The Deep Roots of Mukilteo Coffee
Washington native Gary Smith was ahead of the coffee curve when he opened an espresso cart at the Mukilteo ferry landing in 1983. Having had his first taste of a hand-crafted coffee at Ace of Cups in Port Townsend just one year before, Gary—who’d been working in construction—knew at that moment that coffee was what he wanted to do with his life. Shortly after pulling his first espresso in Mukilteo, he also operated a cart at Seattle’s Kingdome stadium, making him the very first espresso vendor in the NFL.
With business brimming, it wasn’t long before Gary’s clientele—and his ambitions–outgrew the espresso cart. He opened the doors at his first coffee shop and cafe in Mukilteo in 1987. In 1989, Gary acquired his first coffee roaster and was trained by German roast-master, Peter Larsen, quickly becoming obsessed with the practice of coffee roasting, spending 18 hours a day or more beside the roaster.
From the outset, the Mukilteo Coffee Company proudly roasted and served coffees purchased directly from farmers, through a relationship with Seattle’s farm-direct pioneer Jim Stewart, of Stewart Brother’s Coffee.
It was through working with Stewart Brother’s that Gary met Beth Korvin. A Ballard-girl, Beth was also born and raised in Washington state, and she shared Gary’s passion for great coffee. Having started out her career with Wet Whisker in 1979 at Seattle’s Pier 70, Beth had experience in all aspects of the coffee industry. In 1990, she decided to join Gary (now her husband) in his coffee business, which now included a larger coffee shop and roaster just up the hill from the original Mukilteo Coffee location.
In 2003, Gary and Beth decided to move the Mukilteo Coffee Company across the water to Langley on Whidbey Island, to accommodate their growing coffee roasting operation by purchasing their own building. They constructed a warehouse and roasting facility on bumpy Crawford road, just across from South Whidbey’s small airstrip, and soon added a small tasting room and cafe, which quickly became popular with local pilots. It wasn’t long before that tasting room evolved into the Cafe in the Woods, a full-service restaurant that has become a favorite for locals and tourists alike.
Between the roasting room and the cafe, Mukilteo Coffee Roasters continues to create many, many local careers. While they’ve grown the business, they are still sight-roasting their coffees the same way they did 30 years ago, with the highest attention to quality. Gary and Beth, who together have more than 60 combined years in the coffee business, have continued their commitment to farm-direct coffees by purchasing directly from farmers around the world, who farm naturally and without the use of chemicals.
Today, all Mukilteo coffees are sourced with integrity, then roasted to perfection at the Whidbey Island roastery, before being served in the cafe, sold to consumers, and shipped retail and wholesale to countries around the globe.