably quite different. (I've never been to Felixstowe so I can't say for sure.) I will admit I did talk my friend Dogandi into moving from Chicago to Seattle instead of to San Francisco based on the letters and characteristics of "Seattle" v. "San Francisco". And now we've got these parallel universes to think about. Ah, well... Maybe Elvis was working at Tesco in Falmouth... (awopbopalula-awopbamboom) Hah! I knew it. I knew if I pressed you long enough you'd crack. There's no doubting it now. You ARE Little Richard. It was the flamboyant earrings that gave you away.

It's a little known fact that Carl Perkins' shoes were not, in fact, blue. Blue suede was not successfully developed until 1973. Instead, his audience had to view his concerts through special glasses that gave his shoes the appearance of being blue under special lighting. When Elvis Presley covered "Blue Suede Shoes", he used tattooed pig-leather in his shoes, giving them a similar pile to pork scratchings. On a related note, Gene Vincent's caps were not blue, but ultra-violet. They only appeared blue because of the eye's inability to perceive anything of a shorter wavelength. On account of subtle changes in the Earth's atmosphere, when viewed today Vincent's hats seem purple. What is more, Eddie Cochran miscounted. There are, in fact, 199 steps to Heaven. Though this would've meant for a much longer song.