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Buzz on: Three new coffee houses around Tacoma

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on March 15, 2013 at 12:00 am | No Comments »
March 20, 2013 9:59 am
Espresso - we cannot get enough.
Espresso – we cannot get enough. Peter Haley/Staff photographer

Asking why the Northwest has so many coffee houses is like asking why Vegas has so many slot machines. It’s because guzzling coffee is what we do here. Three have opened in recent weeks – here’s a quick snapshot of each. The owners range from a chef with a South Sound restaurant resume, a first-time business owner who created his own coffeehouse after the economy sunk his old job and a retired police officer with a lengthy South Sound coffee resume. Know of a new coffee house or have a favorite place to get your buzz on? Comment below – tell readers about it.

Where: 2312 N. 30th St., Tacoma, 253-212-2287,
Coming next month: 1201 S. Union, Tacoma

If you’ve been a coffee drinker in the South Sound for the past decade, you probably have had a cup of coffee touched in some way by Brad Carpenter. The retired officer (insert coffee-and-doughnut jokes here) started Forza more than a decade ago, turning that business into a franchise, which at its height counted 24 coffee shops from here to Seattle.

Carpenter sold that business a few years ago. Several Forza coffee houses in South Sound have converted in recent years to independently owned coffee houses. Thirteen are left from here to Seattle.

Carpenter can’t seem to get out of the coffee game, though. Treos is his latest venture. He’s starting with two locations and plans a third but says he has no intention of getting back into the franchise business – Treos will be solely owned by Carpenter and business partner Courtney Marshall. She’s the owner of Blue Steele, the former Parkland Forza renamed to honor the four Lakewood police officers who were killed there in November 2009.

The first Treos opened in Old Town in February, and Carpenter is expecting to soon open a second Treos at12th and Union – a former Forza location.

Turkey-pesto sandwich at Treos.
Turkey-pesto sandwich at Treos. Marinated olives on the side.

Treos’ coffee beans come from Coda, a Colorado–based roaster that buys directly from farmers. That company has Northwest ties – Carpenter met Coda owners Tim and Tommy Thwaites when the brothers worked at Sumner’s Dillanos.

On the menu: Sandwiches, flatbreads and light nibbles. I bit into a turkey sandwich – lightly grilled on a quality bread – with a heavy smear of garlicky pesto. Neat place for a quick bite and cuppa. Besides espresso, Treos serves wine and local beers. Pastries are from Tacoma’s Corina Bakery. (Read a story about Corina Bakery here).
Tip: The Treos site previously housed a Tully’s, but that location closed. Do the faces at Treos seem familiar? That may be because three former Tully’s employees were hired to work at Treos.
Beans: Coda in Colorado

Cafe Brosseau
Where: 2716 N. 21st St., Tacoma, 253-327-1306,

Corina pastries are served at Cafe Brosseau.
Corina Bakery pastries are served at Cafe Brosseau.

Christian Kelley was laid off from his job in medical administration in 2011. He couldn’t find another, so he created his own. He and Donna Estes – his partner in business and life – opened Cafe Brosseau in January in a small neighborhood tucked between Stadium and Proctor.

The coffeehouse is named after the Brosseau twins who built a grocery store at North 21st and Anderson Streets in 1907. That building now houses Cafe Brosseau and neighboring home brewing supply store Mash.

The cafe opened with pastries from Corina and coffee beans roasted at Tacoma’s Madrona Coffee. In fact, the owners of Cafe Madrona helped Kelley install his coffee counter, which is made from wood salvaged from a bowling lane at Parkland’s Paradise Bowl.

On the menu: Since opening, Cafe Brosseau has switched from warming up sandwiches made by Europa Bistro to grilling its own panini – including breakfast and gluten-free sandwiches ($4-$7). They recently started selling soups from Alina’s Soups (her soups also can be found at Proctor Frozen Yogurt). Cafe Brosseau still sells Corina Bakery pastries, as well as caramels and sauces from Tacoma’s Fingerprint Confections. The cafe also is open for gaming Fridays and hosts a Wednesday night open mic.
Beans: Tacoma roaster Madrona

The Coffee Vault
Where: 317 S. 72nd St., Tacoma, 253-302-3250,

There’s one neat thing about converting a bank to a coffee shop – the drive-thru is huge. Baristas at The Coffee Vault, however, do not shoot your coffee through a vacuum tube. They will serve you a hot cuppa out the drive-thru window, though.

The Coffee Vault opened March 4 in the site of a former U.S. Bank turned real estate office. It’s flanked by Fred Meyer across the street and Pacific Lanes across the parking lot. The business is the venture of Travis Todd, who restaurant watchers will recognize as the chef who opened Chambers Bay Grill before Dustin Joseph took over as executive chef (Joseph left Chambers Bay Grill in February and plans a March opening for his Stadium neighborhood restaurant the Art House Cafe).

Todd has a long résumé in golf courses – he still caters at the Home Course in DuPont and previously cooked at Meadow Park and Snoqualmie Ridge courses.

Why a coffee shop? Todd said he was interested in a quick-service coffeehouse with a short menu of sandwiches – something to round out his other golf course catering job.

On the menu: He has more than a half dozen sandwiches – all made to order – and makes two kinds of soup daily. Todd said he makes soups from scratch. There’s morning grub, too. I hate breakfast sandwiches because they’re usually so ordinary, but the ham-and-egg sandwich with cheddar on an English muffin was tasty.
Beans: Puyallup roaster Martin Henry.

Correction: A previous version of this story characterized Forza as having few coffee shops left. There are 13 from here to Seattle.

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