How did you become involved with Monorail Espresso? Do you have a history in coffee or is there a family connection to the business?
I have been in the coffee industry for 22 years, which has been essentially my entire working life. My coffee career led me to Monorail Espresso. I started as a barista then took over as manager and eventually bought the business from the founder, Chuck Beek, when he retired. We aren’t related but we have a special connection. Chuck never had children so we always joke that I’m his daughter and he’s my second dad. He has been an amazing mentor. I am very lucky to have him in my life.
How was Monorail expanded since day 1 compared to now? Is there still a connection with the original owners and how is that manifested thru the product or philosophy of the current Monorail Espresso cafes?
Monorail Espresso started as the world’s first coffee cart. It was perched under the entrance of the Monorail which is now Westlake Park. The cart moved around that one block radius until it spent it’s final days underneath the marquee of the Coliseum Theater. When the building was renovated for Banana Republic, we moved into our original walk-up location on 5th and Pike, where we have been for 26 years. Since I bought the business from Chuck 7 years ago, I have opened two more locations; one in the lobby of the Columbia Center building and another in the heart of Amazonland on Westlake Ave.
Monorail began as a disruptive idea, and was operated with a streetwise toughness. And Chuck was never shy about his political views, often displaying them with art and posters at the shop. That resilience and defiant spirit still guides Monorail and I do my best to keep it that way, especially as a woman-owned and operated business in a male-dominated industry. Chuck still makes the cookies we are famous for; the Chubbie. You can occasionally catch him dropping batches of them off at all of the locations.
How do you feel about coffee culture today, especially being in such a coffee-centric city like Seattle?
It has been amazing to see coffee culture evolve since I started in this industry. I like seeing new-comers experiment and push the boundaries in coffee. I have seen many fads and trends that have come from that, some are still here and many gone. But there is something special about the coffee that the pioneers in Seattle created, people like Jim Stewart, David Schomer, Ed Leebrick, and Chuck Beek (of course). The principles they established at the inception of our industry are still at the heart of our coffee culture today.
How did you decide to start incorporating bitters into your coffee drinks? Is this something you’d already been experimenting with at home or were you inspired by other innovations in the coffee industry?
We had been wanting to develop an espresso tonic and thought it would be fun to incorporate bitters since it’s aromatic and distinctive.
Do you feel like the coffee tonics with bitters are well received by your customers (both regular and new?) and do you find yourself having to explain what bitters are quite frequently?
The orange cardamom espresso tonic has been a huge hit this summer! People absolutely love it. We do not have a lot of people asking what bitters are. I think this city has a fairly cocktail-savvy population, which means we have more willing customers.
Why did you choose Scrappy’s Bitters and what is your favorite flavor to work with both in general and paired with coffee?
We chose Scrappy’s because it’s simply the best bitters out there. We are always searching for top quality ingredients. Scrappy’s uses only the best so naturally we went with them. Also being able to support another Seattle brand is important to us. The cardamom is my personal favorite but I know that my team really loves the orange, new orleans, and lavender. We are looking forward to experimenting further this winter and serving different flavors of tonics come next spring.
Does Monorail have a particular philosophy or ethos that sets it apart from other establishments?
Our ethos at Monorail is simple. Top quality espresso and excellent customer service. It seems straightforward, but it’s surprisingly rare to find both. The world of coffee is vast and there is so much to learn. It’s our job as baristas to invite customers to learn more. We do that by keeping our focus on our customers, our coffee, and only doing what we do well. We aim to please the new coffee drinker and the purist alike.
Posted: Wednesday, September 18th, 2019 at 12:00 am