If I were to ask you what city in Washington State that begins with an “S” is killing it in the specialty coffee scene, what would you guess…Seattle?
While you’re right in guessing that Seattle is still a hot-bed of all things wonderful when it comes to specialty coffee, I would strongly suggest familiarizing yourself with a city a little further east in Washington State…Spokane. This city of just over 200,000 residents has quickly become a place where notable coffee roasters are setting up shop, and a vibrant coffee scene is emerging.
And it is here, in Spokane, where you can find our June “Coffee Roaster of the Month” called Ladder Coffee. This cafe & roaster is the brainchild of a fellow named Aaron Rivkin. Our story goes back a few years when I first met Aaron while on holidays out in Scottsdale, Arizona. I reached out to him after following his story to get to know more about all that’s been going on in his life since our first encounter back in 2016.
Q: So introduce yourself to our readers…who is Aaron Rivkin? How did you end up in Spokane?
I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Before moving to Spokane I started a coffee shop called Kream Coffee with my old business partner Chris. (side note from thebloom.coffee…if you ever get down to Phoenix on holidays DO NOT miss the opportunity to check this cafe out!)
After my time at Kream, I moved out to Spokane because of a company that hired me and gave me the chance to compete for them in the 2017 US Barista Championships. Soon after that I took a big risk and began my own venture with Ladder Coffee.
So tell our readers a bit more about your influences and backstory in specialty coffee?
I’ve been in specialty coffee since 2014 with the help of my friend Steve who managed a shop called Maverick Coffee in Arizona. I hired him as our cafe’s manager at Kream when that took off and I left to come to Spokane. I have competed on many levels in the industry from local competitions to National ones like the “World Latte Art Championships” in Portland to the “US Barista Championships” in Knoxville, TN.
I have a ton of coffee influences like Onyx Coffee Lab, and Auggie’s Coffee, but also friends like Aaron Jordan from Roast House Coffee. I would say that the specialty community in general is something that I look to constantly as influences and inspiration.
Tell our readers more about the history of Ladder Coffee.
Ladder began as a dream in my heart for cities across the world for us to be a hub of influence in ever city. Physically it started with a home espresso machine and the help of friends just hanging out on my front porch on Saturday’s. For the first few weeks there was about 20 people that we were serving but then it quickly grew to over 100 people coming ever Saturday from summer through fall.
It became apparent to me that there was a greater need for specialty coffee in this city, and I set off to begin finding a more permanent brick-and-mortar location. Ladder opened up Spokane’s first specialty coffee drive-thru in November 2017. Our coffee was roasted in our shop on a Behmor 1600+ in very small batches. We loved that this ensured our customers got the freshest coffee possible. While this was great to begin we soon realized we couldn’t keep up with the demand from our customers. So we connected with the rad folks at Diedrich Coffee Roasters who have their head office just 75 miles from Spokane. This made a huge impact on how much we were able to roast and helped us to get more coffee out to even more amazing people.
Not much more than a year after opening our drive-thru we had outgrown the space. This lead us to Browne’s Addition, where we had the amazing opportunity to renovate an apartment building (built in 1904), now known as the Ladder Building. The space has allowed us to house our cafe and roastery (featuring our Deidrich IR-5), with future plans to open Glorious Bakery and a soon-to-be Speakeasy Cocktail Lounge. On November 5th 2018 we officially opened. If you’re travelling through Spokane make sure to come visit us!
Q: Why the name Ladder Coffee? What were you hoping to achieve with this venture?
Most people likely don’t know, but I am a two-time felon and ex-heroine addict. I have been given the opportunity to show people that it’s possible to climb our life-Ladder given any circumstance that you go through. So we want to be a rung in people’s life-ladder to help equip them to live out the fullest in their world.
Our desire with all of this is to show the industry a higher standard and hold other specialty shops accountable to produce products and hospitality with excellence and also providing a place of employment for our teams to go, change, and learn!
Q: What coffee are you enjoying right now?
We just got this 88-point coffee from Colombia that tastes like red wine on pour over its absolutely incredible!
So your cafe was recently featured in Sprudge, and even nominated for a Sprudgie award. Tell us about that!
This past year we were so humbled to be nominated for a Sprudgie in the “New Cafe” category. After all the votes were tallied we placed 3rd! To be included in such company as Dayglow (LA) and Mision Cafe (Madrid) is pretty amazing. To everyone who voted for us, thank you!
We are already working on our second concept called “Honest Coffee Bar & Kitchen. Stay tuned for more details about that.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Thanks for reading this, and follow our journey on social media!
Daily Coffee News/Roast Magazine: Introducing Ladder Coffee
The Curb: 2019 Sprudgie Awards
Spokane Spokesman Review: Feature Article
Find their beans:
If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-shop for what they’re currently roasting!
Thank you again to Aaron for sharing with us more about Ladder Coffee and for being a key part in the coffee culture in Spokane! Keep up the great work!