Seattle: Slate Coffee Roasters
Words by Joanna Han Photographs by Michael A. Muller
Slate Coffee Roasters steers clear of Italian coffee tradition and shows Seattle its progressive approach to coffee.
When mother-and-siblings trio Lisanne, Keenan and Chelsey Walker opened Slate Coffee Roasters in November 2011, they wanted to give Seattle’s coffee culture a much-needed clean slate. Dissatisfied with the city’s complacency and pride in its tradition of “deeply roasted” espresso served in a “classic coffee shop” setting, the Slate team set out to reframe coffee in a culinary context with an emphasis on environment and hospitality. “We are thrilled with the newly evolving coffee scene here.”
With the help of experienced coffee professionals Nik Virrey and Brandon Paul Weaver, Slate operated out of an attractive Airstream (“Slatestream”) parked on the corner of 14th and Madison in Capitol Hill before opening up its brand-new shop in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood earlier this year. Roasting on a 15-kilo Giesen roaster and pulling shots from a matte black La Marzocco GB-5 MP, Slate offers a coffee menu as clean and minimal as its aesthetic (the work of in-house art director Tommy Panigot). “We find that a traditional Italian menu, with offerings like the macchiato and cappuccino, often leads people to anticipate one drink but receive another. Our modern menu is meant to be as simple and transparent as possible.”
Using a method called exposure roasting, Slate roasts to emphasize the unique characteristics of each particular coffee rather than imposing a specific roast profile to create uniformity among them all. “As coffee is a tropical fruit, we seek to create a balance in the cup between acidity and sweetness as you would taste in fresh fruit,” says Chelsey.
Espresso is served in a Glen Cairns glass, which they call “espresso neat” to celebrate espresso in its pure form. Espresso is also offered with non-homogenized whole milk or soymilk in 4-, 6- or 8-ounce stemware. “We also brew a selection of washed and natural-process coffees in a variety of methods based on what we feel tastes best for each coffee.”
To encourage customers to truly taste the coffee, cream and sugar are not offered. Although this may sound a bit intimidating and off-putting, you won’t encounter any snobby attitudes at here. Slate baristas believe that coffee can be the bedrock on which relationships are built, and that the best pairing for quality is hospitality. “Our main focus is on sharing the most unique and interesting coffees we can find, letting the terroir speak for itself and doing it in the friendliest way possible.”
5413 6th Avenue NW
Seattle, Washington 98107