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Coffee City

Melissa Allison follows the world's biggest coffee-shop chain and other Seattle caffeine purveyors.

July 31, 2009 at 5:59 PM

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Zoka opens Third Wave coffeehouse in Kirkland on Wednesday

Posted by Melissa Allison

Zoka 002.jpgCoffee connoisseurs say Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. coined the term, and next week you can see the latest wave in action. Zoka's fourth store is set to open Wednesday.

Unlike Zoka's original Tangletown location -- also known as OZ, for "original Zoka" -- this place is anything but rustic. It's a big, bright space with modern light fixtures and sleek black chairs.

The most noticeable accent is a slice of a giant tree stump -- technically, four maples that grew together -- that will be used as seating (owner Jeff Babcock tries it out in the top photo). A slab from the same tree in Idaho will be a community table, and a woman who grew up on the farm with the tree is sending her memories of it to be posted in the shop.

Zoka 001.jpgTwo state-of-theart espresso machines are front and center at the bar. Zoka is the first Northwest shop with the raved-about Slayer machine that can do everything except smoke a cigarette.

Zoka owner Jeff Babcock (with the Slayer in the second photo) plans to use it for single-origin roasts, making it the rare Northwest coffeehouse with single-estate espresso. That's tricky, because of the variability in coffee from different countries. The Slayer lets baristas control for pressure, temperature and pull time.

Babcock pulled some of his best baristas from other locations and trained them for days at Slayer's new Georgetown space so they can play the machine properly in Kirkland (you lucky Eastsiders). And, these folks don't have attitude, as Seattle Weekly noted when it named OZ Seattle's best coffeehouse for 2009.

Four coffee grinders away from the Slayer sits another state-of-the-art machine, the newly updated paddle from La Marzocco (third photo).

Zoka 003.jpgThe new Zoka will brew coffee by the cup three ways: (1) Using a ceramic Melitta pour-over system a la Blue Bottle in San Francisco, (2) using an Eva Solo, and (3) with an automated French press-style machine from La Marzocco that will arrive in a couple weeks.

Babcock buys much of his coffee directly and expects a shipment shortly from Nicaragua, where he visited recently. The coffee he most wanted -- "it's so sweet it's like honey," he said -- went to a Norwegian roaster before he placed his order. "I was too late," he lamented. "Next year."

He also recently judged for Cup of Excellence coffees in Costa Rica and Colombia, and will be a judge in Bolivia later this year.

When Babcock buys coffee by the container -- also known as the semi-truckload -- he buys directly from coffee farms or cooperatives. For smaller orders, he uses a handful of importers.

Slayer's folks were there today putting the new machine through its motions, and co-owner Eric Perkunder stopped rhapsodizing about the new Zoka (who could blame him?) long enough to promise he'll let me know when more Slayers show up in the area.

Until then, here's where you can find it and the new Zoka, at the old Triple J Cafe spot in Kirkland:

View Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. in a larger map

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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