It’s impossible to talk about Spokane’s thriving coffee scene without mentioning one of the best local roasters in town, Roast House Coffee. When owner Deborah Di Bernardo started the company, she implemented a literal open-door policy to encourage a passerby to stop in and learn about the roastery. The warehouse doors were open to the public, and being hospitable, they would offer up coffee drinks for free. This worked so well that the roastery found themselves in need of a proper tasting room. Their current setup encourages customers to sample their latest roasts, learn a bit about their coffee roasting process and pick up the perfect bag of beans.
Roast House’s sourcing ethics are impressive to say the least. Recognizing the power of purchasing coffee, Roast House Coffee is meticulous about sourcing from farms that are sustainable and that uplift the communities they reside in. Long-term relationships are key to sourcing unique and exceptional coffees, so the Roast House focuses on investing in farms for the long haul. They create a reciprocal relationship in which consistent support enables farmers to build up their infrastructure and produce better and better yields.
Diversity in Roasts
The Roast House sources from farms that engage in organic and sustainable shade farming practices. Sheer diversity of roasts is arguably the Roast House Coffee’s niche. The bulk of their coffees are medium to dark roasts, with F-Bomb being a consistent favorite. With notes of blood orange, cocoa and cherry, F-Bomb is a full-bodied medium roast that appeals to a wide range of coffee drinkers. That being said, the roastery does offer interesting single-origins and microlot coffees that trend on the lighter side of roasts as well. Their Ejidos Gesha is a current offering that is sourced in the same region as their F-Bomb in the highlands of southern Mexico where the jungle gives way to pine trees. This creates a rich, fertile terrain that is perfect for growing coffee.
F1rst Ave Coffee
While the Roast House initially focused on distribution, an intriguing opportunity in a century old music building caught Deb’s attention. Its location in Spokane’s Entertainment District and 3,000-square-foot space would allow for roasting demonstrations, classes, events and, most importantly, plenty of seating. F1rst Ave Coffee opened in mid-2018 and serves as a sister cafe to the Roast House, featuring their coffee exclusively. They managed to preserve some of the character of their historic home while installing a modern counter featuring Modbar equipment.
Roast House Coffee and F1rst Ave Coffee walk their talk when it comes to eco-friendly practices, both in purchasing and in operations. F1rst Ave Coffee is recognized by the Green Restaurant Association, and strives to reduce environmental impact where possible. In addition, they’ve created a space where connections can be made. The coffee bar is set up to allow ease of conversation between customers and baristas. The ample space and seating make it a great place for the community to gather.
Baked Goods and Coffee Mocktails
It’s also interesting to note that all of their in-house baked goods are entirely gluten free. They offer vegan donut options, as well as keto-friendly alternatives – a nice surprise for people on a restrictive diet, and a delicious treat for those who aren’t. They do offer pastries for those without diet restrictions as well. Finally, let’s talk about their actual coffee. Their coffee bar setup includes pour-over options, espresso, nitro cold brew and chai. They also offer unique coffee mocktails like a Nitro Fashioned with cold brew, bitters and simple syrup, and for an alternative pick-me-up, they feature Hi-Zu sparkling tea.
Having celebrated their 10-year anniversary on Jan. 4, 2020, it’s clear that the Roast House has had significant support from and impact upon the Spokane community. I’m looking forward to seeing what they accomplish in the next decade.