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Seattle: a city of coffee appreciation.

I recently visited Seattle by way of the Specialty Coffee Association of America which held its annual Tradeshow and Conference in this lovely city.

Coffee traders had told me stories about this metropolis, tales of small roasters and shops scouring through the trade for exotic coffee locales, looking for that ultimate coffee taste. I've received countless articles from freelance writers extolling the virtues of coffee carts and espresso beverages available in dentists' offices and drive-through kiosks. So, it's safe to say I had an inkling as to the craziness I might expect from this city.

What I found was the utmost reverence for the coffee bean--shop owners who strive to obtain the best, roast the best and serve the best. While staying in downtown Seattle, I did indeed see many coffee carts, practically one on every corner, but then I again was walking in heavily congested tourist areas. I also noticed more than one coffee shop on a street, but these were no ordinary coffee shops. Each were name brand roasters who served their own unique coffees and pastries, danish, etc. The coffee ranged from hot to cold, frappes to granitas, flavors to straight; and the names: tail, straight, skinny, double latte, double and triple espresso. I felt as though I was asking for a shot of whiskey instead of a cup of coffee. But people were there buying and buying.

Seattle houses many roasters: Starbucks, Caravali, Millstone, SBC, Torrefazione Italia, Inc., Veneto's, Beans Company Coffee, and many others. Three hours north of the city, in Vancouver, is one of Canada's largest roasters, Nabob, alongside the Swiss Water Process plant.

Coffee is still a relatively new beverage to Seattlites. Fifteen years ago, there was nothing available in espresso. Disgruntled San Franciscans relocated to this beautiful city and, finding none of that good Berkeley/San Francisco type of coffee, brought their own coffee with them. Some even opened up shops. Then the real espresso demand kicked in.

There's something about the people here in Seattle - they all care about each other, the environment, and doing good business. This wasn't something put on for my benefit--I saw real comraderie and altruism in this town (and I don't think I've been in New York that long).

I visited with specialty coffee roaster, Caravali.

Caravali's four-story building overlooks Elliott Bay, in the downtown area. The company's simple storefront displays some of its coffee and tea product lines and a few burlap bags of Kona and other origin bags. Tim McCormack is the vice president and is in charge of both the roasting and purchasing of the firm's coffees, as well as of the purchasing and blending of teas. The company is a whole bean distributor whose clients include department stores, coffee shops and just a little restaurant business. "Competition is quite fierce for these accounts," McCormack confided.

Caravali also does private label coffee and teas for high image proprietors. Coffee is the company's mainstay, and tea is just a fraction of the whole bean sales. Tea is blended and flavored for clients' specifications.

Volume is growing for Caravali, says McCormack, and each year sales volume climbs. This increase is interesting for a city which really didn't have any taste for espresso some 15 years ago, McCormack tells me. Maybe it's the weather being cool and rainy that drew people to coffee. Whatever the reason, something about quality coffee just clicked with the Seattlites.

In the four-story building, shipping and receiving reside at its bottom-most level. The flexible roasting schedule of five days a week, for 5-6 hours per day is on a Probat roaster which roasts 90 kilos per batch (4 batch/hour) with coffee conveyed pneumatically to packing stations.

Packaging for valve bags is provided by Fres-co and coffee packs are available in 5 lb bulk bags, 14 oz valve bags for the retail market and 2 1/2 oz valve packs for R&G.

One recent area of growth for the company has been its affiliation with the office coffee service firm, Pot O'Gold. Office workers are bringing into the office the quality and variety of coffee they purchase for themselves at home.

Mail order makes Caravali available to not only the West Coast, but all over the U.S.

Caravali doesn't package teas, providing its clients access to Twinings tins instead. The company doesn't carry pre-packed teas right now.

Caravali offers a vast array of 30 regular coffees, 7 decafs, and 12 flavored varieties available in regular and decaf. Both the decaf and flavored segments account for 20% of sales. The flavored segment is still growing, McCormack tells me, with Hazelnut Truffle as their #1 flavor, followed by Vanilla Creme and Chocolate Raspberry. McCormack has noticed regional preferences for flavors and notes that sometimes flavors prove to be faddish.

Decaffeinated methods include methylene chloride and water process varieties, and McCormack expects that this market may expand as versions are refined.

McCormack has his own personal coffee tastes. He prefers the estate coffees and is quick to admit he likes some Indonesians and East African coffees. Kona is sold straight or in a 1/3 blend, and Jamaican Blue Mountain, with its high price tag, is infrequently offered.

Leaving Caravali, I chose not to purchase an 'extra tall' espresso from a coffee cart situated in front of their facility; the line was too long.

COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Washington State
Author:McCabe, Jane
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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