With a grand opening event earlier this month, Emeryville, California-based green coffee importing company Royal Coffee lifted the veil off its long-awaited new facility called The Crown, located on Oakland’s burgeoning Broadway Auto Row.
The impressive, expansive complex serves as a tasting room, coffee education center, cupping laboratory, roastery and more — all within a royally attractive space that’s fit for a queen.
The various areas of operation within The Crown can be compartmentalized into four distinct rooms, separated by massive track sliding glass doors using a Nana Wall System. The space also includes administrative offices, and will be used to evaluate and grade samples for The Crown’s green coffee offerings.
Four years in the making, The Crown facility project was supported by architecture firms Norman Sanchez Architecture (Architect of Record) and Studio Terpeluk (Interior Architect), working together with The Crown team, including Royal Coffee Owners Bob Fulmer and Helen Nicholas, and their son and The Crown space visionary, CEO Max Nicholas-Fulmer.
At the front of the building, in The Crown’s tasting room, a dragon-inspired modular coffee bar with a black, scaled exterior — designed by Oakland-based Chambers Art & Design — can be rearranged to suit various events or activities. Behind the coffee bar, a green tile wall is a nod to the colors and texture of unroasted coffee beans, according to Richard Sandlin, general manager of The Crown.
In the cupping lab, as many as 60 coffee tasters can make use of the six custom-built mobile cupping tables, designed by Studio Terpeluk and built by West Oakland’s Shada Designs. Adjacent to the cupping area, a coffee lab with espresso machines and a selection of coffee brewers provides a venue for hosting barista classes and testing new recipes for the cafe.
“The goal of this place is not for roasters to come pick up a box of green coffee,” Sandlin said, referencing the 22-pound Crown Jewel boxes launched by Royal in 2016. “The idea is that you can come and join a slow coffee experience in the tasting room, you could take a cupping class, you could meet a producer — it is designed to be an interactive space.”
In line with its goal to provide education to the coffee community, The Crown was designed to meet the specifications for the Specialty Coffee Association‘s Premier Training Campus, a certification process that is currently underway.
At the back of the space, the final quadrant offers a selection of roasting machines — including a Probat, Loring, Diedrich, and Proaster — providing The Crown team with an area to host roaster customers, teach classes, test roast profiles on their green coffee offerings, and roast coffee for the tasting room.
“We designed and built this space very much so that it gives our green coffee customers and the industry a space to grow and learn together,” Sandlin said.
On Saturday, March 2nd, The Crown hosted an event for members of the local coffee community to participate in, or observe, coffee competition run-throughs ahead of the United States Coffee Championships that recently wrapped up in Kansas City, Missouri.
“It’s been really interesting to see how people have responded to the space,” said Chris Kornman, the lab and education manager for The Crown. “I think the competitor prep rally was a success in large part because of a huge number of volunteers who embraced the space, and used the tools The Crown has been able to provide at the kind of impressive scale we’d always hoped for. To put The Crown to such a dramatic stress test so early was a formidable undertaking, but ultimately we were able to host an impressive and inclusive event — supported with energy and enthusiasm by the coffee community of the Bay Area.“
While the large space is conducive to hosting larger, industry-focused events, the tasting room offers a more approachable coffee entry point for curious consumers. Open to the public during business hours, the cafe offers a range of espresso-based beverages and brewed coffee offerings, along with a selection of specialty drinks crafted by The Crown’s tasting room director Sandra Loofbourow.
“Many customers have been poking their heads in ever since we opened up the windows,” said Kornman. “Even when the security gate is half-down before opening hours, folks will let themselves in and stare open-mouthed at the tile, the art rail, and the vast amount of space dedicated to research and education. It’s a little bit of a shock, I think, for a coffee facility of this magnitude to also offer personal service, and we’ve been quick to try and embrace that ethos by offering guided walkthroughs and delicious coffees with as little pretense as possible.”
The Crown has kept its cafe offerings relatively simple to avoid being in competition with its roaster clients. There is no whole bean coffee for sale, no food offerings, and no wi-fi. Customers can order a cup of drip coffee for $2, with a $.25 surcharge for to-go orders that goes to benefit the local non-profit Phat Beets.
“What’s really special about this project is the commitment to detail, which Max wanted to ensure,” Sandlin said. “This place is really an investment for our customers to come here to learn, grow, and hopefully discover a new way of buying coffee — one that is focused on collaboration, education, and transparency. This is our welcome mat, and we’ve designed it to be a place to be hospitable to our guests.”
The Crown is now open at 2523 Broadway in Oakland, California.