From Ernest Hemingway to GERTURDE STEIN the great coffee houses of the world have served as intellectual incubators for some of the world's most beloved authors, artists and thinkers.
In modern times we've seen many of the Most sacred aspects of the Cafe be slowly stripped away. KPMG SPark client and co-owner of the Conservatory Carlos Paradinha is here to change All of that.
For those who aren’t familiar, could you describe The Conservatory Seattle…?
A cafe, a center of learning, an artist community. Inspired by the European coffee houses of the 1800’s. We aim to foster a place for artists to learn, share, create and enjoy an espresso.
The Conservatory merges espresso and the art world to allow the general public a peek into how figurative illustration and fine art is honed and developed.
Home to a diverse group of creatives with multi faceted talents and areas of expertise. As a family, our aim is to create an atmosphere for our patrons in ways that are different, imaginative, memorable and entertaining.
Where did the idea come from and what pushed you past the point of “idea” to turning it into a full-fledged coffee shop?
The idea came from one of the partners, Kieran Yanner, who loved the aesthetic of a simpler time where art was king, and those who created it were celebrated for their creations. Both Kieran and I are artists in our own way. Kieran is an established concept and fantasy fiction artist with many published works under his belt. I am a newcomer to the art scene as a photographer. We merged our talents along the way by creating photographic reference for his digital creations. So, at first, The Conservatory was simply an art and photography studio, artist’s salon, and a place to create commercial art pieces. Eventually, after some struggle with the city, and overcoming the lack of plumbing in the location that was over 113 years old, we were able to extend the creative vision into what we have progressed to now, and that’s a art space that also serves the “non artist” by way of locally sourced, delicious coffee beverages and pastries.
The Conservatory Seattle definitely shares some heritage with the old Parisian cafés where artists, authors, and other intellectuals used to meet. Are there any specific shops that inspired you?... stories?... artists?
There are quite a few artists and shops that have been a bit of an inspiration to the way we set up The Conservatory. Tim Burton comes to mind, as well as Brom, Geiger, Steampunk aesthetics, our love of things antique, and our background in the fantasy fiction world.
What is it about a coffee shop that makes it such an ideal place for creation? How do you try and make The Conservatory Seattle an inviting atmosphere for the arts?
The ritual. It’s definitely the ritual. We all know there’s a Japanese tea ritual - it’s well established and has been performed for centuries. The coffee ritual is less celebrated, but just as well known, established, and has been part of civilized life for those of us who ‘worship’ coffee for its bitter, black, magical properties. There’ definitely something to be said for the way people react to coffee. The cafe has been a great place to sit down, take a few moments to relax at the end (or sometimes as a break in the middle) of the day, and reflect. From those reflective moments, people have come to celebrate that time with others - friends, colleagues, or acquaintances - and from those meetings, great ideas have been launched. We have been polishing The Conservatory to be another gem in the Emerald City’s crown by creating an atmosphere that is not only inviting, but inspirational and cozy. When people are comfortable they feel free to create.
You’ve got a lot of interesting performers and artists—how do you find them? Are you an artist?
Some are more “interesting” than others, I can assure you :D
As far as finding them, we have friends that are artists and they also have other friends, so our network is pretty broad and diverse. We also go through online forums like Model Mayhem and even Craigslist to find models for our life drawing sessions (Most of those are “open” sessions, which means that they are costumed. “Closed” sessions are nude session, and what is typically thought of when “life drawing” is mentioned). We also have a network of musical friends who also have a network of musical friends, who also know other varied performers, so we can almost literally swing a dead cat and hit an artist.
I don’t consider myself an artist, although I do have a BFA in photography. Quite a bit of my work is online, and all you’d have to do is Google my name to see it. I do have a website out there, as does my business partner, Kieran Yanner - his is much more impressive :)
How has the local community responded to what you’re trying to do?
The local community is in awe -seriously, I have no other way to describe it. They come into the shop and usually look around like a kid finding a previously undiscovered cave, or room, or some other ‘wondrous’ thing. We’ve gotten quite a bit of new return business, and some of our regulars are now bringing friends, family and co-workers in to show them their discovery. As we bring in musicians and other entertainment, we’re just adding to the appeal.
Let’s talk about your coffee. What constitutes a perfect espresso in your opinion?
A perfect espresso?? Wow… What a loaded question!! That completely varies - but you asked *my* opinion, so, okay. In *my* opinion a perfect espresso is rich, smooth, with complex notes of chocolate and fruit. No bitter aftertaste, and a nice, clean finish. We recently went to a cupping in the SODO district of Seattle were we were introduced to a Costa Rican coffee that is part of the Silver Cup competition of coffees that smelled and tasted like blueberries!! We have some really great coffee that’s roasted locally. Very locally. One of the blends we use at the shop is roasted no more than five blocks away, and the other is within a half mile of the shop. To say ‘it’s fresh’ is an understatement. Fresh roasted beans are essential for a great espresso. Beans should be used within a week of roasting, or they go stale and lose flavor. Always check the roasted date when purchasing your own beans, or ask the barista when their beans were roasted - it makes a difference!
It seems like tea has been trending back up again. Do you agree?
We’ve seen a few more people asking for a ‘tea menu’ from us since we’ve opened the cafe portion of the business. We had some teas available - the standard fare: English Breakfast, Earl Grey (for London Fogs), Peppermint, varied green teas… But now we are trying to ensure we have some locally blended teas for our customers. We’ve found an organic tea blender that is within four blocks of the shop - yes, again, VERY local. They pride themselves on quality and sustainability. That’s impressive, and it’s what we would like to support and promote. We currently have a few of their products, and will be adding more as we go on.
I know you offer some loose leaf teas—what are some of your more popular offerings? What about Matcha and Yerba Mate (those definitely seem to be gaining more momentum.)
We are trending away from the loose leafs for convenience sake. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve found a local tea shop that blends its own teas and also packages them in convenient pouches. This saves us time, and also a little bit of money. They have loose leaf products as well, but those same products come in pre-packaged form, which is much more pleasing to the eye, less waste for us (since they are all pre-measured), saves time, and is more convenient. Our more popular offering has to be our London Smog. It’s the traditional London Fog with a shot or two of espresso. We also sell quite a bit of jasmine blossom. Very aromatic! We don’t sell Yerba Mate at our shop, but we do have a toasted Brazilian mate that is very, very good. It doesn’t taste as if someone mowed their lawn and brewed it in a tea for you. The Brazilian mate is aromatic, robust, and quite flavorful! We are the only shop in Seattle that serves it, and it makes one heck of an awesome latte...
How’d you come across KPMG Spark and what made you pull the trigger on our services?
I did an extensive search online for companies that would suit our needs, and KPMG Spark fit hand in glove. So far we have not been disappointed with our choice! Thank you for being so approachable and human!