Drink cold brew coffee at Tacoma, Olympia coffee shops
I’ve been drinking it on ice in the morning, with a splash of soda water in the afternoon, and sometimes as a shot post-dinner, a kind of caffeinated liquid dessert that comes from a jug.
I have developed a terrible habit, and I blame Olympia Coffee for its elegantly roasted beans and the irresistible marriage of honey and lavender, whole milk and espresso — but make it chilled.
Why do I have unlimited access to delicious iced lattes at home, you ask? Because Olympia, along with a few other local shops including Valhalla, Bluebeard, Manifesto and The Brew in Lakewood, have developed an easy avenue to satisfy our cold-coffee needs in bulk, just in time for some very hot summer days.
Ask for the Big Buddy latte at any of Olympia’s cafes — in its home city, Seattle or Tacoma’s Proctor District — and you’ll receive an eager “Heck, yeah!” from the barista, who pulls several shots of espresso right then and there, which she chills with cold milk before pouring into a 64-ounce plastic milk carton. On goes a label marked with whatever flavor you choose, and off you go into your iced latte-filled future.
The company started offering the bulk option last May, as the pandemic kept people at home. Fewer trips to the store, said Olympia co-owner and CEO Oliver Stormshak, meant a visit to the coffee shop became more of a luxury.
“Why not buy 64 ounces of latte while you’re out?” he said this spring in an interview, one slightly sidetracked by details of their impressive new pastry program. “You can keep it in the fridge, instantly pour yourself an iced latte, and it’s delicious.”
A $25 Big Buddy holds just over five drinks per jug, so you save a little bit of money, too.
FRESHLY ROASTED AT VALHALLA COFFEE
On 6th Avenue in Tacoma, micro-roaster Valhalla Coffee also saw a need for cold coffee in bulk. The shop now sells its cold brew, also available by the cup, in 64-ounce jugs for $20, and it’s perhaps the freshest version around: As a general rule, Valhalla serves coffee within 10 days of its roast date.
Barista and resident cold brew maestro Rachele Piety honed her recipe, using a blend of only Fair Trade, single-origin beans, a couple of years ago. In sampling versions in the area, she noticed a trend toward really dark, really strong flavors, or, on the other side of the spectrum, fruity, sour and acidic tones.
“I wanted something that appealed to that palate, that was more robust,” she explained of her approach. “Best case scenario, we roast Monday, I brew two days later,” at peak freshness, she said, and it’s served the next day.
Using the Toddy brand cold brew system, the coarsely ground coffee brews for 20 to 28 hours, depending on the exact roast, in a mesh and paper filter. The resulting liquid is a highly concentrated version of what you’d ultimately drink. Where some shops take that concentrate and add water to order, she adds water to create a consistent, batched, ready-to-serve beverage.
“There’s a lot of coffee to water absorption rate happening here,” she said. “The whole thing about cold brew is the low acidity factor,” achieved precisely because “it never touches heat.”
CANS & GROWLERS OF COFFEE
In Lakewood, one enterprising drive-thru shop owner, Kristina Wells of The Brew Coffee Co., which opened on Bridgeport Way between 100th and 108th streets in late 2019, realized her customers loved their cold brew: a super-smooth dark roast of Martin Henry beans brewed for 24 hours at room temperature. Of course you can order a cup to-go, but buy a branded growler for $24.99 (including the coffee), and refill anytime for just $10.
If you pine for those fruity notes, Bluebeard Coffee Roasters on 6th Ave. sells nitro cold brew and a vegan nitro latte with oat milk, plus a standard “still” cold brew, all of which can fill one of the roaster’s own 32-ounce glass growlers.
Manifesto Coffee also offers cans of its nitro, available at its Hilltop cafe as well as Beyond ThunderDome Cafe in South Tacoma, 3uilt at 7 Seas Brewing and Delightful Neighborhood Market in the North End, among other wholesale partners. At $5 each, the mildly effervescent brew is light enough to be sipped straight from the can — convenient for an early morning hike or car ride — but robust enough to pour over ice. Beware, though: this puppy contains the equivalent of three espresso shots, or approximately 192 milligrams of caffeine, compared to about 140 milligrams in a typical iced coffee.
Olympia’s cold brew (not the espresso-based latte) also fits that lighter, fruitier flavor profile. Inspired by the Japanese method of a pour-over straight onto ice, explained Stormshak, “It’s a cold brew process that we created, and actually tastes more like a hot brewed extraction — more fruity notes, juicy acidity, refreshing.”
That moment where hot water hits ground coffee for the first time, known as the bloom, “really helps with pushing out more of those fruity flavors,” he said, echoing Piety’s thoughts on why people like cold brew. “Especially when you get into cold beverages, the intensity of bitter elements on the palate seem to stand out more.”
Try it in a can for $4 each or $14 for a four-pack. You can also fill a Big Buddy jug for $20.
When I don’t finish my French press, I pour it into a mason jar and tuck it into the fridge. That exacerbates the bitterness, said Stormshak. Consider me convinced — and highly caffeinated.
WHERE TO DRINK COLD BREW COFFEE IN & NEAR TACOMA
Olympia Coffee: 2601 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253-433-3279, olympiacoffee.com; Monday-Saturday 6 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
Valhalla Coffee: 3918 6th Ave., Tacoma, 253-761-5116, valhallacoffee.com; Daily 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Brew Coffee Co.: 10506 Bridgeport Way SW, Lakewood, 253-302-3766, thebrewcoffeeco.com; Monday-Friday 5 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Bluebeard Coffee: 2201 6th Ave., Tacoma, 253-272-5600, bluebeardcoffee.com; Daily 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Manifesto Coffee: 1003 S. 11th St., Tacoma, 360-775-9834, manifestocoffeeroasters.com; Daily 7 a.m.-5 p.m.