Local Coffee Drinker Confused by Hospitality.

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Single Origin: Costa Rica
Here is something you may or may not have thought about before: the word "hospital" and the word "hospitality" are variations of the same root (not to start too far off subject: some hospitals could stand to take note of this). In the 14th century, the Latin word hospitale (or hospitium, now our word "hospice") referred to a place that provided lodging to travelers. The word hospitale means "the hospitable" and the logical etymology toward our word "hospital" today seems to be that these establishments took in those who had need.

It is a recognized fact that the Northwest (while known for several of its hospitals) is not known for its hospitality. Descended from that rugged Oregon Trail, survival mindset, we are typically known here for qualities like independence, aloofness, and special adoration of Personal Space. Some folks would call us rude. In reality, we're just socially efficient. But even so, it can be awfully nice to walk into a place and feel welcomed.

This afternoon, I dropped by Seattle Coffee Works for the first time, and discovered what might be one of the most perfect Seattle settings I have yet to encounter. To begin with, Seattle Coffee Works is an independent little coffee roaster in the heart of downtown Seattle, just up the street from Pike Place Market, and across the street from a Starbucks (naturally). The first thing you see upon entering is a display for their current featured roast: The Obama Blend. Browse the for-sale coffees, and you'll discover that they've all been carefully sourced to support and encourage sustainable growing practices and good working conditions. And in glancing around the room, you will find that it is impressively strategically organized into social, anti-social, in-a-hurry, and chilling-out sections, allowing the peaceful coexistence of many independents with conflicting agendas.

What is not so Seattle about it, however, is its hospitality. Which seems genuine, at that. There is no push, no "we're going to be hospitable whether you like it or not," no forcible sharing of coffee knowledge, but also no glaring from behind the espresso bar, no avoidance of eye contact, and no avoidance of conversation. There is a lot of literature and art to explore, from a countertop map of the world allowing you to find your coffee's origins, to books and magazines tucked away on bookshelves. There are board games scattered here and there, and an eclectic array of furniture... and the mugs. Oh the mugs! I applaud Seattle Coffee Works' selection of for-here mugs. Even more so because, when I mentioned how much I liked them, the response I received from the barista was, "Yeah, we're a little picky about mugs around here." (Finally.)

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Vacuum pot brewing at Coffee Work's "Slow Bar."
Seattle Coffee Works welcomes coffee tasting at the "Slow Bar," and since the tour group scheduled for the day arrived significantly late, I was fortunate enough to benefit from the prepared coffee tasting selections: Peru, Tanzania, and Java.

Peruvian coffee is a flavor I am becoming accustomed to (after knowingly sampling it for the first time six months ago at Cafe Cuzco - an awesome little cafe in Ballard). Coffee from Peru is mellow and friendly and easy to drink. Tanzania is newer to me, and I find it too bright for my taste: full of berry flavor, but not quite ripe, with a lot of tart surrounding the sweet. And Java, as far as I am aware, I'd never tried as a single origin before. It bears many similar qualities to a Sumatran coffee, weighing in heavy on earth and herb, but in slightly less aggressive manner. Still, a hefty coffee, and definitely not one I could see drinking before about 10:00 in the morning.

As far as the espresso goes, I'm a fan of their Seattle Space blend. And if you're up to drinking straight espresso, I definitely recommend dropping by for a shot of the single origin Costa Rica, which tastes like apricots. But, be prepared to feel welcome, Seattleite. As if you'd just walked into a friend's house and been told, "Make yourself at home, let me know if you need anything."

It's kind of... nice, actually.

 
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