Our friends and partners at Royal Coffee have embarked on an exciting new project: a 3,880-square-foot two-story facility in Oakland, California that will operate as the company’s showroom and cultural hub. Intended for coffee drinking, education, and perhaps even a little coffee exploration, Royal's new facility is called The Crown, and will open in early 2016.
Royal has tapped Richard Sandlin, formerly of Fair Trade USA and founder of the Bay Area Coffee Community, to be its general manager and Evan Gilman, formally of Blue Bottle Coffee and occasional writer for this publication, to be the Crown's creative director.
The space, located in Oakland at 2523 Broadway, is a stone's throw away from the Blue Bottle Morse in the rapidly changing Auto Row neighborhood. “The Crown is innovative for us and the area,” explains Sandlin. “It’s going to be a cornerstone for the future neighborhood. There’s great restaurants nearby but for the most part it’s pretty desolate.”
This isn’t the company’s first foray into a public-facing space: for over two decades until the mid-2000s, RCI owned and operated a retail cafe, among the first in North America to offer pour-over coffee in a cafe setting all the way back in 1984. Still, The Crown is “an exciting new step for the company,” Gilman tells us. Here's how the project is shaping up.
The Tasting Room
The Crown will feature a dynamic “showroom”-style tasting area, where the company's public and private cuppings will be held. Espresso and filter coffees will be offered (featured coffee brewing machines and equipment are still TBD). Guests can expect “an ever-evolving dynamic tasting room…with highly intentional coffee experiences not commonly found elsewhere,” says Sandlin. “Imagine two different Ethiopian coffees served as both espresso and filter coffee, served alongside an array of specialty coffee books, brewers, and hard-to-find resources. This isn’t the usual high-end specialty coffee retail environment.”
The Cupping Lab
“We're going to offer cuppings centered on unique experiences, education & purchasing,” Sandlin tells us, with the focus split between coffee professionals and novices. Plans are in the works to develop a series of workshops, innovative cuppings, and to offer a wide range of certification classes through organizations like the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Coffee Quality Institute.
The facility will also have a large events area, where Sandlin sees a future for The Crown to host such events as the Good Food Awards. “We’re excited having a massive event space for presentations,” Sandlin says, “including talks on agronomy, talks of origin, and even large-scale cuppings.”
Brewing and Roasting Labs
Apart from the Crown's cupping, tasting, and events space, the space will also be a playground for brewing coffee and roasting coffee. The Brewing Lab will feature a number of espresso machines, brewers, grinders, and hot water towers. The Roasting Lab will feature five different coffee roasters that Royal wants their green coffee customers to use and explore with. Four roasters have been secured for the space: a Loring Falcon, a Diedrich IR5, a Probatino, and a vintage Jabez Burns sample roaster.
“We’re certainly not trying to compete with any established cafe in this area,” says Max Nicolas Fulmer, a trader at Royal (he's also the brand's co-owner and Vice President). The cafe wing of Royal isn't meant to be a second company, Fulmer explains, but rather a public showroom mean to showcase what the importer has built since 1978 and serve as a space to enrich their roasting clients and coffee partners.
“Because we're really going to be this curated and more intentional coffee experience than traditional retail, we’ll be able to offer a wide array of experiences to customers,” Sandlin says.
Construction is well under way at The Crown, and Royal Coffee has partnered with Norman Sanchez Architecture and Brett Terpeluk of Studio Terpeluk to design the space. The plan is to open in time for the SCAA Event in April 2016. Stay tuned for more details, and follow The Crown on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates along the way.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge.com. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.