The History of Coffee: Bellingham, WA

Sunset on Bellingham Bay
The Pacific Northwest has been host to one of the great epicenters of third wave coffee. Seeing as I go to school (Western Washington University) in Bellingham, I might as well write to the history of it here. From what I have scoured, the internet only gives glimpses into the emergence of coffee in Bellingham. I will start from the beginning…
Old Bellingham
In 1854 the first Caucasian colonists reached Bellingham, before it had been home to the Coast Salish people of the Lummi and adjacent tribes. That same year a group from San Francisco created the Bellingham Bay Coal Company which finally closed its doors after 101 years in 1955. The Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858 allowed Bellingham to seemingly be built over night as the basecamp for the Whatcom Trail to the goldfields. I have no doubt that coffee began to make its emergence there either with the first settlers in 1854 or with the boom it had in 1858. Although no records I can find could verify this, I am sure that it was somewhere between then that the first cup of coffee enjoyed in Bellingham happened.
Coffee Roasting in 1930's
From there I find a gap until Tony’s Coffee Roasters opened in 1971 which was housed in a hundred year old building, located in Fairhaven, one of Bellingham’s districts. Although though I can’t speak to what coffee roasting went on before, I do know that Colophon Café which is housed in the old Knights of Pythias building (built 1891 and used as a meeting place for secret societies) has housed many shops since it was built, maybe even for coffee roasting. Tony’s coffee still operates today and takes home awards for best roasts. From there, the mid 2000’s saw rise to many new roasters such as Bellingham Bay Coffee Roasters, Hammerhead Coffee, Maniac Roasting and Lotus Coffee. Some focusing on what others lacked and some taking a whole new direction. As seems to be with most roasters in the Northwest, they tend to roast medium to dark (not always a bad thing) however you lose much of the characteristics that a great bean exuberates. Many cafes and eateries now serve some form of coffee. While others such as Onyx Coffee Bar, as I learned in my earlier post, specialize solely in coffee.


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