How do you make a name for yourself in the coffee capital of the United States? Between industry-dominating chains and independent pop-ups, you’d be hard-pressed to go more than a couple miles in Washington State without finding a coffee shop. In other words, it’s no small feat that Olympia Coffee Roasters has not only survived its fifteen-year history (including a change of ownership), but continues to thrive. Over the past decade and a half, the company has earned a name for itself beside Wrecking Ball Coffee and Equator Coffees as titans of West Coast industry.
Based in Olympia, Washington, Olympia Coffee Roasters controls five locations and two roasteries throughout the state, and boasts some serious coffee accolades. But fame isn’t the end goal at Olympia. Rather, they believe the coffee supply chain can be more sustainable, ethical, and transparent.
A Brief History of Olympia Coffee Roasters
Officially called Olympia Coffee Roasting Co, the company was founded in 2005 by Tim Hunter and Terry Ziniewicz as a wholesale coffee roaster.
Though the pair were eager to get the ball rolling, ultimately the roastery was little more than a side project — both had full time jobs and were new to the coffee dream.
In order to make Olympia Coffee into something more than a wholesale roaster, they needed someone with a different vision.
Sam Schroder Joins Olympia Coffee Roasters
Brought on in 2005 to handle production and deliveries, Sam Schroder has been a mainstay at Olympia ever since. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he worked as a barista throughout high school and college until he landed a job with the fledgling roaster.
With Hunter and Ziniewicz kept busy by their other commitments, Schroder was mostly left to his own devices. Within two years of joining, he helped the roastery change locations and opened a small coffee bar to sell Olympia’s product.
Since joining the Olympia team, Sam has spent years participating in both regional and national coffee competitions. After years of close finishes and judging, Schroder won the Northwest Barista Championships in 2015. That same year, he placed 3rd at the United States Barista Competition.
In 2010, Schroder became a co-owner of Olympia Coffee. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Famed Coffee Activist Oliver Stormshak Joins Olympia
In 2009, with the coffee industry in the thick of the Third Wave movement, roasters started to change their images by investing in more ethical business relationships and selling customers on transparency.
Seeing the writing on the wall, the folks at Olympia decided it was time to source their coffee directly from growers. In order to make this happen, they hired Oliver Stormshak, a legendary coffee taster and fair buying activist.
Prior to joining Olympia, Stormshak had worked with coffee for over 20 years. During that time, he wore a number of hats, including barista, manager, roaster, green coffee buyer, and activist.
Stormshak also holds a background in food science. He’s credited with developing an entirely new roasting process dubbed the “caramelization roast,” which renders a sweeter, more balanced end result.
Additionally, apart from acting as Olympia’s mad scientist when it comes to coffee, Stormshak packs a hidden superpower. His perfect score on the Sensory Skills Analysis Test earned him the title of “super taster”––an honor few others can claim.
With Stormshak’s help, Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. established its first direct sourcing relationship with a Costa Rican grower, the beginning of its commitment to better coffee and better practices.
Schroder and Stormshak Purchase Olympia Coffee Roasters
On the heels of the 2008 recession, and with coffee prices at an all-time high, Hunter and Ziniewicz cut their losses and sold the business.
Having worked together on several projects throughout 2009, Schroder and Stormshak knew they could trust each other. Against all sound business advice, the pair of employees bought Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. in 2010.
The Success of Olympia Coffee Roasters
The turnaround of Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. from a small wholesale roaster into one of coffee’s great forces for transparency demonstrates just how far commitment will take you. In spite of less than favorable economic conditions, Sam Schroder and Oliver Stormshak transformed their business into something uniquely their own.
As more and more coffee companies look to better their buying practices and switch to sustainable business models, you might be wondering what’s different about Olympia Coffee.
With a resident food scientist and a coffee educator manning the helm, every sip results from hard work and unwavering dedication. Schroder and Stormshak have a passion for coffee which shows in their combined 35+ years in the industry.
Since the 2010 takeover, Olympia Coffee has racked up a long list of awards. In addition to their seven titles for Best of Olympia, they’ve won Micro Roaster of the Year, made a short film shown at a United Nations summit, and had a holiday blend named Seventh Best Coffee of the Year by Coffee Review.
Having made strides with their Costa Rican sourcing initiative, Olympia Coffee established projects in Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya. Their efforts earned them Good Food Awards in 2014, 2016, and 2017.
Where to Buy
You can buy Olympia Coffee on their website, or at any of their retail locations:
Downtown Olympia, 600 4th Ave. East, Olympia, WA 98501
South Olympia, 2824 Capitol Boulevard, Olympia, WA 98501
Columbia City, 4824 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
West Seattle, 3840 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116
West Olympia, 1706 Harrison Ave NW, Olympia, WA 98502
Proctor Tacoma, 2601 N Proctor, Tacoma, WA 98407
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