15th Avenue Coffee and Tea has its one year anniversary & a little tea education
The Starbucks store known better as “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea” will have its one year anniversary on July 24, 2010. I decided now is the time to take another look at this store, with updated photos and information, as well as a little Tazo Tea education at the same time. While I might mention teas that are not commonly found at your local Starbucks, I always consider Tazo Tea fair game for this blog: Readers might be able to visit their local Whole Foods or other similar such grocery store and purchase the less commonly found Tazo Teas there.
Today (July 18, 2010) I joined in the cupping, arriving shortly before 11:00 a.m. Barista-Amanda greeted me warmly (as always) and said, “Hey you’re here for the cupping? What do you want to cup today Melody?“. I said, “Well, I’m not really a tea drinker but I think my tea drinking readers would like that. I seem to have a lot of them reading the blog.”
*****Tea cupping July 18, 2010:*****
Today we cupped four green teas. They were Westlake Dragonwell, China Green Tips, Jasmine Pearls, and Gen Maicha. All tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis. Whether it is a white, green, or black tea has to do with how much the tea has been oxidized. Tea can be processed in ways to bring out extreme flavor variety. For example, the Jasmine Pearl tea has been infused with Jasmine flowers, giving a truly distinctive flowery flavor, and the Gen Maicha tea has toasted rice in it. When we smelled the un-steeped Gen Maicha tea, it smelled like cereal! The darkest teas, like an oolong tea, are charcoal fired, and a white tea has not been oxidized at all. The best tea comes from young, fresh shoots. Herbal tea does not come from the plant Camillia Sinensis at all and technically is not really a “tea”.
The teas steeped for about three minutes and then each of us tasted them. The Gen Maicha tea was an almost savory tea. I could get used to that! It was by far my favorite. I have included a couple of pictures too showing the Tazo Tea packaging that these unique teas are packaged in. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if a normal Starbucks has these Tazo Teas, but even if they do not, it seems like these shouldn’t be too hard to find at many grocery stores.
As a reminder, 15th Avenue Coffee’s own blog has featured tea entries several times, most recently discussing the tea Yunnan Pu-Erh.
And for even more on the topic of Tazo Tea, I have a previous blog post here on the Tazo Tea headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
However, I am not going to spend too much time talking about tea since I want to also cover what changes have happened over one year at this store:
*****One year review of 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea:*****
First off, if anyone reading this is confused about what is special about this highly unique Starbucks, I recommend this previous blog post as the primer for today’s post:
A lot has changed since the store was brand new. The store doesn’t have the same manager as in the beginning. “Jay” is the store manager. The first store manager was “Jenna”. A number of baristas have been there for a full year. There are many new faces too. The coffee offerings have come and gone, as small batches of various international coffee beans cycle through the store. There still is a coffee or tea cupping at 11:00 a.m. every single day. Every beverage is still a delicious hand-crafted beverage with shots pulled from a La Marzocco machine.
One thing that impresses me about this store is how they’re very good at getting customer participation in their cuppings. I have attended numerous store cuppings, and lots of people who are visiting join in. I have cupped with random SSC partners who were passing through, regulars, friends that I brought, and wonderful people who have traveled from all over to visit this unique store. The day of the tea-cupping (above, July 18, 2010) a store regular named “Loretta” wanted to join in. It was a lot of fun! She was definitely having fun talking about tea. Loretta is a great regular. I know I have seen her there many times, but today I chatted with her about her relationship to the store and I learned that she credits herself for keeping this store open and alive! Thank you Loretta! I owe you too! She had petitioned Starbucks to save the store. As you may recall, before 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea was “streetlevel” non-branded store, it was in fact a normal Starbucks. There is a Seattle PI article about Loretta here.
Another thing that has not changed is that the baristas are all still full of personality. Fortunately, the baristas at this store are completely used to the fact that I am constantly snapping photos of the store (all of the photos for today’s blog post were taken on July 18, 2010). At a couple of points I was joking around with the baristas and they saw me with the camera and decided to offer the blog readers some of their best “poses”. You’ll see what I mean below. These partners are wonderful.
Some of the most significant changes to 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea over the course of one year are as follows:
- Originally the store was designed with ALL hard seats. The store now has some soft-seating “comfy” chairs.
- Originally the store did not have blenders. A few months ago blenders were added to the store, and with the addition of blenders, Frappuccinos are now available. (Vivannos are still not an option).
- Grilled sandwiches are now available.
- The store now carries both Starbucks ice cream and Bluebird ice cream.
- The store offers a small selection of salads.
The store front signage could use a little improvement: The signage showing that you’re at a coffee house is not eye-level are exceeding obvious. People mentally will gravitate to an awning looking for a business name. I have hung out at this store enough to see that people walk by, stop right at the entrance of the door, peer in, puzzled look on their faces, and keep walking. I think that there is still some fascination about whether this is a “sleuth Starbucks” but even more so, the big sign that says 15th Avenue Coffee (on the pole outside the store) is positioned much higher than eye-level, and somehow it’s not obvious from the street-level what is happening at this store. So people stop, peer in, realize it’s a coffeehouse (maybe they were looking for something else) and keep walking. It would be such an easy fix to simply paint (in white letters) “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea” on the brown awning. On a hot day, the door to the store is propped open, making it difficult to see the business name on the door.
Don’t forget, customers can pay with their registered Starbucks card here and earn “stars“!
Last but not least, don’t forget that if you use twitter you should be following 15th Ave. Coffee at @15thAveCoffee.
Here are some photos from today’s visit to 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea:
(Edit: 7-21-10 – Wow this blog is TERRIBLE when it comes to typos. Sorry. You can tell I wrote it at like 10 pm. I am working on correcting the horrible writing in this blog post. Sorry.)
Is it weird that I have multiple dreams about this store, but have never visited it?
Happy Birthday, 15th Ave C&T!
Woo! Gen Maicha is usually a toasty and savory tea because it includes toasted rice. This makes it a good tea for those who like toasted rice cereals and a less ‘tea’ drink (greens tend to be vegetal and turn many people off).
Out of all those teas Jasmine is always my favorite.
Thank you so much for sharing! I love all the beautiful pictures. And I love how the baristas are willing to cup whatever anyone wants to learn about.
Melody- thank you thank you from a tea drinker for reviewing this tea cupping. Gosh, it would be so nice if SB expanded this store concept to the east coast. Any feelings they will? I wish there were cuppings here. Great post!!!
What did you think of Green Tips, Melody? When we switched to full leaf in australia, that’s what we carry instead of zen. To me it tastes like fresh vegetables! I can’t wait to visit 15th Ave Coffee and Tea this winter!
Congratulations. Melody’s house is the first anniversary soon.
I drank Gen Maicha in the store in May. http://twitpic.com/27axv0
I am interested in cupping of the tea.
Can’t believe it has been a year! WoW!
I really like their store design…this is exclusive!
The “power” signs at the walls are great for laptop-Coffee-House-User like me…really funny! 😀
And their sign outside is funny, too. I like that! The interioir reminds of an old shop or corner store of former times…wow!
15th Ave Store seems to be very cozy, especially on cold winter days…:)
It’s nice to see them looking at tea too. I have several friends who don’t drink coffee, so they never even thought about visiting Starbucks until I introduced them to the selections of Tazo teas available at Starbucks.
Has anybody suggested they try to have 3 people on hand, ALWAYS?
This is the slowest coffee joint I’ve ever been to. Having just 2 baristas is just not enough, particularly with the pretty but non-functional layout.
Head to another shop and you have 2/3 people running the show, but it’s a much more efficient layout. Watch a barista at 15th try to make tea. It’s ridiculous how much walking they have to do to make a single tea. And yes, this is the same person that is laboring over pour-overs as well. And yes, this is the same person that is manning the register.
All this while a one person steams milk and pulls shots of espresso. Most other shops have 2 people for this.
In the morning, if there is any kind of line, I walk on by to the next, more efficient shop.
Enlightened Coffee Sage
Hiring an extra person would require Starbucks to pay that person, and they’d rather make you wait.
Also, Starbucks hates efficient layouts.
Starbucks does have good tea, though! I’d like to try that Gen Maicha. Rice drinks can be tasty.
Also, for all the Green Tea Latte drinkers out there…try having them make a Green Tea Latte like they do the Black Tea Latte, except with China Green Tips or Zen. It’s actually quite nice.
They do cuppings every week? Wow!!
I’ve seen their tweets about the ice cream. I’d love to live somewhere w/ real coffee houses. Not that Vanilla starbucks is not. But it does not have the same feel. Made a new friend on my trip this past week who works at a high end coffee house and it made me so jealous of living somewhere that has the option of these! I’d love to grab a book and hide away at one on my day off…ah…maybe one day 😉
wow, let’s not turn Melody’s blog into something negative and nasty like other places :(. I’m so sad right now.
@CABarista, they do coffee cuppings every DAY!
I got to go to one with Melody when I was on vacation! http://www.starbucksmelody.com/2010/03/17/starbucks-sumatra-siborong-borong/
I was told the waiting list for transfers to 15AC&T was in the hundreds in March.
15th Ave has a better energy than Roy Street Coffee and Tea. I did, however, like the bathrooms at Roy better.
hahaha Brad I like your short summary! 15th Ave. Coffee has better energy but Roy Street has the better bathrooms! That is so right. Love it! At 15th Ave. they do a great job at being very enthusiastic about coffee and they get great participation from customers in their cuppings! Roy Street does have much better bathrooms.
Speaking of Roy Street…can we expect an update of that store as well too? When do they hit their 1 year? I know you don’t get over there as much, but I hope to see an update of that store too!
Enlightened Coffee Sage:
I think they already do have 3 people on staff at all times, or at least when I go in, but one person is typically in the back room. I have no idea what they do back there. Make sandwiches? Roast beans? Read the funnies? Anyway, it would be helpful if they had a panic button or an “I see three” call like Walgreens has. 🙂
Anyway, I *still* go there every day, and find the baristas to be best of breed for friendliness and optimism.
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Melody, what a great post! I really like hearing about these “undercover” Starbucks stores and the pictures are really neat! Are the frappuccinos the same ones that are found in a “regular” Starbucks or are there special ones just for this store? Does this store get as busy as any other Starbucks? It’s funny because it seems like this store is full of everything that we want at every other Starbucks…and by we I mean the partners!