Amazon held its second annual Coffee Symposium on Friday as a means of showcasing the dozen or so independent roasters that operate in buildings across its campus and I stopped by to check out what was sure to be a very Seattle mix of tech and coffee and I ended up drinking portions of 13 different cups of coffee in about an hour and when I left the construction noise near The Spheres was very intense and my heart was racing and all the apps on my phone looked like they were moving and I really needed that to stop so I could call an Uber which ended up just making me feel like a caged animal on the way back to Fremont and now I can’t stop typing long enough to find the period key on my laptop because my hands are still shaking and I think my pupils are over-dilated.
I wasn’t alone.
More than 2,000 Amazonians took an extended coffee break in the Meeting Center of the company’s Doppler Office tower to sample warm and cold brews, sit in on talks about roasting and brewing processes, hand color their own ceramic coffee mugs, and judge a competition. There was even one of those giant Jenga games going — which, frankly, is a bad idea in a room full of very jittery people.
Here’s a rundown of the roasters and what I ingested:
- Elm: Something. I can’t remember.
- Olympia: Something with beans from Colombia.
- Zoka: Something with beans from Costa Rica. I was already wired. The barista had great advice: Get a sandwich and a bourbon to mellow it all down afterward.
- Umbria: A nitro. Blend of beans from Peru and Brazil. They also had a fancy dripping system set up called a Yama tower, which uses an extraction method rather than an immersion method for cold brewing.
- Anchorhead: The line was 20 people deep. I cut to the front and drank something.
- Caffe Vita: Cold brew of their Theo blend, poured from a growler.
- Starbucks: Cold brew, served by a barista with a bike cart.
- Allegro: Another pour over (very popular method) with Burundi and Gakenke beans. Michael the barista had an amazing tattoo of Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) from “Harry Potter” on his forearm.
- Stumptown: Showoffs! They had an ice luge in which nitro was poured through an ice sculpture before dribbling into a cup for the ultimate cold brew.
- Victrola: A Guatemala and Burundi blend and a record player (of course) spinning vinyl (heavy metal from Mastodon while I was there).
- Caffe Ladro: Rwanda. I’m shaking.
- Fonte: Kenya bean. Kiamabara Peaberry.
- Rise by FareStart: The non-profit supported by Amazon was showing people how to make their own espresso. I couldn’t feel my hands anymore.
I also ingested some oat milk from Oatly, which was interesting if you’ve never had it, and I ate a giant chocolate chip cookie from FareStart because I really needed some sugar coursing through my system after 13 cups of coffee.
Zoka Coffee ended up beating out defending champion Victrola and all of the other attending roasters to win the cold brew taste challenge.
Amazon says that Elm Coffee Roasters, located in the Day 1 office building, is one of the more popular coffee spots on campus and goes through about 8,000 pounds of coffee a year. With 45,000 or so employees in the city, it’s clear that these people drink a lot of coffee.
Lawrence Lee, an accounting manager who has been at Amazon for a year and a half, drinks about 20 ounces of coffee on a normal day. I asked how much he’d consumed on Friday.
“Way more than that,” Lee said. “To the point of being jittery.”
Nick Kampman, a supply planner who started at Amazon almost two years ago, brings his coffee from home a lot, or sometimes he’ll grab Starbucks. He called Fonte’s Peaberry “the coffee of the day.”
Rebecca Shore, a UX researcher, drinks two cups of coffee a day, one in the morning to get going and one right after lunch … to get going again. Any more than that and she won’t be able to sleep at night. But she said she doesn’t really enjoy her first cup of the day.
“I just need it,” Shore said.
I need a beer. And a nap.