A quick chat with UWT’s resident coffee shop and how its weathered the storm.
Rapidly approaching its second decade standing, Metro Coffee has been a part of the Tacoma community for a long time. It started under the thoughtful hands of Gwen and Charlie Kempe, two former art gallery owners with a passion for the third wave of coffee. It has since stood in the middle of campus as a frequent go to for countless caffeine starved students.
The third wave of coffee was a movement that, unlike the prior movements, focused heavily on an artistic and stylized approach to coffee, forgoing the previous ‘morning wakeup’ approach for a crafted experience. According to Pulitzer prize winning food critic, Jonathan Gold:
“The first wave of American coffee culture was probably the 19th-century surge that put Folgers on every table, and the second was the proliferation, starting in the 1960s at Peet’s and moving smartly through the Starbucks grande decaf latte, of espresso drinks and regionally labeled coffee. We are now in the third wave of coffee connoisseurship, where beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure.”
The shop has since transferred hands to the diligent eye of Stefani McCullough, who has worked there for over 15 years.
“I came to work at Metro in 2006 and would have never thought for a minute that I would one day own it. But I found my home here, while I took in my own barista lessons,” McCullough said. “When Gwen and Charlie were ready to sell the shop in 2009, I wanted to keep the vibes and culture they created here. Metro had already played a huge part in my life at the time.”
McCullough explained that keeping it around not only gave us a place to continue to study but taught her a lot as well.
“Lessons in financial, time and stress management. Life lessons, mistakes, fumbles, business blunders. How [to] take criticism, hold my ground, know the value of the business and your workmanship. Not everyone is going to like you but still do you for those who do. The economy of the 2009-12’s. Both personally and professionally.”
She didn’t do it alone though:
“Thankfully, I had the support of many people close to my heart who watched me grow and helped me along the way. Including the amazing community of UWT and Tacoma as a whole. Metro and I have been growing right alongside the campus and the city.”
Metro, despite the blows of COVID, is still up and running to continue serving the community. While you can’t sit down for a study session, you can definitely grab a cup to go!