Non-Profit Coffee Shop Promotes Excellence in Coffee and Community
When I first walked into Sound City Coffee, I got excited. I may have even said, “This place is fantastic!” using my outside voice. But to be fair, I’ve been on a grueling two-year quest to find the very best coffee hang out spot around Olympia/Tumwater—a place to meet friends, work on my laptop, or surf the web. A place that also serves an uncompromising cup of coffee.
And Sound City really is fantastic. The space is bright and open, yet cozy. Work by local artists hangs on cappuccino-colored walls trimmed in black. Hand-finished slabs of natural wood top the tables and bar areas. There’s free Wi-Fi and free parking.
They serve first-rate local coffee and hand-brew every cup. “We value excellent coffee,” says Belinda Knight, who started Sound City Coffee with her husband Russell six months ago. “We exclusively serve beans from Olympia Coffee Roasting Company because they are excellent—have been since the moment of our first cupping.”
The Knights moved here from West Virginia in 2010 with the idea of starting a church. “Russ is a pastor and we did start a thriving church,” says Belinda, but they wanted to do more. “We wanted to be involved in our community. To do something outside of the church for the people around us.”
Sound City Coffee isn’t your ordinary business. The Knights launched Sound City in August 2011 as a non-profit. That means any profits will be donated 100% to local organizations. “We wanted to start a non-profit coffee shop to support our local community. That was the dream that got us rolling.”
This week I stopped by to see that dream in action. I asked head barista, Honor Forte, how he got involved with Sound City Coffee.
“It’s kind of a crazy story,” he says. “I was on the road and stopped by Olympia to visit a friend.” As he is talking, Honor carefully weighs and grinds beans for a woman he has just convinced to try a cup of hand-brewed coffee. Honor explains that he had been working in the specialty coffee industry in Philadelphia when he took a road trip in early 2011 that eventually lead him to the decision to move to the Pacific Northwest.
I watch Honor hand brew the woman’s coffee. He pours boiling water into a filter full of fresh grounds. He waits then pours more water, making sure to cover all the grounds. The water filters through, catching the flavors as it flows out. Dark liquid collects at the bottom of what looks like a beaker from science class.
Science. That’s what coffee is to Honor. He takes care to be mindful of every detail, exact in his processes. But similar to Belinda, coffee is also a passion.
I can tell Honor loves not only the product, but also the people side of the business—he’s free with a smile and good conversation. I can tell he cares about the world he lives in, both the smaller world of Tumwater, Washington, and the larger world of farmers growing beans in places like Ethiopia and Costa Rica.
“It’s very whole,” says Honor of the specialty coffee business. “Making sure things are done right from start to finish. At the farm-level, where people are doing the production, I know environmental and social care is being taken. That’s not always encouraged in the lower-priced coffee market.” Honor explains how the staff at Olympia Coffee Roasters travels to places like Central and South America, sourcing the highest quality coffee available.
“Many, but not all, of the coffees we carry are organic or rain forest certified, but our value is to support communities—worldwide and locally. We do the highest quality work we can. As people, as Christians.”
He stops responding to my questions and re-focuses his attention when customers walk in. “Hello! I’m glad you’re here.” A woman smiles and asks a question about the bags of coffee beans along the counter. Honor is happy to help.
Belinda says she is proud to be working with Honor and the rest of her staff. “We are fortunate to be in the company of such talented baristas with a passion for coffee and people.”
“When I first came out to visit,” recalls Honor, “Belinda and Russell and several others from the church were determined to start a coffee shop as a non-profit. I warned them that a coffee shop would be a huge undertaking, a lot of work, but they were serious.”
The group’s determination has paid off. “We have our regulars,” says Honor, “and new customers are coming in every week.” He says local groups like the Girl Scouts and Women in Business already hold meetings at Sound City Coffee, and a toy drive for kids was held during Christmas.
“We’re also building relationships with local artist and musicians. We hosted a great live music show our first month open. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Neither can I, Honor, but you can be sure I’ll be hanging out at Sound City, so I’ll be there to see.
Stop in during the week or on Saturday’s for an espresso or a cup of hand-brewed coffee. And have a little bite with your coffee; Sound City serves fresh treats from San Francisco Bakery, Bagel Brother’s and Lattin’s Cider Mill.
Sound City Coffee
125 Tumwater Blvd, Ste 119
Mon-Fri 7 am – 5 pm, Sat 9 – 4