Counter Culture Coffee’s Seattle Training Center is the sort of space you might stumble upon by chance. Located in a narrow storefront on 1st Street in the city’s Pioneer Square, its two-C logo affixed to the building’s facade just looks like it belongs. Has it always been here?
It hasn’t, but Counter Culture's Seattle “TC”, as it’s colloquially referred to, has been in the making since 2016. The independently owned Durham, North Carolina-based company entered the market in the city with one customer—the diminutive Anchored Ship cafe in Ballard—but grew exponentially when hometown favorite Cherry Street Public House picked them up as a supplier that same year. Counter Culture cut the ribbon on its new space in mid-April. Seattle regional manager Amanda Byron explains that the company wanted to have a unique launch event, not just another coffee party.
“It wasn’t just an open house,” Byron says of what will surely be the first of many special events at the training space. “The idea was that we would do a book launch for A Reference Guide to Ethiopian Coffee Varieties.”
The book, written by Counter Culture’s Getu Bekele and Timothy Hill, is exactly what it sounds like, and sets out, according to its introduction, “to provide a more complete picture of the unique coffee varieties found in Ethiopia and showcase the work researchers have been doing in the country for over 40 years to make Ethiopian coffee more disease-resistant and better tasting.” Sounds like a lot to bite off? It would be, perhaps, for a roaster with less depth of knowledge in the field. The opening also featured Jeff Koehler, who wrote Where the Wild Coffee Grows, and showcased a limited-release single-farmer-lot coffee from Jose Sebastian Rodriguez in Colombia to commemorate the occasion.
Before opening their own space, Counter Culture’s Seattle operations were run out of the La Marzocco showroom in nearby Ballard. But having a facility fully their own is key to the Counter Culture model, says Byron.
“There are four corners to a complete region—education, sales account management, tech support, and a training center,” she explains. “We could've existed at La Marzocco for quite a while, but it never would've been our space.”
“With each new training center,” Byron says, “you'll see slightly different equipment, depending on what's new at the time of its opening. But what we’re really doing in each is creating spaces that are easy to use, functional, and welcoming.”
That means the company’s popular Tasting at Ten series will continue in Seattle, and Counter Culture’s customers will of course have access to the space for trainings. Current partnerships include all of Cherry Street’s cafes, two General Porpoise locations, the Miir flagship, 5 Stones Coffee Company in Redmond, and James Beard Award-winning Seattle institution Canlis, which serves exclusive off-menu coffees whenever possible.
“I'm interested in how [the new center] impacts our ability to expand in Seattle,” Byron says. “We have a support model like nobody else does, and I think that a lot of places here don't yet know it exists. My hope is to get people in here to see this.”
Whether they’re invited in or just happen to be walking by, her hope seems a reasonable one.
Some photos courtesy of Counter Culture Coffee.