By Amy Rowley
On a brisk fall morning, I entered Olympia Coffee Roasting Company’s downtown coffee shop. A cheerful barista welcomed me inside. Devoted customers conversed over steaming carafes of carefully brewed coffee. The cozy quarters overlook full glass pane windows into the roasting facility.
While the mood inside the coffee shop is instantly inviting, the true essence of a cup of coffee from Olympia Coffee Roasting is built on science, precision, and intense design, starting at the farm.
In October, that dedication was rewarded by the preeminent industry source, Roast Magazine. Olympia Coffee Roasting Company received the highest industry honor – Micro Roaster of the Year. (The magazine’s complete article can be found here.)
This award identifies Olympia Coffee Roasting as the pinnacle of specialty coffee producers.
Olympia Coffee Roasting Company won because of its scientific commitment to excellence. The award was granted because each sip of coffee is the best it can be – starting at the farm as far away as Guatemala or Kenya.
Oliver Stormshak serves as the Roast Master, responsible for sourcing the best coffee in the world. Personally visiting the coffee farms, Stormshak develops a personal relationship with the farmer, considering the working conditions on the farm along with the quality of the coffee.
He has created a complex and analytic method for selecting which coffees to buy. Using detailed spreadsheets, Stormshak tracks metrics on coffee purchases and then publicizes these ordering decisions with the farmers.
The transparent business decision is intended to educate farmers on why certain beans were selected and how the qualities of the coffee impacted the price.
Scrolling quickly through the spreadsheet, notations of “rejected” are shown about as frequently as the price paid for purchased beans.
Stormshak expects the farmers to maintain the same level of detail on the growing operation. He explains that with a scientific approach to growing coffee, farmers around the world will be able to identify trends that produced high quality beans and then use that information to modify and ultimately replicate the beans each growing season.
In some instances, he will buy a farmer’s entire production. “Ultimately, all the coffee is custom made for Olympia Coffee Company,” says Stormshak when describing his tight relationship with the growers.
With an open dialogue, Stormshak and the farmer produce high quality, single origin coffees. Credit for the work is given to the producer on the detailed label affixed to each bag of coffee.
Once the coffee arrives in Olympia, Stormshak oversees the roasting process following protocol designed by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. However, he has added procedures such as a detailed log book to ensure that the roasting process is meeting his high standards.
Along with his roasting partner, Will Firth, Stormshak cups (or samples the coffee following a scientific process) continuously throughout the roasting process. “The goal is to adjust roasting techniques to retain the unique flavors of the coffee while producing the highest quality,” explains Stormshak.
“When you expect detailed accounting at each step of the process, you will have consistent results,” adds business partner Sam Schroeder who manages the retail operation of the business including barista training.
Inside the roasting facility is a testing lab designed to mimic the interior of a coffee shop. The lab is used to train all baristas, wholesale customers, and offer the opportunity for retail customers to practice home brewing techniques.
Certainly a coffee roasting company would prosper faster in a larger community. However, the partners specifically choose to operate their business in Olympia. They credit the “sweet, small, livable city” with so many people who appreciate handcrafted items.
“Per capita, Olympia is full of food educated consumers who enjoy talking to local farmers,” adds Stormshak.
Stormshak and Schroeder are joined by Sam’s brother, Andy Schroeder, who manages the company’s accounting function. While all baristas and roasters engage in different hobbies and interests after work, they are united in one area – a deep, passionate love of coffee.
Each cup of coffee is brewed to order by a highly trained barista. Educating the customer is a key facet considered in daily operations. “Certainly some customers simply want to enjoy a cup of coffee in an inviting space. Others wish to learn more and our baristas have knowledge to share,” explains Schroeder.
The Olympia Coffee Roasting team is teaching customers about what they like, moving away from selecting a coffee growing region and towards the varietal and ultimately choosing the farmer whose coffee is most pleasing to the palate.
Stormshak and Schroeder are devoted brewed black coffee drinkers. “When you drink a cup of coffee there are intentional flavors to taste. What can be more magical than tasting caramel or tropical fruit?” asks Schroeder.
“People want an excellent cup of coffee in a comfortable space, feeling like they are taken care of by their barista,” explains Schroeder.
All this is happening in downtown Olympia. National recognition for an Olympia based company that is producing the industry’s best cup.
Expect Olympia Coffee Roasting Company to add another neighborhood coffee shop, modeled after its West Olympia facility, in the near future. The partners are also expanding their wholesale business which personally delivers orders to customers. Mail orders are ship nationally.
Congratulations to Olympia Coffee Roasting Company – a local, small business producing national accolades and sincerely devoted customers, chatting over an exceptional cup of coffee.
Olympia Coffee Roasting Company
Downtown Olympia – 108 Cherry St NE
West Olympia – 1706 Harrison Ave NW
Both locations open Monday – Saturday from 7am – 6pm and Sunday from 8am – 5pm.