Seattle’s Best co-founder still making premium coffee
SNOHOMISH - Local coffee roaster Dave Stewart said he remembers people thinking in the early 1980s that espresso was just a fad.
Thirty years later, the humble former owner and co-founder of Seattle’s Best Coffee is still roasting premium coffee and shipping it all across the country with his company Vista Clara.
Stewart, 59, pioneered the premium coffee culture in the Northwest with his brother Jim until Dave sold his share of Seattle’s Best to his brother in the mid-80s. Along with his wife, Dave got into wholesale roasting, and sold his coffee at 15 espresso stands which he eventually sold in the early 2000s.
Dave and his wife Joan, who does all the bookkeeping, now work exclusively with bean distribution at Vista Clara, and Dave loves it.
“The high point of the whole thing is working with the people, our customers. They all become friends,” Dave said.
Vista Clara has accounts nationwide, but any business he and his son Will can drive to, they will personally deliver.
Dave said he and his son drive up to 300 miles a week carting the goods that traveled hundreds more miles to get to Snohomish.
Vista Clara gets its beans from 12 countries, including Ethiopia, Guatemala, Sumatra, Brazil and Rwanda.
The company even gets a large portion of their beans from Jim’s wife’s farm in Costa Rica, which Dave said produces his favorite varietal.
The most popular is the Vista Clara signature blend, which is a mixture of Central and South American and Indonesian, has a medium body and medium roast.
“It’s an all-around nice coffee, makes great espresso,” Dave said.
The roasting plant is always open to hosting both planned and informal tours, Dave said. Vista Clara is located at 1822 Bickford Avenue in the Snohomish Business Park.
The operation is a small one with just one other employee aside from wife Joan, son Will, and Dave himself.
“We all do a little bit of everything,” Dave said.
He said he hopes his son will take over the family business someday, but joked that the married owners don’t have any plans to retire.
“We’re having too much fun doing this,” Dave said.
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