In the small, coastal city of Bellingham, Wash., not far from the Canadian border, the quietly sophisticated, quality-forward roasting company Camber Coffee has been turning out lauded specialty coffees since late 2015, both for wholesale clients and in straightforward black retail bags with refined, wine-reminiscent labels.
Late last month, Camber took a stride forward by opening a flagship café and restaurant, expertly serving its own coffee to the public along with a robust all-day culinary program.
The Bellingham coffee scene has evolved recently to include a Loring-centered Woods Coffee flagship roastery café, with a substantial cold brew operation also on site. Primer Coffee, helmed by roaster, coffee farmer and Onyx Coffee owner Edwin Martinez, also opened a retail shop, offering a sleek, modern and high-end coffee experience.
The 2,000-square-foot Camber Coffee café, with full table service, artful and hearty breakfasts, lunch and dinner menus, and extensive beer and wine menus, stands wholesomely apart from other coffee-based establishments, not only in town, but in general.
Slate Coffee alum Rose Shahbaghlian heads the barista staff that crafts drinks mostly with a base of Camber’s Big Joy espresso blend on a 3-group Synesso MVP machine, as well as a selection of at least three single-origins on a three-bay Poursteady pourover brewer, ground by Mahlkonig K30 and EK43, respectively. A Mahlkonig Peak grinder is dedicated to single-origin espresso, while a Fetco XTS machine fills the batch brew urns, and a selection of Kilogram teas is also on offer.
From the kitchen come plates at once simple and ambitious, from fresh buttermilk waffles or quiche Lorraine for breakfast to a roasted half chicken or spaghetti carbonara in the evening. Even the flowers are freshened daily, and it all adds up to an establishment that Camber Co-Founder David Yake told Daily Coffee News required some deliberation as far as how it would offer Bellingham something that was both familiar and comfortable, and yet aspiring to a new height of service and quality.
“Our cafe definitely offers a new experience in Bellingham. I think that’d be the case in any city that I’ve visited,” said Yake. “That said, we took — and take — great strides to make the entire experience inviting for our guests. This all starts with the warmth of our team, all of whom live and breathe our kind and attentive approach to service.”
A front counter provides a natural space for grab-and-go commuters and passersby to avail themselves of coffee in the usual manner, beans for which continue to be roasted on the company’s Probat G60 in a roastery about two miles away.
Food and drink menus are evolving, while public programs planned for the future include hosting brewer and vintner nights, and staying open for community events such as art walks and singer-songwriter nights.
The Camber café is located at 221 W Holly Street in Bellingham, Wash.
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.