We asked Tamara Stone of Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie how her team entered the coffee industry and what sets her roasts apart in the competitive Seattle coffee scene.
1. What made you want to get in to roasting?
We are fortunate to have a team that took diverse routes to our production area. Our green coffee buyer, Jim Stewart discovered the taste of hand-roasted coffees in Monterey, CA on the advice of a couple folks who worked in his ice cream shop, The Wet Whisker. The rest is history. The Wet Whisker evolved and Jim went on to be the founder of Seattle’s Best Coffee.
Our Roast Master, Peter Larsen, is a 4th generation coffee roaster who apprenticed in his family’s business in Hamburg, Germany. Peter moved to the U.S. in the early 80’s, worked with Jim in the earliest days of SBC and continues to oversee our coffee roasting operations.
Lani Bonadea is a coffee aficionado and master barista who combines her love of cooking and of coffee in her position as our primary production roaster.
Our owner, Eva, brings a number of interests to her passion for coffee. From a background in botany and a lifelong commitment to the issues of indigenous people around the world, coffee is the perfect arena for her to enjoy her love of the product and work to improve standards of living in the coffee lands.
2. How would you describe your roasting style? What’s been the biggest influence on your style?
It’s all about the bean and the goal is to find the flavor profile that best represents the characteristics of that bean while balancing the overall acidity. Roast styles are more indicative of preference than of quality. There are great dark roasts and great light rights.
In the old days cheap beans (and pelletized chaff) were roasted light to minimize the loss of weight (product) that occurs during roasting. The roasters who pioneered today’s specialty coffee reintroduced the European approach of darker roast profiles using much higher quality beans. Today, we see the burgeoning popularity of lighter roasts using the highest quality beans. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the roast that best highlights the flavor and aroma characteristics of that bean.
3. What makes your coffees unique?
The combination of art and science that is necessary in the crafting of great coffees is also the easiest aspect to articulate. What is more difficult is to convey the significance of relationships in our day-to-day business. Knowing and caring about who we do business with, understanding how the exporter/importer operates, valuing our relationships at the farm level, maintaining quality and integrity of the green coffee once it leaves the farm…the list goes on and on right up through to the cup.
The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie is in a unique position in the history of specialty coffee in the Pacific Northwest. As the birthplace of Seattle’s Best Coffee our roasting heritage dates back over 40 years. We do business today with the children and grandchildren of the folks Jim started working with all those years ago.
And we haven’t changed the formula much: we focus on the totality of the supply chain with our fundamental considerations being quality, sustainability, and the quality of the life and working conditions of those laboring in the coffee lands.
“Relationship” coffee has become quite a buzzword as of late; we’ve been wondering what took everybody so long? ♦
Stay tuned for more roaster profiles from the top independent Seattle roasters working with us at Bean Box. Click here if you’d like to try freshly roasted coffee from Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. We are big fans of their Vashon Orca Blend: it’s a rich and earthy medium-dark roast with juicy black currant and lingering chocolate notes. Give it a try and let us know what you think!
Vacationing to Vashon,
Team Bean Box