You may wonder how you found yourself in this part of town if you're not a resident of the area. Slate's Coffee Bar resides in a lesser-travelled area of the Ballard neighbourhood in Seattle, tucked into a corner at the bottom of a hill along Northwest Market Street. The Coffee Bar – and that's precisely what this is, a coffee bar; not a shoppe, not a café, but a bar – looks, feels, and functions like a neighbourhood establishment. And if you ask any of the nearby residents, they will most likely agree; this is their coffee bar. We like to think that it's our coffee bar as well, and you probably will too.
Upon entering the building, you are greeted warmly and offered refreshment in the form of a glass of water. If you are not aware, water is there to clear your palate in preparation for your beverage. In our opinion, if you aren't being served water with your coffee, they're doing it wrong. Along with being offered water and being greeted, you are asked if you have ever been in before or if you have any enquiries about the menu card.
Menu assistance is offered at Slate because it is not your run-of-the-mill coffee shoppe. There is no fluff. No skinny vanilla frappés. Not even sugar or cream, for that matter. The Coffee Bar is a purist's delight. We could not have chosen a better establishment to do our first review.
At Slate Coffee Roasters there is a sense of everyone working at the same goal: providing a fresh, culinary experience while sharing something that they are passionate about. You won't find anyone here who doesn't have time to be friendly and nerd out over coffee with you. That was our experience with the staff and customers alike. Whether you are a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, industry professional, or someone who has never tried coffee in your life you can expect a gratifying experience at Slate. In fact we loved it so much we covered our ground twice.
You probably want to hear about the coffee. We ordered an espresso neat, a 6oz. espresso with milk (soy), and a chocolate covered candied orange. The espresso that day was the Finca La Gloria. There was a faint aroma of coconut, crisp lime blossom, and melon, swirled in with fudge and berry. Appropriately the flavours were much the same, but the citrusy aroma transformed to a lemongrass, and the sweetness presented in an almost salty, honeydew flavour. The espresso was expertly pulled and not in the slightest sour or bitter. Perfect. Add the expertly textured and microfoamed milk and it was like a light, exotic chiffon custard. The candied orange was a nice compliment to the Finca La Gloria and played up the citrus and chocolate flavours without overwhelming the palate.
You're in for a real treat if you sit down and stay a while. The music provides a pleasant background and the baristas are model stewards of hospitality. It's not like we throw those sentiments around lightly either. One too many times have we been subject to underwhelming coffee experiences. Not at Slate. Chances are you'll be treated to small amounts of whatever is brewing (or shaking) during your stay. During our first visit Brandon, the fellow with the long hair and straw hat, poured some residual Finca La Gloria V60 into a shaker with ice and presented us with the loveliest rendition of iced coffee we ever did try.
The second time we visited we threw Brandon a little by requesting straight espresso on ice. Knowing well enough how to handle espresso, he decided to chill it before pouring it over ice to keep it from melting and diluting the product. Good move. We like to have espresso on ice in the heat as refreshment because we feel like it suspends the flavours well. This coffee in particular was the Karogoto Tekangu, which was bright and sparklingly fruity. Most discernible flavour wise was the green apple mentioned in their description, with a syrupy body. On this visit we brought along our AeroPress so that Brandon could demonstrate his PNW Brewer's Cup winning method. He used the Black Oak Kenya Kagumoni that we brought along, and it was the best cup of that roast we've had yet. His inverted method involves coarser grinds, several additions of water for optimal grind saturation, and a long steady press that lets up before the hiss. Google it. Or better yet, go to the bar and talk to him about it.
We also met Chelsey Walker-Watson on our second visit, who is one of the co-founding siblings. It's always nice to see owners/founders working in their business and putting their ideals into practice. She was just as outgoing and warm as everyone else at Slate, if not even more so.
In conclusion, we could not regard Slate Coffee Roasters more highly. Their service and hospitality is unparalleled in specialty coffee. The product that they serve is carefully sourced, roasted, and served. They offer a fresh experience. And we suspect that they have a lot more up their sleeves. Check them out!