Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shop Spotlight: Java Junction and the Modernization of Coffee

Throw a stone in the Pacific Northwest and you will hit many a coffee house. From mega retail chains to tiny coffee carts, the Seattle area boasts over 650 shops making us 2nd only to Anchorage. This was quite a shock to me mainly because I could not imagine more coffee houses than we have here. It is very cold in Alaska but I still demand a recount. Nonetheless, coffee houses all seek to be significantly different than all the rest touting specialized brews and preparation techniques that will take coffee to the next level. Coffee is really not that difficult and the magic is truly in the beans. The quality and treatment of these black, or brown, beauties is vital to the very detailed percolation process. Skimping on bean quality and proper preparation techniques cheats the customers. Even the most unrefined palate can discern a bad cup of coffee. Bitter, over roasted, and tasteless are some terms people are referring to when they say that coffee is bad. If companies do skimp on bean quality they will try to make up for it in other ways. There are many tactics these companies use to distract customers into thinking that their brew is exponentially better than the shop about half a block away. There are girls in bikinis selling lattes and full on retail racks creating brand recognition that happen to set them apart and attract repeat customers. This aggressive marketing obviously works as these techniques keep the customers coming back for more and more.

The coffee business is big business. Let's look at a few statistics here in the U.S. Over 50% of all Americans drink coffee on a daily basis consuming over 3 cups a day.This is more than any nation in the world which is why the coffee business brings in more than $12 billion (not million) a year with over 24,000 locations selling lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, and hot/cold coffee. I have lived here for about a decade and though I am absolutely not a daily coffee drinker, with the statistics as they are, most of my friends and family slam back at least a cup a day. Whenever they come and visit, exploring coffee shops and locations has become a ritual for us. Each coffee house has it's own personality. There are those with large, plush sofas inviting you to lounge and read all afternoon. They are great. Perfect for those rainy days or for a few hours of downtime from the family on the weekends, I often seek refuge in these locales.

Then there are those shops for the quick coffee run. These shops have no intention of welcoming you to people watch or meet-up with friends. These types of coffee locations want you to do just the opposite: Get you in and out as fast as possible. The drive-thru coffee house, which, in my opinion, is perfected with the double drive thru, is the future of coffee, especially with the large number of coffee drinkers. In the early 1900's, the United States became the largest coffee consumer and people have been getting in line ever since to keep us there. The modern coffee line, however, mostly consists of cars.
Let me point you to Java Junction, a fabulous double drive-thru coffee stand in Redmond, WA. Home to companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Hewlett-Packard, residents to Redmond rely on the various local coffee houses to keep their production levels high. The small town is only about 16 square miles but boasts one of the highest incomes per capita in the nation. There are over 50,000 residents in the area and dozens of coffee shops. The average coffee cup costs about $1.35 and if half of the peopleRedmond drank about 3 cups of coffee a day, do the math. The real question is, how does the coffee drinker find the best cup of coffee in a sea of black? Any local to the town has his/her own shop of choice that they have found only after subjecting themselves to cup after cup of no good over roasted brew. I am here to say search no more if you are lucky enough to be local to the area. Java Junction's coffee is on point Every. Single. Time.

Treating myself to a cup of coffee is an uncommon practice and I mostly use it to help control my headaches. I don't partake in a cup everyday especially since I customize my order with an extra shot and extra flavor sauce. It all add$ up so when I get it, I want it to be delicious. That is how each cup served to me at Java Junction is. Maybe it is the super friendly staff who always, always, makes small talk with you just to pass the coffee-making time. This is customer service at its very best, especially in the morning (They along with many other coffee shops & stands open around 6am!!). Some independently owned shops serve over 250 cups a day. If this is the case, it amazes me that the staff at Java Junction still manages to keep a smile on their face. Their stand is conveniently located on Avondale Rd. right across from the food co-op, PCC. Their prices beat all their competitors especially when you factor in the convenience, consistency and quality of the product they serve up. The real foam on the cup is that they always have a treat for the little ones. Whatever business owners can do to make my children happy is alright by me. Let's not forget that there are always plenty of pastries to nosh on if you enjoy a snack with your caffeine fix. If you are ever in the area and are seeking a really good cup of coffee and experience all around, stop by here for some deliciousness.

There is nothing fancy about Java Junction at all. They serve pretty standard drinks and you would not be able to tell them from any other small coffee stand in town. But looks can be deceiving and the proof is in the cup. I am constantly venturing off the beaten path in search of something new and different especially when it comes to culinary delights. I am oftentimes disappointed. But when there is a hit, I love sharing the good news. Java Junction is a hit. Just look at that smile on Janice and she is the actual owner!!

If you are not local to Redmond or the surrounding cities, I still urge you to be bold (pun intended) when searching for your next coffee spot. Indepenent owners are putting up their dukes when it comes to the coffee battle and just so happen to be holding their own. They account for almost 10% of the entire U.S. coffee market. That is pretty good considering the giants out there. Don't follow the masses, especially when it comes to something as vital as your coffee fix. Satiate your palate with a truly good cup of Joe at a Java Junction all your own.

On a personal note, I once placed my order at Java Junction and the barista served me my drink cold when I'd actually ordered it hot. She immediately apologized and made me the correct drink. She also gave me the cold drink gratis. This is customer service. I made sure to tip her very well, as these girls work hard for the money.

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