If you had asked me an hour ago, I might have remarked that I really wanted to open this blog with a word about mirages. Unfortunately, I was reminded some 20 minutes ago that any such opening discussion would require attempting to remember such things as temperature gradients, refraction, and a few scientific properties of light. So I've abandoned ship. It really wasn't that I wanted to discuss the idea of a mirage, anyhow. It was that I wanted to relate my recent coffee-drinking experiences to the classic cartoon scenes in which a character, stranded in the desert, sees an oasis, runs toward it, and dives into a disappearing mirage.
Coffee, as of late, has been nearly squeezed out of my morning schedule. I dislike this truth intensely, but it remains: Some days, it is closing in on 4 in the afternoon before I make it to a decent Americano. And by that time, I've begun seeing what could be called "coffee mirages." These frequently appear in the form of plaid-shirted, skinny-jeaned pairs of hipsters, which for the coffee addict are essentially beacons of hope shining against the darkness of an espresso-less day: Where there are vintage bikes and stocking caps, coffee can't be far away.
In some districts, this is more factual than in others. Take Ballard, for example...
Yesterday, driving down Leary Way around 4:30 sans coffee, I saw out of the corner of my eye two very hip individuals strolling down the sidewalk. And I thought, hopefully, that they appeared to be carrying something very like "independent" coffee-shop cups. Like the cartoon character making a mad dash toward hope in the midst of barren landscape, I immediately abandoned my course in favor of pursuing the direction from which these possibly caffeinated people appeared to originate. Not always a successful or smart maneuver, but at least this time, it paid off. One block later, I arrived at Java Jahn.
Java Jahn is not new on the Ballard scene. It's been developing its reputation and loyal following for about 20 years now, and in the Seattle coffee scene where storefronts seem to open and close as fast as you can walk around a city block, 20 years of presence is saying something weighty. Although not personally impressed with the coffee itself (serving Lighthouse Coffee), the visit did remind me of two important elements the specialty coffee industry occasionally lets slip by the wayside in favor of other artistic elements.
First, I think I'd forgotten that coffee could be served quickly. As "slow bar" coffee really takes off in our city, the amount of time it takes to prepare a drink seems to be steadily increasing. Some of our baristas, bless them, are dealing with line-out-the-door customer volumes, and making drinks as fast as they can humanly make them well. Then again, some of our baristas just don't seem to feel any real need to acknowledge you when you walk in the door... at least, not for the first few minutes. But at Java Jahn, my entire order, start-to-coffee, ended up being less than about three minutes. Which, come to think of it, made sense since I was the only customer in line, and it only takes +/- 25 seconds to pull a proper shot of espresso.
The second thing was, quite simply, that people have names. True, when you don't see someone frequently, you cannot (nor should you) be expected to remember who they are. However, anyone you see several times a week should probably be committed to memory, with a correct name, and possibly even a typical drink order on mental file. In less than five minutes, I watched the barista at this little shop recall three separate customers' names, life circumstances, and drink preferences with the ease most of us have to reserve for family. It was impressive, to say the very least.
Java Jahn does not have wireless, or much seating, and due to my personal predilection for coffees other than Lighthouse, will not become a regular oasis for my coffee-drinking habits. But I expect it will sneak into the lineup occasionally, on days when I want coffee before 4 and don't have time to spend 20 minutes in a coffee shop. Or on days when I am looking for a barista who still has a functioning smile.
Located at 1426 N.W. Leary Way, Java Jahn is open from 5:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays, 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, and 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sundays.