Volunteer Park Café and Marketplace Prefers Stumptown

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Volunteer Park Cafe Coffee Cup, originally uploaded by andai.

I was somewhat surprised but not really when I went to Volunteer Park Café some months ago and found out that they no longer carried the Café Vita coffee beans but instead had switched to Stumptown coffee beans. I thought that was really interesting and at that time, the barista on duty could not tell me why they had done the switch. Though I have been there a few times since, I finally chatted with one of baristas who knew and told me the story.

It turns out that the reason they switched was not because Café Vita coffee beans was bad or anything like that. The reason was pretty simple actually. On the one hand, and in their own words, Stumptown has excellent customer service and are a great supplier to work with and they have great coffee so switching for those reasons alone was not a problem. But the even bigger deal was the fact that the owner of VPC&M just so happens to be one of the co-owners of ‘Oddfellows’ up on Capital hill. Now Oddfellows was already serving Stumptown coffee and so for the owner, it actually made sense for her to switch and deal with just one supplier for both premises rather than have to deal with two different suppliers. Of course if they actually thought that Stumptown coffee was not that great, then I doubt that VPC&M would have switched.

Now for those of you not from the Pacific Northwest region, Stumptown Coffee is actually pretty famous in the Seattle and Portland area and even up in Vancouver and Victoria. I remember at least two summers ago when rumor had it that they were going to be opening up their first shop in Seattle up on Capital Hill (now they have two) everyone was excited that this Portland based Coffee roaster was expanding to Seattle. At that time, the summer of 07, I went to the Stumptown located at the Ace (boutique) hotel and licked their coffee… and there super cool espresso machine even better. And so it seems, I meet a lot of espressonatos who think that Stumptown Coffee is just something really awesome. But I’ve also met a few who are not too impressed with Stumptown and think there are other, much better options, available for those who love their espresso.

So was the switch worth it? Does it make sense to switch because you get great customer service and it’s also more convenient? Yes, I think so, but only if the coffee is at least comparable if not better than what you are currently serving. I certainly think that it does make sense from the ‘dealing with only one supplier’ perspective since having to work with multiple suppliers across multiple locations simply adds overhead and complexity.

Now you don’t very often get a chance to actually compare how well one particular coffee house does if they have serve coffee beans from different roasters. In this case, it would have been interesting to try and reflect back on the Café Vita that VPC&M used to serve and the Stumptown they now do. But alas, it was quite a while back since I drank Café Vita at VPC&M and to be honest, I don’t remember too well how it was compared to the Stumptown they serve now.

However, for some reason I am really leaning towards saying that in my dim memory, the Café Vita might actually have been better than the Stumptown. And I can tell you for sure, I recently ordered a double 8 oz latte at VPC&M and I didn’t think the double shot in an 8 oz cup was a good as it should have been. I do know that I have had a few good double 12 oz Stumptown lattes at VPC&M though and so this makes me wonder if in general I should simply stick to 12 oz cups when I’m ordering Stumptown lattes.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Scott says:

    I think you are correct when it comes to the difference between Stumptown and Caffe Vita. The difference is clear that Caffe Vita is 10x better. They stick to their neighborhoods and take care of the people that take care of them.

    I will always go out of my way to find some Caffe Vita over any other Coffee Company.

  2. Bob says:

    What? Are you serious? Cafe Vita is not very good at all. Could not compare to Stumptown on quality and/or sustainabilty on a good day. Go to vita buy a coffee then go to Stumptown and buy the same. You’ll see stumptowns coffee, cafe(s), baristas and biz model is far better than vita(s).

  3. Lauren says:

    I’ve worked with both Vita and Stumptown, and I have to say the difference in customer service is really obvious in the wholesale world. Both offer free on-site training, and when I was buying from Vita, I had to call about a million times, and every time the person I was trying to get ahold of was “out but would call me back”. Never got a call. I think the only time Vita showed a genuine interest in me was when I called to inform them of my switch to Stumptown.
    I can’t say enough good things about Stumptown’s services. I tried their coffee on a weekend trip to Portland and knew I had to make the switch. They sent someone out to work with me almost immediately. My baristas were trained in a flash, and the training is so interesting. When I started MezzaLuna they helped me get everything I need, helped with plumbing, etc. They’re really great people.

    Above all things, I also prefer their coffee. 🙂

    Thanks for the review of MezzaLuna a while back, by the way! I found your blog in my website referrals and now read it regularly. Yeahhh, coffee!

    Lauren

  4. andai says:

    Hi Lauren, thanks for the positive feedback and sharing your experiences when you worked at VPC&M.

    The sense I got when talking to the VPC&M folks was that Stumptown really does go above and beyond when it comes to their customer service and your comments do confirm that. Like I said, the vast majority of people I talk to really do think Stumptown coffee is awesome, and I can’t tell you how excited people were back in 07 when they heard that Stumptown was coming to town. Then when you add the fact that Oddfellows was already using Stumptown coffee then the decision to switch suppliers was certainly a no brainer.

    I do think Stumptown has great coffee and places such as your cafe do a great job of showcasing that fact. The problem is that there are other places I have been where I think they don’t do as great a job and so you end up with a drink that is not exceptional and sometimes this then reflects back on the supplier. I think the problem tends to lie with the barista and I have really come to appreciate baristas who love what they do and do what they can to better themselves.

    In the next couple of days I plan on doing a post that addresses these two issues in detail.

    By the way, I really enjoyed visiting your cafe. I thought you guys do great job. While I had the biscuits & gravy, the family at the next table ordered the pancakes and they told me those were absolutely killer! I know what will be ordering next time… with another latte 😉

  5. andai says:

    Scott, I have reason to believe you work for Cafe Vita. In the interest of full disclosure, can you confirm this?

  6. Lauren says:

    Oops, just for the record, I never worked for VPC. I worked at Cafe Vega (where Soho Coffee Co. is now) and we switched from Vita to Stumptown. Just wanted to clear that up since I kind of badmouthed Vita. Ha.
    Yeah, poorly executed coffee is never a good thing. From my experience Stumptown just tries a little harder to deter it. I could never even get MYSELF into Vita training. I didn’t know anything about their coffee, and it just bums me out that they didn’t really care to teach me. I didn’t start barista-ing (?) until I moved to Seattle 2 years ago, so I wasn’t even very passionate about coffee until I trained with Stumptown. They go really into depth about how they pick their beans, who does it and why, how coffee came about, chemistry, etc. I went into the training making fun of my trainer for being a coffee nerd and came out one myself. I’ll stop now because I feel like I’m getting a little too sentimental… haha.

    ANYWAY, I’m so glad you liked us! We just expanded our pancake menu with new ingredients so ch-ch-check it out. See you soon!

  7. andai says:

    I didn’t get a chance to visit Vega, but I pass by SOHO the other day on the way to work. I just have to post my write up about the place… I have a ton of posts all waiting in draft form and I just need to get them completed and published 🙂

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