As the streetcar rumbles by the front windows down Westlake Avenue North in Seattle, a customer lifts a cup of steaming coffee to her lips, “Mmmm.” It’s another typical day in South Lake Union with another satisfied customer at Kakáo Café.
Kakáo is located in the refurbished warehouse at 415 Westlake Avenue, also the gathering site of Union Church. The cafe officially launched in early 2011 and is the result of nearly three years of planning, construction, chocolate tastings, and coffee sampling. Kakáo is now open for business every workday from 7:30 am to 4 pm.
No café in Seattle would be complete without premium coffee, and Kakáo is no different. It serves locally roasted Herkimer Coffee from Phinney Ridge, handcrafted, world-class chocolate bars, and an assortment of pastries from two of Seattle’s premiere bakeries, Le Panier and Macrina Bakery. Herkimer Coffee purchases premium green coffee from small farms that use traditional old-world cultivation methods, growing coffee in naturally shaded areas where no pesticides and fertilizers are used. Purchasing this high-quality coffee from small boutique farms ensures that growers have good wages and working conditions.
What does the name mean? Kakáo (ca-kay-o) is the Hungarian word for chocolate—and a nod to the Slavic history of the neighborhood—and chocolate is something customers find plenty of at the café. Specialty dark chocolate bars, like wines, have signatures unique to the regions around the globe where they grow. Some evoke the taste of lavender, chili pepper, or even bacon. The variety of chocolate invites café visitors to try a different bar each time they visit.
Kakáo is gaining popularity in South Lake Union, with more customers visiting each week. The growing swell of employees at Amazon, UW Medicine, Group Health, Tommy Bahama, Seattle BioMed, and other companies are discovering that Kakáo is an excellent place to enjoy a cup of coffee or find respite from a rainy Seattle day. Impromptu and planned meetings take place in the soft casual seating area or at a bistro table, and a conference room is available for larger meetings. Additionally, the café is designed for quick turnarounds so that it can also be incorporated with the 415 Westlake venue to host community events, meetings from small enterprises to Fortune 500 companies, wedding receptions, or charity fundraisers.
“Early on in the formation of Union, we knew we wanted to have a physical space in the neighborhood that could be open during the work week. People are looking for a place to meet others and to call their own,” said James B Notkin, Union’s Pastor and Vision Lead. “Kakáo has blossomed into a place where meetings happen, relationships are formed, and people feel welcomed.”
Notkin described Kakáo as a respite from the busy workday where customers can get to know the baristas personally and feel confident that they will be remembered the next time they visit.
“People take a lot of hits and we want to be a place that affirms they matter. The need to know others and be known is why a ‘third place’ is so important,” added Notkin. “It is the key to community.”
Two recent customers’ comments on Yelp suggest that Kakáo is striking a chord with the South Lake Union crowd—coffee drinker or not: “I’m not really much of a coffee drinker, but from my limited experience, this place has the best coffee in Seattle (lucky Amazonian sleep deprived elves). The space makes me feel that I’m awaiting a design meeting. Spacious, modern—the staff gentle and charming.”
Another went on to say: “The baristas are so kind and very approachable, which is a refreshing change of pace in an industry where quality customer service is falling by the wayside.”
The triple shot of coffee, chocolate, and community percolate together to create a taste of community for everyone—chocolate lovers, coffee drinkers, and baristas—that is uniquely Kakáo. Customers are finding it to be a refreshing, rich blend.
For more on Kakáo and Union Church, visit the Union Church website.