Narrative Coffee owner and head barista Maxwell Mooney at his business in Everett. Mooney said one latte in Kirkland stirred his interest in coffee. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

New coffee shop in downtown Everett is getting rave reviews

Over the past month, Velton Ross, owner of Everett’s Velton Coffee Roasting Co., has seen a lot of chatter on social media from his industry friends located in such coffee-snobbish enclaves as Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, B.C.

What he saw surprised him: They were all talking about a certain coffee shop in … Everett?

“I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz,” Ross said of Everett’s newest coffee shop, Narrative Coffee, which opened its doors in early June. “Friends and industry folks are all saying they’ve got to make the trek and visit. It’s awesome.”

Narrative Coffee is the brainchild of Everett’s Maxwell Mooney. A nationally ranked barista, Mooney has created a coffee mecca in downtown Everett that is drawing rave reviews. But his creation, a multi-roaster, specialty coffee shop designed with mid-century modern flare, would seem to be more at home in South Lake Union than just steps from the Snohomish County Courthouse.

“I’ve had my eye on opening something like this in Everett for a few years now,” said Mooney, who admitted he turned down better offers to open a space in other Snohomish County cities. “When I worked at (Mill Creek’s) Spotted Cow, people would come in all the time and say they were driving up from north Marysville or Everett just for a quality cup of coffee. The notion of craft is something that Everett gets.”

Narrative Coffee isn’t your everyday coffee shop. It looks unlike anything currently slingin’ cups of Joe in Everett. There are no raggedy couches or dog-eared books covering the floor. The design by Seattle architecture firm Wesley Pierce is minimalist and open, with exposed brick walls and wood beam rafters complementing the original and elegant wood tables designed by Everett woodworkers Elpis & Wood.

“Maxwell has set a new bar for retail business in Everett,” said Tyler Chism, who, along with Garrett Hunt, runs the Live in Everett blog. “His attention to detail and care he puts into everything is super inspiring.”

Behind the bar, Narrative Coffee has an espresso machine and a pour-over bar. There’s an honor bar in the back that serves batch brew coffee, a small food menu specializing in sweet and savory waffles, plus beer and wine. One thing that’s conspicuously absent? An overhead menu.

“Customers will be greeted right away and we’ll walk them through the menu to help create an experience for them,” said Mooney, who drew inspiration in terms of design and layout from renowned barista Charles Babinski’s Go Get Em Tiger in Los Angeles, Slate Coffee in Ballard and Monogram Coffee in Calgary, Alberta. “We’re built to facilitate the needs of everyone who walks in that door.”

Then there’s the coffee. Coffee is nothing short of a religion for Mooney, who tasted his first drip of the devilishly delicious dark liquid after cleaving from the Mormon church as a teenager. He was hooked, even if his first cup was a bitter experience. His philosophy is to have a cup of coffee reflect the bean’s true nature as a seed of a tropical fruit.

“Most coffee can taste like chocolate or caramel,” Mooney said. “It takes a real special coffee to taste like something else. I’m looking for coffees that are bright and sweet.”

To get that flavor, roasting is key. Over-roasting coffee beans turns them into charred beans that have one singular note of expression, Mooney said. Roasting is a delicate process and is key to helping bring the flavors to the forefront that Mooney desires in each cup.

Shining a light on roasters is important to Mooney, and Narrative Coffee will be serving coffee from a number of rotating roasters from around the county, region, country and world. Along with Velton Coffee Roasting, Narrative Coffee will make coffee from other local roasters’ beans, including Spotted Cow Coffee Roasters and Bothell’s Venia Coffee Roasters. Currently, Narrative Coffee has offerings from Camber Coffee in Bellingham and Quills Coffee in Louisville, Kentucky.

With a little online help and an espresso machine, Mooney, 26, taught himself the art of making espresso and intricate latte art. After starting at Spotted Cow in 2013, he overhauled the coffee shop’s catalogue, bringing in beans from highly acclaimed specialty roasters from around the country.

Now he wants to not only expose his customers to great coffee but educate them in the process. Narrative Coffee will offer brewing classes and cupping events for the public, and eventually create instructional YouTube videos on all things coffee.

Cupping events is an example of one way Mooney doesn’t mind thinking outside the box. Usually used to find negative attributes, cuppings are tastings conducted as the beans move through the supply chain. Mooney has flipped that on its head, offering cupping events for his employees and the public at the end of the process. Narrative Coffee will hold them once a month and the scores will help them pick what roasters will go on the menu next.

“I think we’re the first to do it this way,” Mooney said. “I see it as a feedback loop for the roasters and a way to help push the industry forward. We’re testing flavors and quality of the beans, not defects.”

It all sounds like a lot for Everett, which lagged behind as roasters and specialty coffee shops sprouted up in surrounding areas like Edmonds, Kirkland and Bellingham over the past decade.

In that time, Ross, who sells his beans to specialty coffee shops all over the Northwest but to only one Everett shop, Bookends Coffee in the Everett Public Library, has talked to owners of specialty coffee brands who were interested in opening a shop in Everett. They were intrigued, but too skittish to pull the trigger.

Ross said he believes Mooney has the right mix to make it work.

“I felt that if anybody could do it in Everett, it would be Maxwell,” Ross said. “He understands the industry and the community. Everything he does is with quality.”

After leaving Spotted Cow in 2015, Mooney, who has qualified for every national barista competition since he started competing in 2013, opened a pop-up coffee cart in Wetmore Plaza in downtown Everett last summer. A few days into the venture, he stumbled upon the space he’s in now.

He said the things that attracted him to Everett in the first place — younger demographic, urban and walkable downtown and a “crazy awesome” music scene — have only gotten better in the past year.

“Everett really has this excitement around it,” said Mooney, who lives in Clearview with his wife, Julia, and two children. “There’s a number of people doing work here to make it a special place. Everett has always been the goal.”

Narrative Coffee

The Everett specialty coffee shop is located at 2927 Wetmore Ave., Everett and can be reached at 425-322-4648. Hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The shop will host its grand opening on July 13. For more information on events or products, visit www.narrative.coffee.

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