UNIVERSITY ZOKA by Aaron Duckworth One of my favorite coffeehouses in Seattle has to be Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea company's location near the University of Washington campus. Affectionately dubbed "The UZ" (as in University of Zoka, as the University of Washington is Zoka owner Jeff Babcock's alma mater), this shop has much to offer in the way of spacious layout, on-site kitchen and of course, kick-ass coffees and teas by the pound or by the cup. On this particular trip, I contacted my friend and the darling of Zoka, Ms. Jennifer Prince, reigning Northwest Regional Barista Champion, ahead of time to see when she would be slinging drinks up front. My family rolled in around 10:30 a.m. and casually strolled to the bar to ask if the coffee here was any good. With her always present big smile, I got "It depends on who's asking!" as Jen's smart response ad greeting. We were off to a good start. I had come for several reasons. First, I wanted my wife to see the UZ for the first time, as I have always admired the layout and ambiance, and I wanted to plant some seeds in her head for our next location, whenever that is. Second, I had not yet seen te expanded area, which includes a La Marzocco GB/5 signed by Mr. Piero Bambi, himself. You see, within the first year, the UZ outgrew its new space and annexed the spot next door. Nice problem to have, huh? They took one of their La Marzocco FB70s (custom painted to match the University of Washington's purple ad gold colors, of course), and moved it into the next room. It has a much cozier feel and is purposely set up to move at a slower pace. It's very much where you would want to get your second cup if you were hanging out for a while. Thirdly, I had heard that their newly acquired Thatcher's Reserve Panama-Elida Estate was awesome, and felt a personal need to make sure that the rumors were true in regards to the excellence of this coffee. I can personally vouch for it. It was awesome and then some. It's rare that I come across a coffee that I would actually describe as "juicy". But this one fit the bill. I have some Orange Blossom honey left over from a failed attempt at a United States Barista Championship (USBC) signature drink that never made it out of my shop. That honey was the first thing that popped into my mind as I took my first sip of this Panama the next morning. And lastly, I needed a good cup for that immediate moment. Who better to have make your drink than the 2005 Northwest Regional Barista Champion? My son, Jacob, even had a doppio from Jen. Being not quite a year old at the time, he couldn't realy give me a ful review, but he did finish it all. The Berry Coffeecake that we enjoyed had been baked that morning and was killer. Oversized but not underappreciated, this coffeecake amied to please ad it did please- several people, as a matter of fact. Yes, it really is cut that big. The UZ is definitely worth a stop if you find yourself wandering around Seattle's U-District. Great coffee made by great people in a great atmosphere. What else do you need? --This article can be found in the October/November 2006 issue of Barista Magazine. Read more from them at www.baristamagazine.com