While bucolic country charm is a pleasantly pervasive theme inside many retail businesses in the West Plains of region of Eastern Washington outside Spokane, the first retail location of West Plains Roasters in Cheney offers a welcome contrast.
On the ground floor of a building built in 1912, a series of lush hanging ferns and other plants are the only bursts of color to disrupt an otherwise calm palette of whites, grays and lightly-stained wood surfaces.
Corrugated metal accent panels contribute a modest industrial vibe to the otherwise smooth, modern and cozy space, wherein white molded seats with metal-supported dowel legs tuck under white tables. A mid-century modern couch and chairs in a corner lounge area are paired with marble tables.
The resulting drinks, served in white ceramics on white or marble slates, convey a rainbow of fruit and flowery aromas and flavors that roaster and co-owner Andy LaBolle takes care to preserve and magnify.
“Every coffee’s going to present unique flavors and characteristics,” LaBolle told Daily Coffee News. “We never roast very dark because I think when you enter the carbonization and the Maillard reaction, if you go beyond a certain point, you lose a lot of those unique, lighter flavors.”
LaBolle put over 1,000 pounds of green coffee through his trusty electric Aillio Bullet roaster before stepping up to the Diedrich to expand West Plains Roasters late last year.
He was self-taught up to a certain point, then completed the course materials designed by Scott Rao before receiving some in-person instruction at the Diedrich Roasters facility in Sandpoint, Idaho, coincidentally just a short drive from his tiny hometown of Deary, Idaho.
Buying local is a priority, and so while LaBolle was familiar with Diedrich, it was both a surprise and a lucky break that the globally recognized manufacturer happened to be based in LaBolle’s neck of the woods.
“I grew up an hour and a half away and had no idea they existed there,” said LaBolle. “It was wild. There were people there from China when we were in our classes. There were people there from Hawaii. And I’m like, yeah, I drove about an hour to get here from right out my back door.”
The Slayer machine was chosen in part for its having been made in Seattle, while the shop’s chai, fresh bread and other items are all locally made if not made in-house.
West Plains Co-Owner Hannah LaBolle, who is also Andy’s wife, a longtime professional photographer and a born-and-raised Cheneyan, steers a food program with the help of the shop’s commercial oven that includes house-made, all-natural pop-tarts. The blueberry and lavender compote stuffed tart is a hit, and the new cinnamon and brown sugar pop-tart is also garnering high praise, according to LaBolle.
Toasts are designed in collaboration with a Spokane-based executive pastry chef and include an adventurous avocado toast topped with diced chorizo, onion, cilantro and fresh cojita cheese.
“We make most of our flavors in-house,” said LaBolle. “Pretty much everything we can do in-house, we do.”
West Plains Roasters aims not only to provide a friendly yet elevated environment for locals, but also to cater to the diverse expectations of the Eastern Washington University crowd that LaBolle said is already accustomed to higher quality where coffee is concerned.
The company intends to offer education programs to the public in order to help cultivate the appreciation of excellent coffee, while expanding its wholesale presence throughout the region.
“There is no coffee shop in Medical Lake, which is next to us, and there is no local shop in Airway Heights, which is also next to us, both of which are on the West Plain, so it would be really rad down the line to have a second and third location there, because they’re our neighbors in our community, and they don’t have anyone offering them coffee.”
West Plains Roasters is now open at 108 College Ave. in Cheney, Washington.