Upon entering 15th Ave Coffee & Tea, there’s a clear note on the door that states the shop is “Inspired by Starbucks”. It sure doesn’t look like any Starbucks I’ve ever visited!
When I asked if I could take photos and write about the place, I got a not-so-joking answer of “only if you write something positive”. I got the sense that the employees were somewhat weary of answering questions about the the stealth mode of this coffee shop. In case you’re not familiar with the issue, there are some powerful reactions to “test[ing] out marketing coffee with neighborhood-specific names rather than a slutty mermaid” and smaller coffee shop owners seeing “teams of Starbucks employees in [their] shop, making notes and actually placing them in folders marked “Observations.”".
At this particular Seattle location in Capitol Hill, the baked goods are from Essential Baking. That’s a wonderfully good thing. I’m not entirely sure if using local baking companies is a trend for the future or just an experiment. I’ve had stale pastries at Starbucks before and it’s horrible when you can tell a slice of cake was just defrosted.
The decor reminds me of the inside of an Anthropologie – everything was artfully thrown together. The furniture looked very nice, like it was antiqued rather than thrifted from Goodwill out of necessity. There were fresh flowers everywhere, from the tabletops to the shelves behind the baristas.
The coffee: good! There was a selection of about 10 different types of beans to choose from for my single cup of coffee. They’re taking part of the trend in single-cup brewing a cup of coffee to order, instead of creating an entire pot of coffee. Mighty tasty.
The music was decent, a blend of late 80s/early 90s alt-rock that was a lot more toe-tapping than the Barbara Streisand/Norah Jones background noise I usually hear in Starbucks lately.
Starbucks is the queen of ubiquitous chains. If they wanted to endear more people to their brand—especially in an urban area with great coffee and competition—it’s a good start. But can Starbucks afford fresh flowers, wood tea trays, and antique-shop furniture across all their stores across the USA? Probably not, but this is their experiment.