Minimalist Coffee Shop Manifests on Tacoma’s Hilltop

For some, the minimalist coffee culture may have a standoffish reputation, but Manifesto Coffee in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood is exactly the opposite.

All the attention is focused on the coffee beans — there aren’t any cake-like concoctions — but the simplified menu has a little something for everyone, and the owners create an atmosphere of inclusivity.

The compact space on 11th Street has the shop’s black and gold coffee roaster as the main focal point of the café, blanketed in natural sunlight and surrounded by featured local artwork.

After opening in late October, business has bloomed. Several grocery stores — Tacoma Boys on 6th Avenue, H&L Produce, Stadium Thriftway, Harbor Greens Market, and Dave’s Meat and Produce — sell their coffee beans. The Red Hot and Edison City Alehouse recently released their new cold brew.

Manifesto Coffee

Manifesto Coffee owner and master roaster Israel Hickey. Photo by Jack Saffle of South Sound Creative.

Owner and master roaster Israel Hickey originally planned on roasting and selling coffee beans wholesale to grocery stores with his childhood friend Jadin Bulger. But then Hickey’s two friends Jack Saffle and Wes Johnson jumped in on the business venture, enabling them to include an espresso bar. The four owners run the whole show from accounting, social media, roasting and the café.

Unlike several coffee hubs, Manifesto only has a handful of drinks on the menu. But they do offer vanilla, hazelnut, white chocolate, and a throat-warming, spicey cola syrup that’s reminiscent of a strong chai. All the syrups are made for Manifesto by a bartender at the 1022 South J bar. Though the drinks at Manifesto are a minimalist coffee experience, Hickey wanted items that appeal to black coffee drinkers and those who like the added sweetness.

“I wanted to have white chocolate intentionally,” Hickey said. “A lot of people make fun of something that tastes good. You’re actually just making fun of people you perceive to be less educated than you in your field, which is not polite. I’m going to flip the script on white chocolate.”

Their new cold brew is made from the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe coffee beans, which has notes of elderflower, honey, and melon. Hickey describes it as a “really delicate, bare, and beautiful” coffee that brews for 24 hours — as opposed to hot coffee that takes seconds or minutes to brew.

Their coffee stock is constantly changing and they source beans from all over the world from a single importer based in Vancouver, Washington. Currently, they have coffee beans from Ethiopia, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea. Eventually, Hickey would like Manifesto to be farm-to-cup and buy beans directly from coffee farmers.

The Papua New Guinea beans are Hickey’s current favorite. Believe it or not, he likens it to a glass of orange juice with hints of pineapple and a slight hoppiness.

“I’m trying to have two or three really good, solid, sturdy coffees that can be dressed up with sugar, or creamer, or by themselves and then one or two zingers that you can show off to your friends after dinner,” Hickey said. “I buy beans that sound interesting to me while maintaining flavors that are appealing to someone that just started drinking coffee.”

Photo by Jack Saffle of South Sound Creative

Photo by Jack Saffle of South Sound Creative

Coffee lovers can sit and sip a brew on location, buy a bag of beans, or stop by to watch the roasting process. Before the café was part of the business plan, Hickey always wanted the shop to be open to the public so anyone could stop in and ask questions.

Hickey’s plans for this year are “docile,” he said. Participating in the Tacoma Farmers Market this year is a big goal of his, and they’re considering adding outdoor seating or eventually offering locally-baked pastries. But he doesn’t have any big plans to expand.

Right now, they’re just trying to get firmly planted where they’re at.

“We’ve gotten an amazing amount of support,” Hickey said. “I’m having such a good time with it. I thought we’d open it up and make a few bucks and then people started coming in, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

is an assistant editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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