We first reported to last September on the impending launch of The Crown by our friends & partners at Royal Coffee. Calling the space an “ambitious new culture club”, we revealed its location—2523 Broadway, in the heart of Oakland—and details on the project’s development the multi-faceted nature, including architecture and design work by Norman Sanchez Architecture and Brett Terpeluk of Studio Terpeluk,
So here, then, is a build-out that functions like something of an update. Work on The Crown has been hot and heavy in the months since we last featured the project, which is pushing now towards an opening date in early 2017.
As told to Sprudge by Richard Sandlin.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Royal Coffee, Inc. is a green coffee importing company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Royal has warehouses in Oakland, Seattle, Madison, Houston, and Shanghai, and sells green coffee online. Founded by Bob Fulmer and Pete McLaughlin in 1978, Royal Coffee has been family owned and operated ever since. Royal Coffee, Inc. supplies thousands of roasters—from start-ups buying their first bag to established multi-national companies—with responsibly sourced beans from around the world, nearly half of which are Certified Organic.
The role of the coffee importer has changed since our opening in 1978. There is so much more information sharing and interaction involved in the green coffee supply chain today than there was in the early ’80s…and even the early 2000s! We are thrilled to be right in the middle of this information curve, providing access not only to great tasting coffees and logistical support, but also helping to educate and empower the entire chain, from picker to barista.
This isn’t our first attempt at a public-facing space: for over two decades until the mid-2000s, we owned and operated a retail café on College Avenue in Oakland, California, among the first in North America (circa 1984) to offer pour-over coffee in a café setting. The Crown is an ambitious extension of all that we have built since 1978, and we cannot wait to share it with you.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
The Crown is an open-source coffee education center, laboratory, event space, and tasting room, celebrating the importance of Oakland to the international coffee community and its history. An incubator of ideas and promoter of experimentation across the entire supply chain, The Crown is inclusive, transparent, and collaborative.
The Crown will have five key components:
The Tasting Room: The ever-evolving and dynamic tasting room will offer highly intentional coffee experiences not commonly found elsewhere. We want to be the place where industry and the general public can explore the full spectrum of coffee highlighted by professional baristas in a café-like environment.
The Presentation Space & Cupping Lab: Here, we will offer small, medium, and large-scale cuppings centered on unique experiences, education, and purchasing. Additionally, we will host events, lectures, and presentations centered on our industry and our city.
The Brewing Lab: We will offer SCAA-certified courses, CQI courses, cutting-edge original workshops, and guest curricula by the industry’s thought-leaders. The Brewing Lab will be an extension of our already popular Crown Analyses showcasing progressive brewing methods and experiments.
The Roasting Lab: The Roasting Lab is a hands-on learning center focused on bringing the best out of the latent potential coffee. Ranging from sample roasting, micro-batches on our 1kg Probatino, and full-scale production training on a 5kg Diedrich and 15kg Loring Falcon, the space will be a roaster’s playground. We’ll be offering SCAA and CQI courses in addition to original curriculum and guest instructors. Ongoing Crown Analyses will continue to be produced on the machines housed in this, the beating heart of The Crown.
The Event Space: Large-scale events celebrating the specialty coffee industry and the importance of our home: Oakland, California. If the Roasting Lab is the heart, the Event Space is its outstretched arms.
The Crown will have a series of movable glass walls that can open the space into one large facility or divide the rooms into four concurrently operated and functional areas: Tasting Room, Presentation Space/Cupping Lab, Brewing Lab, and Roasting Lab.
When you visit us, you’ll be greeted by our open-to-the-public tasting room. While you drink your flight of espressos either in the tasting room or outside in the parklet, our traders will hold industry-facing cuppings in the cupping lab. Concurrently, a member of The Crown team will be hosting an SCAA course in the brew lab. At the same time all this is happening, our Director of Roasting will be hosting roasting demonstrations with new and experienced roasters alike. Alternatively, you might be joining us for a meet the producer event or part of Oakland’s First Fridays street festivals. However you visit us, we can’t wait to host you.
This is the place for both the industry and general public to learn about coffee.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Our approach to coffee begins at the cupping table. Every day, we buy and sell some of the world’s best coffees, and our first encounters with them all happen on the same table we have used for years. For The Crown team, we get just a few fleeting moments with these coffees to understand them more thoroughly before they make their way to some of the world’s best roasters. We’ll be offering everyone—roasters, cuppers, and the public—a special opportunity to taste a broad sampling of the innumerable coffees Royal receives annually. When we open The Crown, our tasting room will highlight this ever-rotating array of fresh crop arrivals, allowing them to shine. The coffees that make the cut will be roasted and served on-site. We will be able to share the lessons we learn from these cuppings, roasts, brews, and café service online with a larger audience; this is a process we’ve already begun with our Crown Analyses, but we can’t wait to add another dimension.
We’ve already assembled a stellar team to manage the space with their various approaches to coffee: Chris Kornman, our Lab and Education Manager, comes to us from years of buying, cupping, brewing, and roasting at Intelligentsia Coffee. Evan Gilman, our Creative Director, is a former Blue Bottle barista trainer, world traveler (with his most recent stint being in Indonesia researching coffee production and logistics), and freelance writer. Jen Apodaca, currently on the Executive Council of the Roaster’s Guild, and formerly of Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, Ecco, and McMenamin’s, is our Director of Roasting. Richard Sandlin, our General Manager, is currently on the SCAA’s Global Education Committee, worked in business development for Fair Trade USA, lived and worked in both Russia and Japan, and co-founded the Bay Area Coffee Community. Look for job postings in the future when we’ll be adding team members to our diverse approach.
Our focus will be specifically on coffee, and to that effect, we won’t be offering food. There are tons of great cafes and bakeries in the Uptown Oakland area; we will be visiting these for breakfast each morning. We also don’t have plans to operate as a wholesale or retail roaster; our customers are doing an excellent job of that already, and we have no intention of stepping into their market. Our goal is to add to the discussion about coffee, not to get into the roasting business. The Crown is a resource for the entire industry to use and profit from.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
There will be a lot of equipment in the space. This space is designed to be a resource for the industry and to that end, it’s going to be a veritable coffee geek’s paradise. Everything we do will be based on radical transparency and collaboration. We couldn’t do this without the appropriate tools.
In the Tasting Room:
3-group La Marzocco Linea PB
3 Mazzer Robur grinders
8-tap cold brew system with cold brew and nitro hookups
Mahlkönig EK 43
2 Marco Über Boilers with matching Ecoboiler UC10s
Rotating pour-over brew methods
Our tasting room will have a modular espresso bar created by Oakland artist Joe Chambers. We will be adapting our bar to the needs of the space. Flexibility and adaptability are the name of the game.
In the Presentation/Cupping Room:
Custom, movable cupping tables for small, medium and large-scale cuppings
La Marzocco GS3 AV
Mazzer Luxe D grinder
Mahlkönig EK 43
2 Marco Über Boilers with matching Ecoboiler UC45
In the Brewing Lab:
3 La Marzocco 2-group espresso machines
Linea PB AV
Linea Classic AV
6 Mazzer espresso grinders
Mazzer Major doser
Mazzer Kony E
3 Mazzer Robur E
2 Marco Ecoboiler TC 10
Mahlkönig EK 43
2 Fetco 2152XTS
4-tap cold brew system with cold brew and nitro hookups
Rotating pour-over brew methods
In the Roasting Lab:
Sample roasters (TBA)
Probat Probatino, 1-kilo roaster
Diedrich IR-5, 5-kilo roaster
Loring Falcon S15, 15-kilo roaster
ColorTrack Professional R100
All roasters will be connected to Cropster and our roast curves with commentary are made available via our already popular Crown Analyses
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Norman Sanchez, our incredible architect who has been on the project since day one —his vision and leadership has been phenomenal. This project wouldn’t be possible without him.
Joe Chambers, an Oakland-based artist tasked to build and design our one-of-a-kind movable espresso bar.
Studio Terpeluk, our interior design firm who has been essential in crafting our vision and ensuring it’s as beautiful as it is functional.
Needmore Designs, although they aren’t working on the actual building, Needmore was one of the first people we called when we got serious about this project. We knew that in order to reflect the heart and soul of The Crown, we needed a digital representation and online platform where we could share our findings freely and widely.
Julie Chang, an Oakland-based artist and longtime friend of Royal Coffee’s (former barista at the Oakland-based Royal Coffee café, currently owned and operated as Cole Coffee.) She has done a lot of design work for Royal in the past and recently designed our logo for The Crown. We can’t wait to see it throughout the space.