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Road Trip: Starbucks Reserve, Seattle


After 8 days in Port Townsend, I packed up and headed south to my friends in Bremerton, just over an hour away. Part of my plan was to take advantage of the Bremerton - Seattle ferry for an overnight in the big city. After consulting my Lonely Planet guide and lots of websites, including the excellent King County Metro transport site, I wondered if maybe just a day trip would satisfy, with already too few days with my pals.

Gardens are my top priority, but this was late fall, the weather not always conducive to outdoor sports and, most of all, gardens are rarely at their best that time of year. Further digging and I discovered Seattle has a conservatory, be still my heart. Following the route of the #10 bus on the map to the conservatory location in Volunteer Park, I noticed a curious Google map notation that read “Starbucks Reserve Roastery.” A Google search told me I’d found one of Starbucks’ very special, very few, “Reserve” locations and this was the first, opened in December, 2014. So, both on the same bus route, it couldn’t have been more convenient and while I realize my 2 chosen places to visit in a major American city, a park and a coffee shop, would not be at the top of everyone’s list, it sounded perfect to me. It was decided - ferry rides, a temple to coffee and an indoor garden, my kind of day.

On the appointed day I was delivered to the Bremerton ferry terminal mid-morning on a glorious sunny day, perfectly timed. The crossing to Seattle took an hour during which there were views of Bainbridge Island, a panorama of snow-capped mountains, Puget Sound leading into Elliott Bay, the elegant city from the water, ending at the Seattle Ferry Terminal. Walking off the boat there’s a curious elevated walkway, called the Marion Street Ferry Walkway, which carries pedestrians over the waterfront and several more streets to be deposited at the corner of Marion Street and 1st Avenue. Having memorized my route, I walked 6 blocks along 1st Avenue to Pike Street, a right turn for 3 more blocks, just short of 4th Avenue, to the stop for the #10 bus, which, if my information was accurate, would take me to both my targets of interest.


I didn’t wait long and asked the driver if I could, indeed, get where I wanted to go on her bus. You can, she said, and upon payment of my $1 senior fare was given a transfer which the kind woman told me she’d punched to last until midnight, good for my entire day’s rides! I was beginning to love this city. There weren’t many of us on the bus, I sat in the front and before long was dropped off on Pike Street near Minor Avenue, across from Starbucks Reserve Roastery in the southwest corner of the Capital Hill neighborhood.

My vaccination card was checked just inside the impressive entry doors, which was reassuring with the lunch-time crowd and my realization that my timing could have been better. But given the “experience” I was walking into I didn’t dwell on this minor downside. Now, as I describe my visit, I can’t resist borrowing some of the lofty rhetoric from the Roastery website, appearing in italics so you know.

Seattle’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a complicated place. On entering, a right turn and we find ourselves immediately in ‘Handpicked at the Roastery,’ all manner of coffee-themed tsachakes, paraphernalia, high-end pre-bagged country-specific coffee beans, even clothing, none of which one needs, but "wants" we'd never thought of until now, cultivated on the spot.

Handpicked at the Roastery
From the irreverent to the aspirational, these are our favorite finds—pieces we’d love to give, gifts we’d love to get. In curating this collection . . .





Beyond “Handpicked” are tall tables with stools and lastly in that direction is the Princi bakery. Pizza, sweet things, bread, all to feed the long line and full tables of trendy young lunchers.

Princi, the bakery
Immerse yourself in the indulgent experience of artisanal pizzas, pastries and breads—sourced without compromise, baked without shortcuts and enjoyed with all the senses.




From the bakery a swing around to one’s left brings us to the Mixology Bar. From the photo it appears there are bottles, so maybe booze & coffee but to be honest I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention other than to snap a photo. The website mentions a cold-brew system, in the photo under the Arriviamo name, specially brewed coffee for special coffee drinks.

Arriviamo Mixology Bar
. . . driven by our relentless need to innovate. To explore. To care wholly and deeply about every drink we serve.


Next, moving left again, is the Scooping Bar. I confess I was intrigued, mostly by the prices, I’ll admit, per HALF pound. I love my coffee but I chose to remain ignorant of the delights that might justify spending so much. Best not know, I figure.

The Scooping Bar
Consult with a Coffee Master to help choose which Starbucks Reserve coffee suits your taste.  Then take home a freshly scooped bag.





Moving on, a very busy place, the Main Bar with it’s fascinating hoppers, part of a Rube Goldbergesque system that delivers fancy beans from a variety of places, presumably those you can see up close at the Scooping Bar, through a “custom-engineered pneumatic system” into what appear to be leather baskets. Thence, to your cup or into bags to be shipped worldwide. It’s a lot to take in on a first visit and my comprehension only went as far as noting it, taking photos but not really absorbing what the copper, wood and leather were accomplishing. This seemed to be the most efficient counter to get something to eat and a coffee so I ordered my personal favorites, a salami sandwich and a latte. A bit of a wait and I had my lunch. Now, where to sit?

The Main Bar
Pull up a seat at our main bar and enjoy a brewed coffee or espresso drink made with our rarest, freshest coffee beans.




What’s called on the website The Roasting Area isn’t really just one area but forms a kind of backdrop to all the rest, lots of space on 2 levels, impressive silos, casks, small roasters, large roasters, beans being sucked through tubes and bagged coffee dropped onto a conveyer belt and disappearing. Maybe because it was a Saturday, the only part in operation seemed to be a roaster with 2 attendants and sucked-up beans appearing in bags moving away on the belt. It was all very complicated and I gave in to my default mode, taking pictures when non-comprehension presented itself.

The Roasting Area
This is where our Master Roasters ply their craft, using the perfect combination of time and heat to help ensure each coffee’s ultimate expression.





Last but not least, The Experience Bar. It appears to be a place where they might hold events of a coffee sort, on a lower level along with the roaster that was operating. But its particular value to me was as a surface that wasn’t being used. I pulled up a chair and the end of the Experience Bar became a comfortable, almost private spot to enjoy my sandwich and latte. Yes, a bit presumptuous, I’ll admit, but no one seemed to notice or care and I was happy.

The Experience Bar
Delve deep into the sensory experience and inspired theater of coffee craft and innovation.

Finally, feeling dazzled, fed and supremely coffeed, a few more pictures then time to go, back across the street to the bus stop, and along came who was beginning to feel like my personal driver, the kind lady dispenser of all day $1 bus tickets, taking me to my next stop, a beautiful glass tropical desert garden palace. That’s for next week.


Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, theatrical, experiential shrines to coffee passion, located in Shanghai, Milano, New York, Tokyo and Chicago, as well as Seattle.

Explore the Reserve website.  It says right on the homepage,

This is Starbucks Reserve

PortMoresby's 2021 Road Trip.

And more stories are here.


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I've never been a real fan of Starbucks coffee (my theory is that they make it badly so people with too much money will pay to have it covered up with confections), but the Reserve sounds like a fun place to spend an afternoon!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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