Tucked away on the Eastern shores of Vashon Island across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington is a coffee roaster that I am thrilled to have as the Coffee Roaster of the Month for October.
Blossom Coffee Roasters (previously known as Vashon Coffee Co.) has quickly become a beloved coffee roaster by many in the specialty coffee community. It was a few months back when I began to notice their coffee in the hands of many of the accounts I follow, and I began to get a sense that this was a coffee roaster I needed to discover more about.
So I set out to learn more about Blossom Coffee Roasters and reached out to a fellow by the name of Ken Selby. His name rang a bell and after a few clicks on the old inter-webs I began to realize he has quite the accolades in the specialty coffee competition circuit including taking 1st place in the 2018 US Cup Tasters Competition. We had some great chats and I became really impressed with the work he and the Blossom team were doing. After getting my hands on some of their coffee a few weeks later, I was sold that Blossom needed to be one of my upcoming roaster features!
So I reached out again to Ken Selby [KS], who is the Director of Coffee with Blossom Coffee Roasters and he was more than gracious to help share the story of this incredible company.
Q: So who is the team behind Blossom Coffee Roasters?
Tell our readers, where are you originally from?
[KS] Personally, I am originally from Southern California, but honestly I have traveled around a ton due to school interests. Most recently I was in Houston, TX before moving to Seattle 3 years ago.
How did you end up in Vashon Island/Seattle?
[KS] Well, it was kind of on a whim and a hope. I was not seeing the kind of advancement I wanted in the Houston coffee scene at the time so I started looking elsewhere. I truthfully applied to multiple shops for multiple positions across the US. I really just came to Seattle because a couple companies took me on and I basically said, sure, I will move to Seattle now.
Q: What’s your backstory in coffee?
[KS] Shoot, I started while I was in undergrad in Michigan. I was first introduced to specialty coffee by frequenting Madcap Coffee out there and just thought this was a way better product then I ever imagined coffee could be. Then I went to Houston for grad school and it was necessary to work full time to pay for school since my scholarship opportunity was little to non-existent (dread).
I had known a coffee job would be flexible with my hours so I started working in coffee again down there. After some years of work, getting better at what I did, and realizing that my philosophy program had begun to really prepare me for education and communicating concepts or ideas in an effective way I just elected to keep going further in with coffee instead. I was beginning to be asked to manage more, consult more, train more, and so on and so forth. I just thought it made the most sense at the time, and now here I am.
Q: Who were some of your early influences?
[KS] Madcap Coffee for sure. I was a dyed in the wool fan – truthfully still am a bit. Loved their product, loved their vision, and loved their aesthetic. Couldn’t be beat in my mind.
Q: Tell us a bit about the history of Blossom Coffee Roasters. How did this all being?
Well Dawn Loraas originally started Vashon Coffee Co. back in 2003. But her coffee career started back in the late 1980’s (This is the best of our knowledge that it was the absolute first one!) where her and her husband Pat set up the first coffee cart in Seattle at Kings Street Station. From there, its safe to say Dawn always had her finger on the pulse of the industry and just finally decided to open up her own roasting operations.
Her intention was, and remains, is to be a better option of providing sweeter and cleaner coffees for people looking away from darker Seattle styled roasters. After nearly two decades with the same brand we just thought it was time to change and update the brand to match the current climate of consumers, and thus came Blossom Coffee Roasters!
Q: I know you recently did a significant re-brand from what you were previously known as “Vashon Coffee Co. So why the name Blossom?
Well we wanted to represent two aspects with the name. First, the obvious connection to coffee being a plant that flowers and blooms or blossoms. But the other meaning was meant to convey in our vision and that is more existential and human: that we believe everyone deserves to blossom in life, or have the opportunity to blossom with what they love or are doing. So we just hope that our name, mission, and vision can have some kind of small impact on people’s lives in that way.
Q What equipment do you roast on?
We are roasting on an old 1950’s Probat UG-15. It’s a beast and a beauty! We do all our sample roasting on the hyper-effective Ikawa.
There’s no question that the coffee community in Seattle is known for being one of the best coffee communities, perhaps in the world. So what about it do you love?
[KS] COVID has kind of ruined all prospects of notable events and our community at large hasn’t been too good and finding or creating creative outlets for community outreach as of yet. Seattle is an interesting city in terms of our demographics willingness to be public and open until the pandemic is over.
Q: Any exciting collaborations?
[KS] We just did a charitable promotion for a limited release lot, and then moving forward we have a couple things floating in the air for limited release offerings for holiday gifts and in talks with some breweries for collabs. So, stay tuned!
Q: What sets Blossom Coffee Roasters apart from the many other coffee roasters in the Seattle area? Feel free to toot your own horn!
[KS] I think one of the great aspects about us is our communicative willingness and roast philosophy. I try to work hands on with many accounts to not only communicate needs and interests, but also help curate their menus. Our roast philosophy and style, I think, is also what sets us apart in the city. We really aim for balance and sweetness, sometimes at the cost of some flavor intensity.
Most accounts are looking for single origin espresso offerings or good batch brews, so we really shoot for coffees that are richly sweet, nicely balanced, and have good clarity with a few flavours rather than make someone’s mouth scattershot trying to understand the complexity. However, that is not to say we don’t buy our limited release lots and roast them in a way that prioritizes flavour complexity for the consumer. Personally, I pride myself on having a fairly good palate and our roaster and I have really worked hand-in-hand with tasting and profiling and I think we produce some of the most balanced representations of coffee in Seattle.
Q: Looking forward beyond COVID-19 what do you see as some of the emerging trends or new initiatives that will shape the future of specialty coffee?
[KS] E-Commerce is through the roof. Subscription services are all the rave. Some more home brewing and technique building is growing also, I think companies will, and some are, (including some projects of ours in the works) going to focus heavily on public education and outreach for people to constantly enjoy coffee from the comfort of their homes. I think some of the importing and green sales industry is going to be impacted even more, but those are long winded thoughts for a later time.
Q: So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
[KS] Drinking some of this experimental Costa Rican coffee we got in from the Aquiares Estate. Honestly, it is an incredible representation of modern day producer’s discipline and attention to detail now in processing. Later on I will be sipping on a stellar Decaf we sourced from Caravela Imports that straight up tastes like milk chocolate and honey with a tinge of white grape acidity. It’s heavenly! But it is like they say, you pay for what you get, and a 4.72/lb decaf before shipping is going to be quite delicious!
Q: So Ken…you have certainly done well in the competition space in the past few years? What is it that you love about competing in coffee? What are you most looking forward to when coffee competitions resume? Anything you would like to see changed?
[KS] Honestly, I am just a competitive person. I was not aware of the scene for the first few years but once I found out I was all in. Growing up I played sports my whole life, and always wanted to excel at being the best I could with respect to my team and teammates so the coffee competitions were just an easy segue for me to continue to do that. Honestly, just really looking forward to seeing people again and hoping that I can win another one.
Find their beans:
If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting!
I just want to say a huge thank you to Ken Selby for sharing about Blossom Coffee Roasters and for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in the Seattle area! Keep up the great work!