Slate Coffee Roasters opens up shop in East Ballard
New coffee joint seeks to betray norm of PNW coffee scene
At Slate Coffee Roasters, which last week had its soft opening for their location in East Ballard (5413 6th Ave NW), the goal is not to just inject customers with a dose of morning caffeine, but to foster an appreciation for good coffee.
"We're trying to approach it in a culinary sense ... and just creating a really wonderful coffee menu," said head barista Amanda Atkins.
Every cup has its ingredients measured on a scale to keep the taste of every cup consistent and delicious. Atkins said that her partners, Nik Virrey and Brandon Weaver (all three come from Zoka) are both very serious about coffee. They are constantly reading, researching, doing experiments and trying to make better coffee in every way, she said.
In addition, Slate stays away from the Pacific Northwest trend of dark flavor profiles and seeks to bring out lighter, more subtle flavors, according to Chelsey Walker-Watson, who owns the business with her brother, Keenan Walker, and her mother, Lisanne Walker.
"Coffee's a tropical fruit. We're looking to have a balance of acidity and sweetness, like you would in a real piece of fruit," Chelsey Walker said.
Chelsey Walker-Watson calls the method they use to roast coffee "exposure roasting," which means they are trying to expose the subtle flavors and nuances in each coffee. It's a method that they think differs a lot from many Seattle-area roasters. Not that she's saying people are wrong to like the other -- what she calls "amazing" -- roasters in the area.
"Clearly coffee is very well established in Seattle and people are very passionate about it ... we are looking to introduce a new way to roast coffee and appreciate coffee to Seattleites," she said.
In addition to making cups of coffee in-store, Slate also sell bags wholesale, which you can buy from their shop or, for now, from Fresh Flours on Ballard Ave (5313 Ballard Ave NW), Broadcast Coffee on Capitol Hill (1623 Bellevue Ave) and, apparently, a store in Spokane.
Slate sources their beans through Atlas Coffee Importers in Greenwood as well as through a couple of producers they have personal relationships with, Chelsey Walker said, who added that where they get their beans is important. She says that they will be importing from different regions based on harvesting seasons.
Chelsey Walker-Watson, who now lives in East Ballard and who has lived in the Seattle area all of her life, says that Slate is the product of a lifelong family passion for coffee.
"How it all started is just a real love for coffee ... coffee has been a ritual our whole life," she said.
She said her brother Keenan Walker went to the Bay Area of California to learn about coffee roasting. At first, he just meant to check it out, but it wasn't long until he became absolutely passionate about the trade, Chelsey Walker-Watson said.
"I think it's his calling, he's really in love with coffee," she said.
When Chelsey Walker-Watson came back from an international trip, her brother asked if she wanted to open up a new coffee roaster in the Seattle area. Of course, she said yes, and Slate was born.
For the East Ballard community, which has been lacking a coffee place on the Market St strip since Sun Cafe closed in the same space back in September (there isn't another cafe until 65th to the north and 14th to the west), Slate fills a much needed hole.
Slate has already been hard at work integrating into the community, coming fresh off of a successful neighborhood party on Sunday, which was only advertised through word-of-mouth rather than on social media.
"We really value community and relationships," said Chelsey Walker-Watson. She said she wants Slate to become part of peoples' daily lives.