Originally published in Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Living, Dec. 2021
You’ve made your list and checked it twice, and still wondering what to give an aunt, coworker, or neighbor. Grabbing a Starbucks gift card from the grocery check-out line may be more convenient, but you did you that last year, and you want something with a personal touch for the coffee lovers in your life. Here are some ideas:
For the latte-obsessed
A battery-operated frother. Trying to make a little latte art at home is fun, and a small frother will fit nicely in a stocking. $10-15
For the environmentally conscious
Say goodbye to paper cone filters and hello to the reusable stainless steel pour over filter. $10-$12
For the at-home espresso tinkerer
Bialetti Moka Pot. This traditional Italian stove-top espresso maker is easy to use, and produces more quantity than a standard espresso shot machine. $30-40
For the outdoor adventurer
GSI Outdoors is a home-grown Spokane manufacturer of a full line of coffee products for the hiker/backpacker/camper in your life. The Javapress (French press for the outdoors), and the pourover system are both are lightweight and easy to use. GSI products are available at a number of regional outfitters. $25-50
For the coffee smeller
Oxo burr coffee grinder. Opening a bag of coffee and taking deep breaths to inhale the aroma is a sure sign that this person wants freshly ground beans every day. A good grinder is essential. $60 and up
For the mail carrier, dog groomer, babysitter, and teacher
Gift cards are great – especially when they support a local business that’s fueling our community. For your consider one of these regional shops:
Sandpoint/Coeur d’Alene: Evans Bros. Coffee
Cheney: West Plains Coffee Roasters
Spokane Valley & Northside: Ladder Coffee & Toast
Downtown: 1st Avenue Coffee
Kendall Yards: Indaba Coffee
Logan Neighborhood: Arctos Coffee
Want a stocking stuffer instead?
Many local coffee roasters now sell single-serve instant coffee for an easy way to enjoy a favorite blend on the go.
If you’re able to pick up your purchases in person rather than buying online and worrying about shipping delays, you can find all of the above gifts at stores in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
May your holiday celebrations bring you joy, and may your coffee cupboard overflow with possibilities.
In short time, Spokane’s coffee scene has grown from a small number of sit-inside coffee shops, to a couple hundred drive-through java joints, and back to the development of more community-based coffee house environments. The newest trend? Mobile coffee services catering to special gatherings.
You’ve likely seen the white Have Beans Will Travel trailer, often at city parks, luring soccer parents at cold Saturday matches, or serving up warmth at a local pumpkin patch. But as more celebrations like weddings and reunions commence after a long pandemic-inspired hiatus, new mobile units are upping the creativity factor for catering coffee.
Two newer-to-Spokane options are The Coffee Cart and Surge Coffee.
Valentina Kozak and Evelina Goyko are sisters from Sacramento who have loved Spokane since moving here in 2007. Both are surgical assistants, but they hope someday to enjoy serving coffee as a fulltime gig.
“We love serving people and we love, love coffee,” said Valentina.
She says the pair attended a couple of weddings that featured mobile espresso bars and since they hadn’t seen such a service in Spokane, decided to create one. One of their earliest set-ups at a small wedding near a tiny chapel-esque facility on Green Bluff matched the venue with niche perfection. But they aren’t limiting themselves to nuptials.
“We love seeing people gather together to celebrate special occasions, whether weddings, birthday parties, baby showers, or other events,” said Evelina.
Another recent addition to the Inland Northwest scene is a bright royal blue vintage van named Genevieve – a ’69 HY Citroën van with a ’99 VW Passat turbo engine and a friendly full menu of espresso drinks.
Genevieve and her owners, Bruce and Keri Munholand, make up Surge Coffee. The Munholands, who are newcomers to Spokane from St. Louis, put action behind their slogan, “Good Coffee Doing Good.”
“It’s our reason for being,” said Keri.
The couple gives a portion of its sales and 100% of tips to charity. They have supported causes such as human trafficking awareness, childhood cancer treatment, disaster relief, youth arts, and refugee support.
That’s how Genevieve got her name: She’s the patron saint of Paris, known for her charity, bravery, and impact.
In its first few months in the Inland Empire, Surge Coffee has been at Spokane Valley Farmers Market, and at various schools. Look for them in Riverfront Park’s north bank on most Fridays through November.
Keri says they chose to serve Indaba Coffee Roasters “because it has a flavorful yet mellow roast with all the nuances of the beans, but more importantly, because they have a similar mission to us – giving to the community.”
Originally published in Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine’s, “For the Love of Coffee” – Oct. 2021
Ladder Coffee Roasters won my heart as soon as it opened a Spokane Valley location. I’ve lived in valley communities for 16 of my 23 years in the Inland Northwest, and while I understand “the valley” may lack the charm of some other neighborhoods, more businesses and residents would do well to embrace opportunity in the oft-avoided easterly side of our city. (Free and easy parking, anyone?)
But that isn’t what this column is for, so let’s get down to coffee.
Aaron Rivkin opened his first Ladder location downtown on the edge of Browne’s Addition, in a 1904 apartment building begging for new life. Its chic, modern space fits the bill for what Aaron says he wanted to be a “living room” atmosphere. With bright walls, ample windows, and plants draped across shelves, it does possess an inviting vibe. The smell of bread in the bakery across the hall helps to add a feeling of home.
Barely after opening the first shop, a second and unique opportunity arose. As Spokane Federal Credit Union began its rebranding as Canopy, it sought to reach a younger population of banking customers. Inspired by the example of Capital One Cafes, Canopy and Ladder created a mutually beneficial relationship in a shared facility. The East Sprague location in the Valley opened at the unfortunate timing of pandemic restrictions, but eastside residents (at least my husband and I) vowed to keep them going. This fall, Canopy and Ladder opened another location, this time on the Northside.
One might think that the atmosphere of a coffee shop connected to a financial institution could be rather cold or corporate. While the comfy couches and bright colors of the downtown Ladder shop give way to more formal black and white designs in the Canopy business setting, the friendly environment on any given day could include a gathering of moms with young children, or a mild-mannered service animal resting by a student typing away on a laptop. In other words: A pretty standard coffee shop ambiance.
Ladder’s new headquarters and primary roasting and training facility fall somewhere in the middle of those spots, taking over the former Vessel Coffee shop on North Monroe.
As for the coffee itself, Aaron partners with Onyx Coffee, which specifically supports economic development in Guatemala, and Red Fox Coffee Merchants, known for its quality sourcing from throughout the coffee belt in Central and South America and Africa. Aaron says Ladder shops offer two types of roasts – the “approachable” 509 seasonals and the Expo 74 blend, and what he calls the “wild” options for those with more adventurous palates.
Aaron intends for Ladder to keep climbing, expanding beyond Spokane and into the larger markets of Seattle, L.A., and his hometown of Phoenix. The brand is already experiencing wide exposure through nationwide distribution of its canned cold brew – available in original, single origin, and nitro. In Spokane, pick it up at My Fresh Basket.
Let’s Talk Food
Every coffee joint has the standard bakery fare, but at Ladder, you can also indulge in some pretty amazing breakfast options. The classic avocado toast option is a strong contender, but if you want something different, try the waffles, available in sweet or savory selections.
While my heart’s still in the valley, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a visit to the Browne’s Addition location may score you extra points with your partner or friends. The bakery across the hall – Rind and Wheat – will have something special to take home. Grab a baguette or focaccia, and ask the turophile (cheese connoisseur) for details on the many European cheeses available.
Great coffee, fresh bread, and amazing cheese in one place? Trifecta.
Downtown/Browne’s Addition – 1516 W. Riverside
Valley – 13105 E. Sprague (with Canopy)
Northside – 1212 W. Francis (with Canopy)
Monroe – 2823 N. Monroe
Suggest a Story
Have a favorite Inland Northwest coffee company or topic you’d like to see in this column? I’m all ears. Drop me a line.
A company whose name includes “brothers” is obviously about family. But for Rick and Randy of Evans Brothers Coffee – Sandpoint’s most popular coffee joint – that bond extends beyond themselves and all the way to the fields of El Salvador and Colombia.
When the two “military brats” discussed building a coffee company together, they knew they wanted to do things differently than other small roasters. Rather than relying entirely on partnerships with coffee buyers, Rick and Randy sought to know the families running the farms from which they buy their favorite beans.
“From the beginning, we were traveling to countries of origin more than most,” says Rick. “We really wanted to know the story of the coffee – the farms, the producers – because they’re doing 90% of the work.”
They’ve enjoyed their longest direct-trade relationship (about 10 years) with the Menendez family in El Salvador, which has seven small farms. Rick and Randy spend time with the family, learning every step of their process, and cupping samples from 40 to 50 lots of beans that represent variations in shade, elevation, soil, varietal, processing and other factors.
“We’ve always wanted to have full transparency with our coffee,” says Randy. “It’s important for us to know the producers and for them to know the roasters, to have continued dialogue – it keeps the motivation and the passion going.”
For the last seven years, they’ve also bought coffee from Maria Escobar in Colombia, where the brothers discovered her coffee after it placed in the top 15 in Colombia’s Best Cup auction. They participated as judges and buyers, along with 15-20 other coffee buyers from around the world, sampling hundreds of quality submissions from farmers in Colombia. Over a 5 day period, the judges tasted and graded Colombia’s best lots of coffee, narrowing down the field to the top 15 highest scoring, which were then put on live auction – an event that turns into a community-wide celebration. Here, coffee buyers like Rick and Randy are willing to pay more, knowing that the extra proceeds directly benefit the producers so they can re-invest in their farms. For the brothers, it’s an investment to ensure quality.
“The families are so overjoyed – it’s life changing for them,” shares Rick. “We have meals at their home. It’s such a sweet experience and really just an invaluable part of our business. We feel honored to share those moments with our producers”
Even the coffees that don’t make it to top 15 sold at the live auction still yield a greater profit to the producers than they’d otherwise see. Plus, the farmers receive input from agronomists on how to improve their outcomes.
For Maria, a relationship with the Evans brothers is like free insurance. They purchase her entire crop of approximately 30, 60 kilo bags every year at a price premium, whether or not her beans make it back to the top 15 in the annual auction. For them it’s about long term relationships and commitments to the producers they work with.
The brothers have also traveled to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil and Ethiopia to source coffee, and they’ve treated a number of their most interested baristas to the experience as well. For Randy, who does most of the traveling now, Ethiopia (the origin of coffee) is a favorite destination.
Bringing it Home
Once those selected beans arrive in the panhandle, it’s up to Randy and his roasting team to develop the roast profiles that showcase the highlights naturally present.
“Roasting is a craft, for sure,” he says. “There’s a lot of chemistry going on and much to understand about time and temperature, and how that relates to developing flavors in the coffee bean. I’ve been doing it for 20 years and I’m still always learning.”
There’s chemistry between the flagship Evans Brothers Coffee shop and its Sandpoint community, too, as residents consistently name “EB” a favorite destination for both coffee and environment. The old grainery on Church Street has a rustic presence and a funky vibe where young artists display their work and old men play chess. Now over a decade old, the original Evans Brothers shop is a staple in Sandpoint.
In 2017, the brothers expanded to Coeur d’Alene, ultimately partnering with Bean & Pie on the buildout of an in-house bakery, which matches quality hand-pies and other baked goods to the coffee. More polished and urban than the northern sister, the CdA location also features live music and is a popular spot for people to work away from home.
The third location is in Spokane, inside the newly remodeled Wonder Building on the north side of the river. Life is just now hopping in the rebranded Wonder Market, which faced plenty of fits and starts during the COVID-19 pandemic. With other new restaurants and a family-friendly game center in the building, Evans Brothers Coffee in Spokane is finally gaining some traction.
They were brothers first and best friends next. How would life as business partners be?
Rick, the elder sibling, had been in resort real estate and marketing for luxury properties in Maui, where Randy got his start in specialty coffee, before each headed separate directions to continue honing their career skills. Eventually, both began thinking about wanting to raise their kids together, and looking for an ideal location, which they found in Sandpoint with its skiing, lake and small community.
The brothers were settling into their new hometown as the 2008 economic crash unfolded, providing ample fodder for conversations about what to do with their lives.
“We were riding Chair 6 at Schweitzer and I asked Randy what he wanted to do with his life, and he said, ‘I just want to work in coffee and I want to do it here,’” says Rick.
And so Evans Brothers Coffee was born, with Rick handling business development, wholesale relationships, sales and marketing, and Randy as green coffee buyer and roaster.
“We found our groove,” says Rick. “It was harder than I thought it would be. We learned things about each other that we didn’t know. Being business partners was very different than being best friends, going to concerts and skiing together. It’s nice to have come through, and to be in a place where we each respect what the other one brings to the table.”
Randy shares the sentiment. “I’ve grown to respect my brother even more through this business. I truly couldn’t do it without him.”
Rick and Randy both favor the fruity, bright, floral flavors of Ethiopian coffees. Randy’s current choice is Dame Dabaye and Rick’s is Kayon Mountain.
If those delicate tea-like qualities of an African roast aren’t your style, and you prefer deeper flavors and richer bodies, you’re still in luck.
“That’s the beautiful thing about coffee,” Randy says. “With more than 700 flavor compounds identified in coffee, there’s something for everyone.”
Don’t be afraid to ask the barista what beans are in the grinder for making your espresso-based drinks. At Evans Brothers, there are usually two options – one house blend and one seasonal single origin option. I enjoy “testing” the flavors with a traditional macchiato (not to be confused with the contemporary macchiatos full of milk and sugar), and found that my palate preferred the Kayon Mountain Ethiopian over the house blend. You never know unless you ask!
Also, try something new. I followed my stout espressos with a vanilla-mint cold brew – delish!
Sandpoint – 524 Church St.
Coeur d’Alene – 504 E. Sherman Ave.
Spokane – 835 N. Post St.
What I learned about @evansbrothers #coffee: relationships and quality go together like cream and sugar. Via @wordsncoffee.
This year, amid the chaos of ever-changing guidelines for business during COVID-19 restrictions, Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters opened two new locations, bringing the company total to 19. After 28 years as a local independent roaster, its crown jewel, a community coffeehouse, opened on the South Hill.
In bold, black brush strokes on a white wall, lyrics from Kurt Cobain call out: “Come as you are.”
That message was an important distinction for founder Tom Hammer, who wanted to build an actual coffeehouse, harkening to the 1960s metropolitan gathering places that fostered conversation and the exchange of ideas and beliefs. “Especially at this point in our country, we need a place to get together and hear each other,” Tom adds.
He’s always wanted a shop on the South Hill, but the right space was difficult to find. He knew that when he finally got there, he would bring everything he had dreamed. “Like a celebration,” he says.
It would have a variety of good, quality food and a selection of beer and wine. It would have a blend of comfort and elegance. It would offer an elevated coffee experience not available at his other shops. It would be a place where people wanted to stay a while, a place for community.
The Right Place and People
The ideal arrangement came from Washington Trust Bank, which wanted a partnership for property it was developing on Grand Boulevard, and for almost three years, Tom’s team collaborated with others to make it the coffeehouse of his dreams.
For the food inspiration, Tom reached out to Merrilee Lindaman of the longtime favorite South Hill restaurant, Lindaman’s, less than a mile away, for collaboration on his menu. “I wanted to pay homage to them even before we knew they were closing. We were fortunate to have had Merrilee’s touch and her validation.”
He adds, “She’s a passionate, soulful person and if I can carry a portion of that along, I’m doing my job and the community right.”
For the coffee, Tom borrowed from the concept of Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery, calling his line “LTD Reserve coffees,” which he finds a perfect match for the new space.
That space – designed by HGD Architecture – accomplishes what Tom describes as an “elegant Palm Springs” vibe, layering lines and textures with warmth and regality. His favorite elements: the door, a tree bar, and lots of unique pods of seating.
For sure, the door is a statement piece. At 12’ by 6’, the massive wooden entrance sets the tone for customers, says you’ve arrived somewhere special. A live tree grows in the middle of a square-shaped bar with chairs. Customers can choose from cozy spots and small tables, a glass-enclosed coworking space, a counter with an up-close view of the action, or outdoor seating.
Separation & Duplication
The aesthetics are amazing, but the real genius of the design at the Grand Avenue coffeehouse is a completely separate service area for the drive-through.
“Drive-through is just critical today, but I didn’t want people to come through the front door and have the experience clouded by baristas wearing headsets and talking to someone out a window,” says Tom. It was a serious financial additive, as he had to replicate all the equipment and utilities to create that separation, but it was a gamble he was ready to take.
“I like to think that after 35 years, I had one really good concept,” he says. “It’s been a cool project. And there’s a lot more coming down the pike.”
Continuing the Magic
It’s been quite the journey. At age 18, Tom was slinging joe at Nordstrom’s coffee bar, then working at Four Seasons, and driving around with bags of coffee in his car, trying to get businesses to buy wholesale. While an M.B.A. student at Gonzaga, the dean of the business school, Bud Barnes, took interest in his projects. Today, Bud is still a strategic partner, who Tom calls the ultimate mentor in professionalism, business ethnics, being community minded, and having a work-life balance.
“Three decades of tutelage from someone like that is pretty special,” says Tom. “He’s always concerned about the quality of business, not quantity, and that’s led to where we are today. We have more than a dozen crew members who’ve been here more than 12 years because there’s a culture that people like.”
As Tom thinks about the next steps in his business, it’s actually more of the same. “We’re a customer service company that roasts coffee,” he says, clarifying that he tends to avoid the latest trends that highlight the precision technical processes.
“Coffee has traveled so far and been touched by so many people,” says Tom, “including the barista who was up til 2 a.m. studying before coming in to work. So a little artistic expression needs to be expected, with a smile.”
He adds, “At the end of the day, it’s just a cup of joe. That’s the beauty. Just enjoy the drink, and the connection with others.”
Blend: “I love the LTDs (limited releases) because they’re simply different. But I also love the Signature blend because it’s been with me since 1987. It works for espresso and it’s balanced in drip and pour-over. It’s like a Swiss army knife. I’m proud of it and it’s value priced.
Drink: “When I’m not having a cup of black drip, I’m having a double espresso with a micro dot of chocolate, topped with some milk, so small you almost can’t see it. And always an 8-oz. It’s the exact right recipe for the 2 shots of espresso and some milk.
Thomas Hammer Locations
Spokane: South Hill, Downtown, North, Valley, Fairchild
Idaho: Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Hayden
Malls: Northtown and Spokane Valley
Medical Centers: Sacred Heart, Deaconess, Rockwood, Providence (Valley)
A few blocks north of Gonzaga University on Hamilton Avenue sits a small coffee shop with two garage doors indicative of a previous automotive life. Permanently parked in front is a classic 60’s VW Beetle, black, with the Arctos Coffee logo (a bear in the woods) painted on the door. Given its proximity to the college campus, Arctos is a hot spot for students, furiously studying or simply hanging out.
But there’s another kind of customer who’s usually first in line any day of the week: a septuagenarian named Kent Ross, who orders a mocha every time. Several times a week, friends meet him for conversation; other days, he passes the time in a bit of small talk with students and other regular customers.
“I like getting to know the owners, and Jason here is a good guy,” Kent said.
Having worked for and then owned his father’s trucking business, Kent knows the value and challenges of a small business in Spokane, where he’s lived his whole life. Once an adventure runner who trekked the mountains of the Northwest and completed 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, life following a major stroke isn’t as active as he might like. He traveled to Europe, enjoyed hearing authors at Auntie’s Books, and volunteered for the food bank. But things are slower now and showing up at Arctos when the doors open is what keeps him going.
“When they had to change things during the pandemic restrictions, I asked if they could open at 6:30 instead of 7:00, and they did,” Kent said. “That’s why I feel like I should be here every morning.”
Owner Jason Everman created Arctos in 2018, with the help of his dad, Jim. His business focus would be on a small selection of beans for a standard blend that can be roasted to consistent perfection. The Arctos staple comes from two South American beans roasted separately then blended. He also has made white coffee a standard, which offers an extra boost of caffeine with a unique flavor.
“White coffee is a very beautiful alternative to your traditional espresso-based drinks. It tastes completely different,” Jason said. Roasted for half the time of a regular medium roast coffee, these beans are dropped into the cooling bin soon after they lose their green hues, producing results he describes as “beautiful golden beans that smell and taste nutty, and are less acidic.”
Visitors to the flagship café see the tiny roastery upon entering the building, often with Jason seated at the console. In the service area, the ceiling is lined with the burlap bags from around the globe that once held beans, and flags from Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, Washington State, and Whitworth universities add a bit of a campus vibe.
But it’s the community atmosphere created by customers themselves that Jason appreciates most.
“Kent sitting in Arctos every morning sipping his 12-ounce mocha and chatting it up with the baristas and customers is a perfect example why coffee is so amazing.” Jason said. “It helps us get out of bed every morning. It brings us together. It’s comforting. It’s community.”
>> Author’s Choice: The Logan Latte – caramel, brown sugar cinnamon, and Irish cream
>> Drive-up service: Arctos partners with the Joe Coffee app to provide online ordering for a quick pick-up from the counter. Or, you can stay in your car and visit Grind Central, a drive-through coffee stand located near Millwood, 8015 E. Trent Ave.
>> Credit where credit is due: It’s my husband, Jeff Bunch, who learns the stories of every business he visits, from the owners to the customers. He’s forever a connector; I’m just the one who whittles down the stories into pieces you can savor with a cup of coffee.
Story by Kate Vanskike | Portraits by Luke Kenneally
With coffee start-up company Indaba, Bobby Enslow had the dream of creating community in the economically challenged West Central neighborhood despite neither experience roasting coffee nor running a business. And yet, he succeeded—achieving awards, receiving recognition, and continuously adding to his list of retail locations. An inspiring tale, but one that’s been told. Indaba’s story runs deeper than that.
The people—and their stories—are what set Bobby apart from other aspiring business leaders.
Meet Mary Kay McCollum, a Navy veteran; Phil Hocking, a computer technician; and Hannah Hicks, a rising business leader. Seemingly on disparate paths, yet sharing the same testimony: Indaba’s slogan—Love people, love coffee—is more than pretty words. Bobby lives by it.
A Path to Healing
“I get really emotional when I talk about it,” says Mary Kay McCollum.
She’s speaking of her experience of sexual assault by a fellow Naval officer, whose abuse back in the ’80s left her terrified and isolated for years. But the statement is also true of recalling the first time she walked into the Broadway Indaba location in 2015.
This was the year McCollum attended a retreat for veterans to tackle their trauma, where she thankfully met a journalist who helped her secure payment for the suffering caused by a member of the military. After more than three decades of silence, the pain of processing was unbelievably hard, compounded by telling her story to secure disability pay for the years she was unable to work. McCollum was suicidal, and when she entered the coffee shop, she told the owner just that.
“When I first talked about PTSD, I was terrified. But Bobby was just so encouraging and supportive,” McCollum says. “His compassion really affected me. He got me on the path to healing. I started writing and talking about it.”
Bobby was instrumental in her progress, she says. Every time she returned to Indaba, he remembered her name and asked how she was doing.
Six years later, McCollum continues her healing through photography, her relationship with Jesus, and encouraging other women to find their voice.
She still finds comfort in good coffee from Spokane roasters, including Indaba. Her favorite is a whole milk latte with no added flavor, so she can savor the coffee.
“’Love people, love coffee’,” she quotes the Indaba motto. “That isn’t just something to hang on the wall. [Bobby] really does it.”
As a child, Phillip Hocking had symptoms indicative of autism spectrum disorders that weren’t widely understood at the time, and, without treatment, he suffered from a lack of social skills and friends. After his parents acquired a PC and internet service in 1994, he found a placed he belonged through computer technology networks.
Phillip dropped out of school and pursued tech success, and when he scored, he began whittling away his earnings on drugs and alcohol. He was good at what he did, but as addiction took control; he began smoking meth in the bathroom at work. No longer employable, he became homeless.
For five years, Hocking lived on the streets. A church near the Broadway Indaba coffee shop had been operating a shelter and when it closed in the mornings, Hocking made his way across the street where Bobby was still learning to run his first business and not yet making a profit.
“I basically lived there,” Phillip says. “I was bipolar and having public freak-outs in the shop, and Bobby never asked me to leave.”
Bobby gave him day-old cookies and let him wash dishes to earn his coffee. He even played chess with Phillip, establishing a weekly tradition they maintained until pandemic restrictions.
“Once, I walked in and was crying, and said, ‘Bobby, could you just pray for me, man?’ And he did. And it was really impactful,” Phillip says, “despite my mental health issues and living in active addiction.”
Between that prayer and reading Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability,” Phillip found an ability to recognize his self-worth. He began helping others, caring for a friend’s family while a member was incarcerated, delivering food and toilet paper to addicts on the street.
In 2015, Phillip stopped his drug use, secured a job, and began paying for his coffee. Today, he oversees tech services at Excelsior Wellness Center.
“Things that once led to HR involvement or loss of employment now aren’t issues. I don’t have to pretend that I don’t have autism or social issues. My behavioral health is no longer a barrier to my success,” Phillip says. “I’m a homeowner, I’m married, I have a kid. And I have a future.”
Phillip is a coffee snob by admission, and proud to say he spends quite a bit of money on coffee. His favorite Indaba drink is the Natatorium—a vanilla caramel latte with cinnamon.
“He’s serious about ‘love people, love coffee,’” Phillip says of Bobby. “He was amid his start-up, and dealing with the pressures of someone like me there was a risk. But he put his Christian principles above a business principle. It’s pretty indicative of who the man is.”
Creating a Future
Hannah Hicks and her siblings grew up in West Central before the Kendall Yards development was a reality. They were bored highschoolers when Indaba opened in 2009; they hung out at the intriguing new Broadway shop. All the time.
“We would trick Bobby into giving us free lattes,” says Hannah.
But it was no trick. Bobby turned that “free” coffee into a dishwashing job.
One day, Hannah was talking about what to do after school. Bobby had been considering an internship program to teach technical coffee skills to support the growth of specialty roasters in Spokane, and approached Hicks with the opportunity.
“I became Bobby’s first intern, spending twenty hours a week learning from him,” Hannah says. After she gained work experience at another business, Enslow asked her to manage the Broadway location, and then another Indaba shop.
“Bobby was so intentional about giving me opportunity and really trusting me with it. He sent me to barista camp for certifications; he was constantly investing in me,” she says.
Hannah felt she was an active part of Enslow’s dream to create community. She and everyone else on his team were inspired to be family to their regular customers.
Just over three years ago, Hicks moved to New York City, where she had multiple job offers and selected one with a local coffee company where she started off as the manager of its busiest location in Manhattan.
“I don’t think anything could have prepared me like having worked for Bobby,” she says. “He inspired me to lead people in a way that’s focused on them.”
An ambitious young woman in a major metropolitan area, Hannah dreamed big. She applied to Columbia University and was accepted, in part, she says, to Enslow’s impact and recommendation. She became an operations manager, then a senior manager for quality overseeing a business in six cities.
“At every stage, Bobby has supported me,” Hannah says. “Yes, he taught me technical skill, but also about business and leadership. And to think it started with washing dishes.”
Today, residing in the Big Apple and studying sociology at Columbia, Hannah says she lives off simple drip coffee. She’s still enjoying her favorite blends from Indaba, shipped to her regularly from Spokane, where the people-first motto is alive and well.
“It simply blows my mind,” is all Bobby can say. “My little shop in West Central is making a difference.”
Learn more about Enslow’s team and their weekly practice of cupping, in this month’s “For the Love of Coffee” column: “The Comaraderie of Cupping”
Around the perimeter of the wooden table were 10 plastic cups, each with a number noted on a white piece of paper. In the center, a couple of water cups with spoons, and five shot glasses, one for each of us who would join in cupping.
It’s a weekly occurrence for theIndaba Coffee roasting staff, and I was invited to partake. As we chatted, owner Bobby Enslow ground beans from 10 distinct coffee varieties, and placed a sampling into the 10 cups. We rounded the table slowly, each of us inhaling deeply, picking up specific characteristics, then moving on until we’d filled our nostrils with the aromas of each cup.
The crew, of course, was prolific in identifying the slightest trace of fruit or a scent affiliated with a country of origin. “Pomegranate,” said Sarah Wellenbrock. “Raspberry La Croix,” said Josh Adrian. On and on they went. Cedar. Fajitas. Raisin. Beef broth. Nougat. Kombucha. Cocoa Puffs.
A novice, I was ashamed that a writer who loves coffee struggled to find better adjectives than “mild” and “bold” in my head. It was a proud moment when I said, “I’m picking up hints of alcohol in #2” and Adrian later validated it, explaining that #2 was Rwandan coffee from fermented beans.
After two more rounds for tasting, I jotted in my notebook, numbers 3, 4, 6, 8 and 10 as favorites. When Enslow revealed the names of each coffee in our blind test, it was no surprise, these were Sumatra, High Drive, Bowl & Pitcher, and Lilac City – selections I’d bought from Indaba off and on for a few years.
The Science of Coffee
Today it’s easy to find videos demonstrating virtually every method and aspect of coffee service. But they were were slim in 2009 when Enslow was starting his business, so he learned from industry leaders in the Pacific Northwest – like DOMA, a Post Falls wholesaler, and Stumptown Roasters in Portland. He also purchased a service from Facsimile, which provides blind samples for experimental purposes.
Everything about coffee production is an experiment, he says. You learn which cups hold a consistent temperature, what percentage of coffee to extract for its full potential, the time a specific selection should roast and on what setting. You test the moisture and color, not just with the eye but with digital scans that provide precise analysis.
The complexity is why he fell in love with coffee. “I love the academic part – the constant learning.”
He supports ongoing education for staff members, too. Everyone who wants to roast must complete a related certification from Barista Hustle, and then any additional certifications they wish to pursue on their own will yield them a pay raise.
From my brief experience with the cupping team, it was clear that the learning was not the only perk (pun intended).
“What I love most about cupping is our team collaboration in perfecting our quality control,” says Wellenbrock. We’re always trying to determine how our coffee could be better, and in the process, it’s elevating our team.”
That synergy was apparent. Josh, perched on a stool, had the clipboard and a detailed chart for scoring 10 attributes of each sample, from aroma, texture, and flavor, to acidity, sweetness, and aftertaste. Wellenbrock and Crystal Walton called out their observations at each stage and Adrian handled the scoring.
A Shift in Focus
The same humility Enslow embraced in learning the science, he also built into his motto and business philosophy. In the first decade, “Simply Great Coffee” reflected his passion for quality. But entering the next era, Enslow wanted to focus on the reason he opened his first shop in the economically challenged West Central neighborhood: He cared about creating and fostering community.
The new Indaba motto – now plastered on mugs, posters, and stickers – is “Love People, Love Coffee.” And Enslow only hires team members who understand that putting people first is non-negotiable, no matter how great a person’s coffee-making knowledge and skills are.
Choose Your Indaba Adventure
1425 W. Broadway: The original shop, two blocks west of the Courthouse. Neighborhood feel with indoor and outdoor seating.
1315 W. Summit Parkway: Great for a quick pick-me-up while shopping in Kendall Yards.
419 N. Nettleton: In a shared space with Hello Sugar donuts, this spot is mere steps away from Centennial Train and a lovely spot that overlooks the river.
210 N. Howard: Grab a drink here and mosey to some of downtown’s best shops, or across the street to Riverfront Park.
518 W. Riverside: Pre-COVID, this location featured live musicians on weekend evenings, providing a fun yet chill atmosphere for hanging out. Here’s to future tunes and treats.