In 28 years of being a Washington State resident, last week marked my very first visit to the city of Olympia. While neglect of state capitals seems to be an embedded trend within West Coast tourism (who travels to California to see Sacramento, or to Oregon in hopes of visiting Salem?), it turns out that Olympia is actually brimming over with cool stuff. Historic artesian water sites, public art, parks, and boardwalks surround the capitol building to form a city with a surprising number of interests and attractions. But even if the history, art, and politics can't provide sufficient draw to inspire your visit to our state's capital, I've got one more thing to add to the list: visit for the coffee.
Colombia Estrella del Sur at Batdorf+Bronson in Olympia, WA
Last week, I discovered that within a few easy miles, traveling at a leisurely pace from downtown Olympia, you can enjoy samples from at least three city-specific coffee roasters. I started my journey with a visit to the Espresso Parts lab, where Michael Fernandez (known to most people as Panda), introduced me to a number of nifty new gadgets (such as the Buono Kettle Water Restrictor, for pour-over coffee), and made a helpful list of "must visit" coffee destinations in the area.
1.) Olympia Coffee Roasters, 108 Cherry St. A visit next door to Olympia Coffee Roasters introduced me to the single cleanest and most organized roastery I have yet seen. The coffee shop at front of house is lined with windows looking into the roastery, where someone was sweeping what appeared to be an already well-swept floor! Oly Coffee is a small roasting operation, and the adjoining shop matches it in size. The shelves are kept stocked with a ready supply of coffee, and the tables are kept busy with a constant supply of customers. I purchased a bag of the El Salvador Santa Adelaida, and a little book log entitled "33 Cups of Coffee." One fabulous shot of Oly's Big Truck Espresso, and I was sent on my way toward a pronunciation conundrum down the street.
Espresso Parts: when I said "lab," I meant it.
2.) Sizizis, 704 4th Ave E. Or, to be more exact, a pronunciation palindrome. Sizizis, named precisely so that it would be the same no matter which way you looked at it, sits steeped in local folklore about its original proprietor, "Duane the Dark Dentist." Duane S. Moore, DDS, is called by a number of similar titles, and is best known around Olympia as the building owner who paints all of the buildings he owns (rental homes, bar, coffee shop...) black. Sizizis serves Stumptown coffee, and an unusual variety of syrups, including violet and lavender flavorings for beverages. I asked the barista what, if he could only choose one thing, he would want to tell everyone about the location. Without a second thought, he replied, "We're open 24 hours." Then, pondering a moment, he admitted, "We did close once, though." Once since 2008 isn't bad.
According to its menu, Sizizis is open to infinity.
3.) Batdorf & Bronson, 111 Market St. NE. From Sizizis, just as it was getting warmed up for the second half of its day, I moved on to Batdorf & Bronson's farmer's market location, arriving shortly before their close. After the dark and quiet experience preceding it, the Dancing Goats Espresso Bar seemed incredibly open and cheerful, filled with natural light and friendly chatter. The single origin espresso on bar was their Colombia Estrella del Sur, which presented sweet and subtle citrus flavors, creamy texture, and a burnt-sugar finish. The baristas carried on a constant stream of conversation with me, each other, and other store patrons, discussing everything from one regular customer's day, to where I should go next on my tour of the city.
4.) Mud Bay Coffee, 600 Cooper Point Road SW #630.Mud Bay Coffee, which (fortunately) turns out to be completely unrelated to the Mud Bay pet stores, was the final destination, and required a drive "all the way out" to West Olympia... which took less than ten minutes, and was well worth the marginal effort. As much as I always love Olympia Coffee Roasting, as strange as Sizizis was, and as enjoyable as Batdorf & Bronson turned out to be, I have to say that Mud Bay may have stolen the spotlight by taking up a strong "no high fructose corn syrup" stance in a strip mall location. From the outside of Mud Bay, I expected nothing at all like the inside. Healthy snack options and a magnetic poetry board by the fireplace served to restore a little zen to my caffeinated day, and although my palate had reached the coffee-tasting haziness one might expect from such an afternoon, the Mud Bay baristas were excellent - both as baristas, and as cartographers detailing my return trip to Seattle.
Olympia Coffee Roasting Company
As I drove back to the freeway with sunset turning the capitol building shades of pink and purple, I contemplated whether or not a return trip should involve something more State Capital-y, like courthouse and museum visits. In the end, though, I decided that coffee touring the capital city of a state proudly claiming to have the capital city for coffee was actually quite fitting. ...Good thing, since in all honesty, my return visits are most likely to be coffee-related as well.