A Tour of Starbucks

I went to Seattle in April for AvGeek Fest 2016 for a fun filled aviation weekend put together by the wonderful folks at Airline Reporter, Future of Flight, Museum of Flight, and Boeing. We got exclusive access to the Dreamlifter Operations Center (an AvGeek Fest first), tour of the Dreamliner Gallery, an on-the-factory-floor tour of the Everett Plant (home of the 747, 767, 777, and 787), a tour of the Renton Plant (home of the 737 – not open for public tours), and to top off – a walk around of Boeing’s newest baby – the 737-8 Max. Boeing even pulled out the Seahawks 747-8F out for us!  Alas, Boeing does not allow photography on their property so I was not able to take photos while on any of those tours.

However, you can see my spotting photos and museum photos from that weekend, as well as a report and photos by the organizers.

Sure – I know this is an aviation blog.  But since I was in Seattle, I had to partake in something equally global and uniquely Pacific Northwestern as Boeing and aviation:  I took a tour of Starbucks!

Thanks to Starbucks Melody blog – I visited the following Starbucks sights:
  • World Headquarters at Starbucks Center
  • A Shipping Container Store
  • 1912 Pike Place
  • Roastery and Tasting Room

Starbucks Center aka 
World Headquarters aka 
Dr. Evil’s World Domination HQ (for the Austin Powers fan)

Located in the SoDo – South of Downtown – area of Seattle, Starbucks Center is a historic building originally built in 1912 by the Union Pacific Railroad for the Sears Roebuck west coast catalog distribution warehouse. The neighborhood redeveloped and gentrified after the 1970s economic downturn.  After Sears closed the warehouse in 1990, Starbucks moved to this location in 1993 and later became the building’s primary tenant in 1997, occupying the 8th and 9th floors.

Outside of Starbucks Center, it was busy and buzzing with activities during the Friday lunch hour.  There were lunch trucks, giant chess and checker boards, and sandbag toss.  Office workers and visitors alike were taking advantage the warm spring sunshine.

The 8th floor lobby is rather assuming for an American corporate powerhouse.

There is a reception deck, a small waiting area (with Tevana tea and Starbucks coffee – of course), and the Starbucks Gear Store.  As with the lobby, the Store is surprisingly small as well. However, I was able to purchase Starbucks trinkets and shirts not available anywhere else.

At the Ground floor entrance, there is a (again – small) Starbucks store for your caffeine fix.  Drinkware and beverage selections are your standard run of the mill.

Proof I was there – my receipt.


Shipping Container Starbucks

I came across this cool Starbucks on Marginal Way alongside Boeing Field by accident. Since it was a weekend, it was closed.

Made of four shipping containers – this Starbucks is primarily a drive through and has only a walk up window.

There is outside patio seating and enclosed restroom facilities are located in one of the containers.

The repurposed theme continues throughout, including signage elements.


1912 Pike Place – the “Original” Starbucks

The first Starbucks opened in 1971 at 2000 Western Avenue, just outside of what is now Pike Place Historic District. In 1977, Starbuck’s Western Avenue building was to be torn down for redevelopment, so the store moved one block down to the current 1912 Place Place location. As such, it is still correct to claim this location as the “original” Starbucks. (More on the store's history)

Located in the Pike Place Historical District / touristy zone, this Starbucks kept its original storefront and interior.

Inside, the woodwork and brass make you want to pull up a leather chair and cozy up with a good book.

The menu board is written in chalk.

After your order is taken – in an ode to the famous flying fish at the market across the street – the cup gets tossed from the cashier to the barista!

Store shelving is full of exclusive Pike Place merchandise.

Behind the counter – boxes for the aforementioned merchandise kind of take away the coffee house ambiance.

There is no food selection. In fact, there is no room to sit either. The whole experience felt rather rushed and touristy: get in line*, pick your merchandise, order your coffee, pick up your coffee, take a selfie, and leave.

* Luckily I was there early on a Monday morning and there was no line and the store had less a dozen tourists.

Here was my Pike Place Special Reserve roast (PPSR) pour over.  This roast is exclusive for this store.

To enjoy my beverage, I did what most everyone else did.  I took my coffee a couple doors down to a wonderful French bakery called Le Panier. Fresh croissant and coffee – breakfast of champions!

Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room

If 1912 Pike Place is a nostalgic salute to the past, then the Roastery is a look to the future.

An ultimate venue for the Starbucks fan, the Roastery and Tasting Room is like Disneyland for the Starbucks fanatic. Less than one mile away from Pike Place, the Roastery is just on the other side of Interstate 5, drawing a distinct line between the old and the new. 

Located in the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood, the Roastery competes with homely specialty coffee roasters favored by local residents. Once again, tourists seem to outnumber locals at the Roastery.

Inside is reminiscent of a microbrewery with giant brassy vats and pipes running throughout.

At the center, there a sitdown bar where you can watch baristas prepare coffee.

The large number of tables (with an equal large number of wait staff) and a printed menu made me think there was table service.

There is no table service.  I mean, come on, have you ever seen a Starbucks printed menu?  I'm not exaggerating, it took me 10 minutes to read and re-read the menu in order to decide what I wanted.

The operation is just like any other Starbucks, except everything is fancier / grander / more expensive. As you walk up to cashier, you go past the display case of pastries. The cashier takes your order, answers questions (because to the uninitiated, no one really knows what the these drinks are!) and you wait for your name to be called when your beverage is ready. Your coffee is delivered on a wooden tray.

These blue men showed up for some coffee.  The cashier was trying hard not to crack up in laughter.

Microbrew parallel continues. I got a tasting flight with chocolate truffle pairings. At $26.99, it was the most expensive Starbucks drink I have ever paid (granted it was for two people).

As one would expect, each coffee and chocolate pairing went perfectly with each other. Believe it or not – the winning coffee for me was the DECAF Costa Rica roast as suggested by my cashier.

Starbucks tasting – the aftermath!

After completing the tasting, it was off to the mandatory shopping section where you can purchase (even more) exclusive merchandise and of course, beans roasted right there in store.  I also watched an informative Chemex demo (and tasting) and learned a thing or two about preparing a pour over.

OK, Starbucks, you win.  I bought my gear and can't wait to try it out myself!


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