It is difficult for me to talk about Valhalla Coffee Company without looking over my shoulder for some axe wielding Viking lesser-god hunting me down to cleave my spinal chord in two with a deft twist of his frost weathered wrist. Our black-metal winters have me just a little paranoid, but this coffee is just too good to pass up, and the company is truly too chill not to bring it into Urban Pioneer status.
Valhalla has been around long enough to be the bean of choice in many of the finest coffee shops here in Tacoma, but I do not believe they will be satisfied until they have taken over the city government, the Free Masons, and the local mafia.
Just this morning owner and master roaster, Aravid Anderson, (aka A.J.), made an agreement with our Chinese sister city, Fuzhou, to distribute our Tacoma local browned-beanie goodness to the Communists we have come to love and fear — just in time for the Olympics (though Beijing is roughly 1,000 miles north of Fuzhou). Currently A.J. estimates he roasts about 400-plus pounds of coffee per week. When all is said and done he believes that he will be shipping at least 500 pounds of coffee to China every month.
In order to do this, our Viking friends will need a larger space than the one they currently occupy nestled in the Mandolin Café on South 12th near Proctor. They are shopping around for new spaces and “investigating expansion options,” says A.J. in calculated tones, nothing of which he was willing to divulge at this time. “We are for sure expanding, but Tacoma is our focus,” interrupts Valhalla employee Byron T. Betts, noting the tension building around the table. Coffee is serious business, and this crew takes it without cream. Aside from Byron, A.J.’s minions include Stephanie Powel, a recent addition to the Downtown nightlife whose cute black haircut can be seen nearly everywhere you want to be.
Outside of international business the trio plans on opening a General Coffee Education Center, where they will offer everything from roasting training to advanced barista techniques. If you’re looking to really learn coffee, there really isn’t anyone better to teach you than a master roaster; everything is informed by the green of the bean. Start at the beginning. Coffee grows out of the ground; it is not replicated inside the machines.
To prove to me they were serious, I was informed of a new roast grown on the Blackburn Estate in Tanzania, Africa. “Raspberry … blackberry … jasmine. This is a brighter … good morning coffee,” Stephanie informed me in expressive and nearly passionate tones. “It’s different than anything I’ve roasted in a while,” A.J. told me, “The Ethiopian Harrar market has dry spells, what I wanted was unavailable or not the best quality. I saw it as an opportunity to try something new.” It was also a good opportunity to teach Steph and Byron how to handle an unfamiliar bean, and they did an excellent job. The cup they brewed me was a blend of the Tanzanian and a new single origin Ethiopian Yrgacheffe (yer-ga-cheffe). In order to facilitate a conversation about the taste of this coffee, they showed me the roasters vocabulary wheel, and I got a little dizzy. It was damn good though, modern Vikings are wonderful beverage makers.
[Valhalla Coffee Co., 3923 S. 12th St., Tacoma, www.valhallacoffee.net]