Located at 501 Columbia Street in Downtown Vancouver, Washington (just around the corner from the Interstate 5-Hwy 14-Washington Street Interchange), they have leaped into the coffee and coffee shop market with zeal and intelligence. When it seems that there is a coffee shop at every corner and that "Starbuck's has opened a Starbuck's inside of a Starbuck's", it takes an innovative approach to break into that market.
Torque Coffee Roasters can only be described as innovative. They are that if for no other reason than the cold-bottled coffees that they sell. Yes, cold-bottled coffee that is added to hot or boiling water to create an "instant" cup of coffee without the old Nescafe spoon and powder method. This is coffee that has been brewed and condensed and is...wait for it...good!
While that is enough to generate a following, and they have through markets like New Seasons, it was Ryan Palmer's astonishing knowledge of coffee (and tea...) that made a coffee shop inevitable. Ask Ryan who was the coffee plantation owner who had a chicken named Chuck and he will probably know. His knowledge of coffee types, varying weather conditions at plantations, drying and roasting techniques and strategies is encyclopedic. A coffee conversation with Ryan is enlightening. In fact, life-changing can be used without any fear of embellishment because it has caused me and my wife to try different coffees that have now become favorites. Okay, it wasn't a huge change. I mean, I didn't join a Sumatra monastery or anything but he showed me things about coffee that I had never known or even considered.
It is a Palmer family-owned business and Ryan Palmer is the face and voice of that business. His knowledge of what is comfortable and
convenient and generally pleasing has made him very popular with hot beverage aficionados and has gathered huge support for a place where he can bring his knowledge, skills and personality to bear.
Now don't expect the coffee at Torque Coffee Roasters shop to come from the bottle because it does not. In fact, the coffee is fresh-roasted and is ground, of course, on the spot. Soon even the roasting will take place on the premises, as will the cold-bottling. All this within sight of the coffee bar.
The coffee bar itself is a notable and noticable feature. It is in the center of the building which was once a repair garage. The characteristics of the renovated shop retain the industrial feel with the garage door that is about to be replaced by a glass-paneled garage door--perfect for the warmer months. The garage-style rectangular multi-paned windows on the west and south sides are going to be replaced with clear glass thanks to a city grant aimed at updating the facades near the soon-to-be developed waterfront park area near the Downtown Hilton.
The interior north wall of the shop will accomodate the cold-bottling area and the interior southeast corner will house the roasters to be included soon. In the center is the afore-mentioned bar with seating on one side complete with chairs and outlets to allow for ease of laptop computer users. The outlets along the west wall include USB outlets for the purpose of charging cell-phones. Really, he thinks of everything.
Most of the sweet retro furnishings were from Most Everything (http://mosteverything.wordpress.com), the Vintage Shop on Washington Street. There are also two really long church pews that were rescued and restored.
Even the space outside the front doors is open and suitable for outdoor festivities and outdoor tables and seating are available. As my wife pointed out, it would be a great place for outside gatherings.
When you come into Torque Coffee Roasters, you want to ask for Ryan...or Ryan...or Ryan. Wait...what? Not only is Ryan Palmer to be found behind the bar but so are two other baristas named Ryan. "Three Ryans and a Chelsea" could be the nickname for the place. Chelsea Gaya is the bar manager. With the brightest smile and sweetest disposition, Chelsea makes everyone welcome. She is enough to guarantee a return visit for anyone. Certainly my wife thinks Chelsea is the sweetest ever.
This was a first class Opening. The food was catered by The Main Event featuring veggie plates and beef tips alongside pasta salad and other fare. The beer was provided by nearby Mt. Tabor Brewing(http://www.mttaborbrewing.com). Chocolates from Missionary Chocolates were served and they were incredible. You might want to visit http://missionarychocolates.com to find out more about them. Lovely flower arrangements were included thanks to Mieko's Marketplace Flowers (http://marketplaceflowersonline.com). All of these were local businesses with interest and delight in seeing the Palmer family joining the business community in downtown Vancouver.
The guests at the Grand Opening were family and friends, to be sure, but also business neighbors (such as Tony Broom and Sandra Geary from nearby Serendipity Playhouse on Washington Street) and curious passersby. Even present were well-wishing employees from another Vancouver coffee shop who brought flowers, smiles and goodwill. With the mild weather, the doors were left open with outside seating and a steady flow of people going in and out.
The music was DJ'd by Ryan (not that Ryan, the other one...no, the other one) and was a fun mix of music from the 70's and after. The air was festive and warm and the Palmers and Chelsea and the Ryans were absolutely charming, all of them.
But what about the coffee served at Torque Coffee Roasters? While the bottled coffee (ask Ryan about recipes including the coffee concentrate) and freshly ground bagged coffees are available for purchase, the fresh-brewed drip coffees, cappuccinos, machiattos, mochas, lattes and espressos are the real attractions for your coffee-loving taste buds. I can't get enough of the espressos myself. The small cup of espresso seems to change taste at every level--it actually gets sweeter the deeper you drink. For me, if the espresso is great, then so is everything else. But it all has to be experienced and each sampling has left me wondering where these guys have been all my coffee-drinking life.
Sure, there are great pastries and chocolates served up there, also. But you want to come for the coffee and the conversation and to see Chelsea.
There are a few coffee shops around that have great coffee. Most have interesting or comfortable decor. One or two have staff that make you come back just to see them. A few have cool locations. A very few have all the electronic necessities. None of them have all of the above. At least, none before Torque Coffee Roasters came to town. My wife and I have found our home.
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