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.
The hubs and I have a knack for experiencing much in a short bit of time. Here’s our scoop on a quick overnight getaway to Moscow, Idaho: heart of Palouse farm country, home of University of Idaho, haven for quiet evenings.
First things first: Where to stay.
Jeff is becoming a bit of an Air B&B master. He selected Paradise View Bed & Breakfast – a lovely home in the country, with a peaceful view, friendly hosts, even friendlier dogs, and perfectly private accommodations. Our suite had its own separate entrance with great views from the inside and outside alike.
Second: Where to go for dinner.
The maître D and hosts at Lodgepole know my husband by name and seat him in his favorite spot along the brick wall. But Lodgepole has done an amazing job creating beautiful outdoor spaces as well. And it doesn’t matter where you eat your meal, because the menu is phenomenal. We had the braised beef rigatoni with Cougar Gold cheese and the linguini with clams for the main course, following a tasty, fresh seeded bread with whipped honey butter. For dessert, a triple layer ice cream cake with a swipe of thick fudge and sea salt on the side. The Moscato from Willamette Valley and the espresso from Evans Brothers Coffee (Sandpoint) finished off desert with perfection.
Stuff to do.
Besides sitting on the patio, reading and visiting with the dogs, and watching the endless activity of birds and hummers, we found plenty to do on a summer Saturday. First up, a visit to the NRS headquarters – a must for anyone who loves to paddle the lakes and rivers of the Pacific Northwest. They have an amazing in-store selection of dry bags and boxes like you’ll never see in another recreational outfitter.
Saturdays in Moscow are market days, with the main strip closed off for foot traffic only – the street lined with white tents and vendors selling a wide variety of wares from food and drink to home décor and clothing. If you’re still needing a second (or third) cup of joe to keep you going, Bucer’s Pub is always a good option for a local brew. But on this day, we opted for Panhandle Cone and Coffee, because … ice cream and coffee in one shop?! Yes please! I had an affogato (espresso poured over ice cream) with salted caramel ice cream and the Evans Brothers’ house blend.
Returning to Spokane.
The Palouse Scenic Byway is a treat to drive, dotted with small farming towns amid the fields of wheat, lentils and garbanzo beans. There’s plenty of history in the area – part of which serves as the reservation for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Indians. We opted for a solemn stop at Desmet, Idaho, named after Father Pierre DeSmet, a Jesuit who established a number of missions among the indigenous peoples of the Northwest in the 1800s. But another, longer option, is to drive the vista road of Mary Minerva McCroskey State Park.
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.
With the birth of “For the Love of Coffee” in Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine, I and Editor Megan Rowe have one central aim: To inspire Inland Northwest residents to celebrate boldly the name Spokane can make for itself with coffee. Seattle thinks it’s the coffee capital because Starbucks started there? Come on. The humble home of the Hoopfest and Bloomsday doesn’t play that way.
Within a 5-mile radius in Spokane, a coffee lover can easily locate, walk to or park near, and enjoy half a dozen quality local roasters, and never have to rely on a corporate chain. Our small community’s wealth of locally owned coffee deserves the same billing as our wineries, breweries, bike paths, and parks.
Every journey I’ve taken outside our region in the last few years has fostered this truth. Last year, just before COVID hit, I spent several days in Napa Valley on a work trip. I’m not a wine connoisseur, and while I did enjoy the experience of wine tasting, I still wanted my coffee. The cute burg where I stayed had ONE option. Every morning, I wondered: How can a place that invests so much in marketing the fine art of a good drink somehow overlook the need for equally noteworthy coffee?
This spring, on a road trip with my daughter to visit colleges along the West Coast, I found local roasters who put heart into their gig. Urth Caffe in L.A. had a good drink, fine pastry, and a strong sense of purpose: Only organic, heirloom, shade-grown beans. San Fran? Intelligentcia (also in other major metro areas like NYC and Chicago) wants to “elevate a daily ritual into a culinary experience” as well as to be “stewards of the earth and advocates for values of diversity, inclusion and equity.” Portland? Coava, which invests in “long-term relationships with coffee producers” also prides itself in featuring mostly single-origin brews instead of creating blends.
When I find those businesses, I support them by buying a bag to bring home, and by letting them show off their expertise a bit. “What do you have that’s medium-dark and not fruity, good for pour-over and French press?” I’ll ask. The barista at Coava (an alternative to Portland’s more widely marketed Stumptown) answered, “I think you need Nayo.” I picked up a bag and discovered its beans hail from Guatemala – always a safe bet for me, so her hunch was right.
So, other cities have great coffee … what’s my point? In one word: Convenience. In two words: Bragging rights. I happened to be lucky that Urth Caffe in Santa Monica was an 8-minute walk from my hotel, that Intelligentcia was around the corner from Haight-Ashbury where I wanted a glimpse of hippie lore, and Coava was a 5-minute drive from another destination on my Portland list. But this isn’t the norm for major metro areas. When my husband and I traveled to New York City, I had to put a good coffee shop on our itinerary, the same as the bookstore he wanted to visit, because if you don’t plan for those stops, they won’t happen. And even when you do plan, you also have to negotiate the transportation. Are we renting bikes, scheduling an Uber, risking mayhem to park our own vehicle?
Here in the Inland Northwest, treating a guest – or yourself! – to great coffee just doesn’t take that kind of effort, nor does it require good luck.
The next time you find yourself coaxing a friend to visit Spokane, or you’re sharing on Facebook what’s great about our region, be sure good coffee is one of your talking points.
For next month’s column, I’ll share about Bobby Enslow, owner of Indaba, and what I learn while doing some cupping on roasting day with him. But in the meantime, I want to hear from you. Specifically, I want to learn how churches, schools and community centers are using coffee bars to facilitate their mission. Drop me a line below.
Good coffee shops matter as much as good coffee itself. And it’s about time that WordsnCoffee put down some words about coffee.
Here’s what comes to mind as I sip my espresso from my Bialetti moka pot, made with a dark roast sourced from Guatemala, roasted by Evans Bros.
At Home in Spokane
Some people (west-siders, I’m talking ’bout you) may scoff at the idea of Spokane being a great spot for coffee. But while you deal with traffic and parking, and eventually have your venti-skinny-PSL from Starbucks, the eastern residents and guests of the great coffee state of Washington have their choice from a couple dozen locally owned roasters who take great pride in fair trade practices to support the people actually growing the beans – and they exist in myriad styles of shops that are all easy to get to in just minutes from anywhere in the city. Take that, Seattle!
While Howard St. is more of the run-in-and-grab type of joint on a popular shopping block, sister locations on Broadway, Nettleton, and Riverside have distinct settings for specific vibes. Broadway: worker bees. Nettleton: retirees enjoying the morning sun on the patio off the trail, and parents taking kids to Hello, Sugar for donuts. My favorite: Riverside, which, COVID-aside, often has local musicians providing chill ambiance for evening outings. Also, owner Bobby Enslow is just a nice guy. (Almost forgot: There’s another Indaba/Hello Sugar partnership waaayyyy out in the Valley on Dishman-Mica. Pink décor is a nice new twist.)
The brick walls, the eclectic shop, the smell of books, the retro poster art from Vintage Prints and stacks of mugs with designs by the legendary Harold Balazs – Atticus just feels like a place you want to sit and stay a while.
Commute Stop-worthy: Arctos
Hamilton Street is no fun on workday mornings, and when you can’t avoid it, embrace it. Arctos is a hip place for local college students to study, and its claim to fame for my husband is the sipping-chocolate mocha.
Deb Di Bernardo is Italian, so … nuff said. I love her mostly for her passion about sustainable production. Roast House’s tasting room is an industrial setting with plenty of room for classes or other groups who want to know about best practices in environmentally sound coffee growing. Also, this is a great source for your home brew supply of what Deb proudly calls “damn good coffee.” The most important two words: Café Fuego. Bottled chocolate-spice cold brew. Oh-em-gee.
Loftspace: First Ave. Coffee
It’s Roast House coffee, but with a coffee-shop feel. Beautiful, long wood tables, a window into Deb’s bakery (keto-friendly), and a cool loft above the rafters.
Thank you from the Valley: Ladder
The flagship store resides in a former firehouse (hence the name) at the edge of Browne’s Addition, and this place is ridiculously cute. You can smell the fresh bread from the baker across the hall, which will put you in the mood for avo-toast. But this Valley girl is most excited about the new location on East Sprague inside the Canopy credit union. Totally different vibe, but a welcome reprieve in the Valley for times we really don’t want to go downtown.
Longtime Service: Rocket Bakery
Rocket falls into the category of coffee shops to note mainly because the bakeries have been a staple in Spokane for a lonnngtime, at locations in Millwood, South Hill and downtown. While the cinnamon rolls and quiches are “to die for” as my Aunt Sharon would say, I honestly don’t even know their coffee story. When I once asked where they source their coffee, a barista said, “I think downtown?” Anyway, I’m listing Rocket because they also have a drive-through option called Spaceship. (Get it?)
The great PNW has so much beauty, and so many coffee shops to visit while you’re out exploring. Here are just a few.
Moscow, Idaho: Bucers Coffee Pub
This is an iconic spot for a small, rural college town. The walls are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and the seating is at oversized wooden tables, giving it the nostalgic feel of an old Carnegie library.
Sandpoint, Idaho: Evans Brothers
Charm? Space? Comfort? You can have all of those at the Sandpoint location. The oversized shop has ample room for guests to spread out – none of those tiny tables crammed so close you might as well share your snacks with the patrons around you. There’s a fireplace, and a table always set for chess, and the walls proudly display art by local high school students and teachers. Lemme go make my second cup of espresso with my EB brew …
MCT has locations around the Flathead Valley, including Whitefish’s large shop nestled downtown, and the Columbia Falls shop on your way to or back from Glacier National Park. On a Saturday morning, expect to wait. The Columbia Falls location is the only good coffee around for all the campers and adventurers in their hiking boots, and they will gladly wait in their Northface coats and wool socks to get inside for a tasty (and healthy) breakfast with their joe. Thank you, online ordering service, for those of us leaving our KOA cabin and hitting the road for Spokane!
Missoula: Liquid Planet
My first foray with Liquid Planet was inside the doctors building at Sacred Heart Medical Center here in Spokane, but this brand actually hails from Missoula, where a University of Montana professor dreamed of “raising the culture of beverage to a wholesome new level and to do so in a way that is good for the body, mind, and planet,” according to the website. The quirky college town has multiple locations and they all sport some creative concoctions alongside the best avo-toast I’ve ever had.
After navigating the crowded, narrow main drag of this charming town in summertime, stopping in at Mela is a real treat. A spacious setting in an old brick-walled building provides an abundance of good food options, along with their own locally roasted beans.
Further Away from Home
Any travel – whether a day-trip for work or a longer vacation – requires investigating the local coffee shops. Here are a few notables.
Arivaca, Arizona: Café Aribac, in the middle of the desert, boasting shade-grown coffee because “migratory birds love it.” I never did learn where the shade-grown beans actually come from, but it clearly ain’t Arizona.
Philadelphia: Le Pain Quotidien. Not specifically a coffee shop, but I can’t forget a place that brings you a ceramic coffee pot and matching creamer cup so you can serve yourself an endless supply.
Portland: Stumptown. This popular brand is now hitting the shelves in grocery stores throughout the West, which drops it down a notch in my book, where small batches are king. Still, while in PDX (the only city I know that calls itself by its airport code), Stumptown visits are a must, along with visiting Powell’s for endless book shopping.
Seaside, Oregon: Seaside Coffee House. Hippie vibe and cool art.
St. Charles: Picasso’s. Art and java: the perfect combo, on a cobblestone street.
St. Louis: Second Breakfast. Cute corner shop in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
Tulsa: Topeca Coffee. Worth bringing home a bag.
Venice Beach, California: Intelligensia. Kick-the-sand-off-your-feet, grab your joe and go.
But here’s the drip about traveling: I often have to search high and low, near and far, to find a great coffee option, and it usually requires actual plans in my itinerary to make it possible. That just isn’t the case at home in Spokane. I can visit a great shop on any day, regardless of which direction I’m headed and how much time I have. I think it’s time we boost the Lilac City’s reputation and give the boot to Seattle as the coffee capital.
Here’s a very generic shout-out to the many other Inland Northwest roasters and shops I didn’t name: I’ll come visit soon!
And here’s a very specific shout-out to my co-coffee-loving husband, Jeff, who has introduced me to a number of these great spots. Decades of great joe, coming up.