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Not your average cup of joe

By Keegan Prosser on September 28, 2012 – No Comment

Owners Alicia and Jeff Miner craft tasty fall drinks at Kirkland's Urban Coffee Lounge.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY CELESTE GRACEY

While unabashed fans have already filled their bellies with more pumpkin spice lattes than even a spoiling mother could approve, the independent drinker can find equal temptation in the arms of a Kirkland coffee shop.

In addition to the Urban Coffee Lounge’s pumpkin pie latte, which tops the treat with pie crust crumbles, the shop is brewing a fall twist on salted caramel – salted maple.

Sweet enough to be a treat, the coffee still shines through. Just when your tongue braces for a sugar kick, a fleck of sea salt offers a reprieve. The only syrup they use in either of these concoctions is real maple.

While coffee aficionados and lounge owners Alicia and Jeff Miner typically stick to more virgin forms of caffeine, they’re not too pure to add a little spice to the autumn season.

For Alicia, who bravely setup shop in Juanita Village a few dozen yards from a towering Starbucks, it’s about knowing what customers love.

“It’s everyone’s coffee shop,” Alicia said on the patio out front. Five years after they opened, family and friends fill the business midweek and midday.

Her work is an undeniable example of how even the Eastside is beginning to snub corporate coffee in favor of quality and personality.

The couple owned a drive-through coffee stand on East Lake Sammamish Parkway in Issaquah, before they made a move to Kirkland.

They soon realized the area needed a good coffee joint, and another drive through wouldn’t be enough.

Alicia has been working in the coffee business since her parents opened a drive through during her teens. Although oblivious to the finer ways of espresso, she happily ran the shop with her sister at age 17.

Ever since, she’s found herself in corporate and local shops, unintentionally learning what customers love and hate. With Urban Coffee, she set out to build the perfect combination for the Kirkland community.

Her philosophy starts with baristas. She’s so particular about who pulls the shots, when a Craig’s List ad turned out 50 applications, she only conducted one interview.

She also aims to hire a diverse group, all dressed as their personalities suit, who are united by a common love of coffee and people, she said.

The blank space on a corner in Juanita Village was the perfect palette for Jeff, who’s also an architect. He gave the space a modern, industrial look, which refuses to sacrifice comfort for square footage. Pockets of tables and chairs encourage community. The urban design is a reprieve from the corporate collections that bloat most Eastside shopping centers.

They’ve since partnered with two other cafes, Cafe Cesura in Bellevue and the Issaquah Coffee Company, with a “disloyalty” program. Visit all three shops, and receive a free drink.

All loyal to Stumptown beans, the independent shops have found a way to stick together and stick it to the pumpkin spice latte.