I’m in coffee mourning. Or I was.
Origin 23, one of my go-to coffee houses on Sixth Avenue closed June 21. The café served coffee and gelato, which we wrote about in May, and a pastry case full of delightful things I really should have avoided.
I liked that you could sit down, plug into wi-fi, sip a well-crafted cup of coffee, and usually meet a character. I remember sitting by the big front window one afternoon and I struck up a conversation with someone. I used the phrase, “Oh yeah, there are a ton of those” to describe something and he looked at me, laughed, and then launched a hilarious diatribe against the South Sound colloquial use of “tons” to describe anything prolific (He’s right. We do that here.). That spawned a conversation about the colloquialisms he picked up living in the south.
I’ll miss random conversations about tons of things like that. (Sorry. I’ll stop using that word now. I promise).
Now here’s a piece of coffee news that may dull the raw edge of Origin 23’s passing: Another coffee house has opened on Sixth Avenue and it’s really worthy of your coffee dollars (coffee caveat: Amocat Café also has opened in St. Helens, but more on that in a moment).
Caffe Dei opened for business Tuesday at 2607 Sixth Ave. Here’s something of note: the coffee house caters to vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free diners and offers an exceptional array of coffee with a bend toward the aromatic. Think orange zest, Mexican chocolate and chile powder flavorings.
I stopped in and ordered the Picante Mocha – a drink of rich coffee tempered with steamed milk, flavored with Mexican chocolate and spiked with a tongue sting of chile. It was earthy, complexly flavored and I liked it tons.
Other coffee drinks looked just as appealing. Caffe Dei’s Sasquatch is the love child of the cappuccino and Americano. The Arancione Moka is a shot of espresso gussied up with dark chocolate, a shot of steamed milk and orange zest (sign me up for that on a next visit). The Abominus is four espresso shots poured over sweetened condensed milk. And speaking of condensed milk, they also serve Thai coffee, and Vietnamese, too. There’s also a really eclectic sounding menu of other kinds of teas and steeped drinks. I liked the sound of Ahimsa, chrysanthemum flowers steeped in honey soy milk, and Karma, Jasmine pearls also steeped in honey soy milk.
Tacoma coffee house flashback: The space reminded me of the original Blackwater location. Remember it? Like Blackwater was, Caffe Dei's space goes deep (but not as narrow), is stylishly austere with little more than concrete floors and steel gray walls. Like Blackwater, the works of local artists adorn the walls at Caffe Dei. The current artist on display is Julie Luke. While Caffe Dei doesn’t offer the randomly placed typewriters for musings, they do offer tons a dose of their own kitsch served up in the form of oddities for sale: shrinky dink earrings and funky vintage rings over next to the rest room (note to staff: close the bathroom door when not in use. Nobody wants to look at a toilet while sipping coffee!).
Caffe Dei’s owners, Shane Siegfried and Shuanna Holt, have been scrambling the last few days starting their new business, but Holt took a few minutes to answer questions by email. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: Can you explain to TNT Diner readers why you started your café?
“I think all baristas dream of the day that they get their very own machine and get to design a coffee house that fits their own personality. The becoming of this shop is a rather long story but it starts with my past and growing up Sacramento. I moved to Tacoma 13 years ago after growing up in California. I have never felt like I belonged in Washington and always felt like a visitor. After working eight years at some of Seattle's 'trendiest' indie coffee houses doing everything from being a barista to fulfilling a goal of roasting, I decided to move back to what I thought was my home. California. I desperately wanted to be a part of a growing coffee community and I thought Seattle had long reached that.
"I immediately got work in what was thought of as the 'best' coffee shops in Sacramento and I was so excited to bring my knowledge and experience with me. My enthusiasm was a bit much for the new big players down there and suddenly my 'home' didn’t feel like home. We were up and out of there within nine months. I told my partner (both in love and in business) that if we were going to move back up to Washington, then I was going to stop feeling like a visitor and really make it my state. We were going to DO something and REALLY get involved in our community. I figured if I don’t make my dream happen now, 10 years will pass by and I'll wonder what happened.
Q: If you have a cooking/café background, can you tell readers about it?
“I myself come from a restaurant family. Food has always been very present in my life. I spent some time as a raw foods consultant and vegan coach. Helping people achieve better health and educating them. Showing them that they can have REALLY good food and have it not taste like cardboard. My partner Shane had managed a restaurant for many years and also stems from a restaurant family. We adore cooking at home and have dinner parties with our friends any chance we get!”
Q: Why did you pick Sixth Avenue for a location?
“Fell in love with the community and was excited to join some other coffee greats. We thought the vegan/vegetarian options were desperately needed and wanted to give people a wide selection of vegan baked goods .... rather than just one or two muffins here and there! Sometimes you just need a great vegan chocolate cupcake with your coffee!”
Q: What’s your menu like?
“Right now we are currently offering four sandwiches. Keeping it simple to see if it is something that people even desire. We are hoping we get enough support to bring all of our ideas into fruition. They are as follows:
*Vegan sandwich: Focaccia (baked every morning) with a house made spread, sundried tomatoes, roasted red pepper, Field Roast, onions and fresh greens. Vegan cheese upon request.*Vegetarian sandwich: Ciabatta (baked every morning) with hummus, basil pesto, Tofurky, onions, natural cheese and fresh greens!*Grilled cheese: Cheddar and pepperjack cheeses on a freshly baked potato loaf!*Tree Hugger: Vegan cheeses and house made spread.
We also offer soups, which will change periodically. They will however ALWAYS be organic."
Q: Is your entire menu vegan and/or vegetarian? If so, that’s great! Can you tell readers why you chose to do your menu that way?
“Our food items will always be AT LEAST vegetarian. There is so much more we want to bring to this cafe and all future plans will be consistent to what we offer now. We chose to keep our menu this way because it is what best represents who we are. I could in theory sell meat products but we wouldn’t be passionate about it and our hearts wouldn’t be there. I am a firm believe that you cant fool people and be into business to make a quick buck. You have to be in love with everything you do! Right now... we are in love with what we are doing.”
Q: Who is the chef in the kitchen?
"We honestly both are. We bring different tastes to everything. Most of the time we collaborate on things and work together."
Q: I see you offer Mighty-O vegan donuts. What flavors do you carry?
“Oh my.... we have lemon poppyseed, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, French toast, Good ol' fashioned glazed and blueberry. We do however accept special orders so we have lists of the items available to us.”
Q: Do you offer any other vegan/veg products from local companies?
“We offer another Seattle local bakery called The Flying Apron and they offer everything from cinnamon rolls, muffins, cupcakes, thumbprint cookies, scones and macaroons. We offer a wide variety from this vegan, gluten free and organic bakery.
Macrina (another Seattle based bakery) supplies us with all the same items but in a traditional fashion using butters and milks. We are very proud to offer such a wide selection of baked goods. We have access to multiple amazing bakers and feel blessed we can offer as much as we do. I want people who lead a vegan/ vegetarian or gluten free lifestyle to know they can not only go somewhere and have a pastry with their coffee but they have a selection of about 10-15 items.”
Q: What kind of coffee do you serve? Is it locally roasted?
“We use True North Coffee that is located in Ballard and Ipsut Creek from right here in Tacoma. Both companies offer exceptional products and make conscious buying decisions, which is important to me. I love being able to provide people with different espresso choices. I can figure out what flavors people look for in their espresso and cater more to their needs. Some people enjoy getting shots of both and doing tastings of the two together.”
Caffe DeiWhere: 2607 Sixth Ave., TacomaCall: 253-572-2550
AMOCAT CAFÉ OPENS IN ST. HELENS
And on another coffee note … if you haven’t been by the new Amocat (read that backwards) Café in the St. Helens neighborhood, you should. The funky cafe opened for business a month ago and is serving coffee specially roasted for Amocat from one of my favorite Tacoma roasters - Valhalla, which is now located at Sixth and Proctor (it formerly was inside Mandolin Cafe). I love the coffee at Valhalla, and here’s why: Every time I wander in, they’re roasting something and it just.smells.so.good. They roast in small batches, which means whatever you get, it’s going to be fresh, delicious, and carefully tended. I’ve bought tons pounds of Ethiopian Harar beans than I can count and every batch is perfectly roasted. The beans have a fruity vibrancy that verges on tasting citrusy.
Back to Amocat: I had a few email exchanges with Amocat owner Morgan Alexander this week, and he reported something interesting. He’s expanding Amocat to be a wine cellar. Said Alexander, “Amocat Cellars will specialize in wine made from Washington grapes with an emphasis on red blends using unique processes.”
Stay tuned for more details on that.
Alexander also recently started the Tacoma Foodie Network on Facebook. Have you joined yet? Well, what are you waiting for? It’s got just tons of great information.
Amocat CaféWhere: 625 St. Helens AveInfo: http://amocatcafe.com/