Zoka's Cucumber Coffee, and the Trendiness That Is Kirkland.

The Kirkland Zoka is weird. I don't intend to convey anything particularly positive or negative by that statement. It's just fact. Kirkland Zoka? Weird.

Although the customer service is great (upbeat, friendly, knowledgeable), there is virtually nothing (aside from the obvious) that says "coffee shop" about this place. It doesn't even smell like coffee. The trendy, polished decor, the flat screen TVs, the Top 40 music, and the display arrangements all scream "upscale salon." I half expected to be asked if I had a reservation when I approached the counter to order my coffee.

Disorienting environment aside, Zoka's coffee standards do prevail. On the recommendation of one of the baristas, I ordered a pour-over cup of the Bolivia San Ignacio, which boasts "hints of honeydew and cucumber." Not flavors I ever thought I would encounter in a cup of coffee, and yet... here they are. San Ignacio is an incredibly subtle coffee, light but lingering, with a peculiar balance of acidity and sweetness that I almost like and simultaneously almost don't like. Which isn't helpful, I realize, but since I don't get "hints of cucumber" in my coffee very often, I find it difficult to hold a strong opinion about what that should taste like.

One of the highlights of the Zoka Coffee Company has always been and continues to be its conversationally organized web-page. I do recommend trying the San Ignacio, because it is different. But more than that, I recommend reading about it, because the remarks give small perspective on the type of thing coffee farmers contend with just to get your coffee to you.

A string of businesses with varying success levels has preceded the Kirkland Zoka in its location over the past few years. But if Zoka would look into the possibility of also offering expensive hair styling and/or nail services along with its coffee, I think the location would do phenomenally well. First, because (as far as I know), the coffee-shop/salon is an untapped market. Second, because then the store would actually make sense. And third, because I would not at all mind going somewhere that ran specials on things like, "free latte with purchase of one hour massage." And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that.

There's a future here, Zoka. Mark my words.

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