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Umi Wagoner’s Tacoma: Curran Coffee Carries on TraditionAeroplane Icon
Umi Wagoner
May 17, 2023
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Coffee culture is continuing to grow in Tacoma and it continues to be exciting to have options. Tacoma hasn’t always been a place with variety as a priority; it’s more of an oldie but goodie place. The more of the market place independents take up the less need for chains like Starbucks and far less market potential for them to poach. I’m not saying we don’t need them but more us and less them should always be the goal. Although keeping in mind there may be some Tacomans who own franchises and those should be the ones most frequented. There is a lot of charm and tradition built into our businesses. But as of late (the last 5 years) we are starting to see the rumblings of progress. Slowly more independent coffee experiences are developing throughout Tacoma and that’s bringing Tacomans into neighborhoods they haven’t traditionally frequented. It’s great businesses that often create cross pollination within cities. An area may feel out of the way until you have a reason to go. And Old Town Tacoma hasn’t been injected with something new in a while. Space is a major part of the issue, there’s only room for about 4 businesses on the little strip of N 30th anyway, but it’s prime real estate and holds significant historical value. The space they occupy was once completely owned by the Spar, one side was the Spar cafe while the other catered to the Spar bar. During my early years of college living elsewhere and coming home to the Spar felt like the most authentic part of Tacoma, the Old Town history and proximity to downtown via Schuster Way offered a level of convenience to the Waterfront prior to its developments and my version of nightlife simultaneously.

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Today Curran Coffee occupies the space the Spar Cafe once did. It’s perfect for the neighborhood and although they share an opening in the wall that allows you to move from one space to the other the atmosphere and hours are not aligned. But you can feel the spirit of Old Town creeping to a revival, I doubt it will become the saloon filled strip it was historically but you can see sparks of new energy with the crowd Curran has captured. Pop into Curran during a weekday morning rush and you’ll find laptops open, early coffee meetings in session, coffee between friends and couples, office owners and workers from the area getting their specific choice of daily fuel and to my surprise several groups of plaid skirted young students who attend Annie Wright just up the McCarver hill. You can see the community in the space and you can hear it as well. Owners and baristas Emily and Jordan Curran greet patrons new and old as they arrive. And for the regulars you’ll hear baristas making confirmation of their daily drinks just as they step to the counter to order. It’s that “everybody knows your name” feeling that will add a little joy to your morning. I heard everything from weekend recaps to what sounded like conversations picked up right where they left off the last visit. That kind of attention to the customer experience is what separates a place like Curran from Starbucks or even the small franchises. Knowing someone cares or notices you at all goes a long way when starting your day. The Curran crew handles those moments authentically and professionally. The space itself is a pleasure to visit. The Curran girls were both creative and insightful when they developed the Curran Coffee branding. Tacoman entrepreneurs are proving to know quite a bit about branding these days. Their interior design and decor is simple and effective. Bar seating wraps the front windows, there is light seating to your right as you enter (two tables + chairs), couch seating to your left under the custom Curran hand painted menu boards and a chunky ordering counter and barista station immediately in front of you. The space says “come here to linger, but not all day” and I love that. When working in the neighborhood it’s the type of place where you'll bring your own mug for the second or third cup, I’ve witnessed that as well during my stops by Curran for a Puget Fog.

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It’s not just location and experience there’s expertise; both sisters have spent years as baristas developing their skills and they put them to use when developing their house specials. The Puget Fog (a play on the popular London Fog) is a perfect twist on a classic and delicious. The Gemini and Taurus provide a flavorful vitality to your good morning wake up cup, it’s the coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee. I had the chance to ask some informal questions and they were kind enough to answer. 


I love the branding. How was the logo decided, who designed it??

* We played around with a few ideas and knew we wanted to incorporate something with moons. We designed this logo with the two crescent moons to represent the two C’s in Curran coffee!


Are there secret menu drinks??

* As of right now, we have one secret menu item. It’s called “The Cocoa Puff”- it got its name because it tastes exactly like the cereal milk left over after a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. It’s our kona chocolate powder and French Madeleine syrup. The original recipe is made with white coffee, but some people get it with regular espresso. It’s delicious either way!


How often do you go to the Spar now??

* The spar has always been a staple for us. When we were getting the shop up and running we were fueled by BLT’s & salmon pitas and now that we’re there everyday an after shift drink hits a little different.

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Best part of being a barista is…??

* The best part about being a barista is the opportunity to interact with so many different people. Whether they want a quick cup of coffee, a genuine interaction, or a place to catch up with a friend, a lot of people start their day with us and we’re grateful to provide that space.


What are your favorite tea companies currently??

* Our favorite tea company currently is the Art of Tea. They are located in Los Angeles, California and distribute organic loose leaf teas. We currently carry 11 of their teas ranging in green, black and herbal options.


In the spirit of competition, who makes the Puget Fog the best??

* The Puget Fog is such a popular drink that we think we’ve both mastered it.. but we’ll let the readers decide, come try for yourself! 


The Jam is so unique, how did it get added to the menu??

* We wanted a heartier smoothie option for people needing breakfast on the go and we both share an equal love for PB&J’s.


Why no karate references, or am I missing it??

* No karate references as far as drinks… yet. However, on a warm day you can catch us both wearing our Curran karate t-shirts & if you’re really lucky, you may catch Steve Curran in the flesh ordering his sugar free vanilla frappe.


What are your favorite fries in Tacoma??

* Jordan - Top of Tacoma

* Emily - Frisko Freeze


Last movie you saw at the Grand Cinema??

* Everything Everywhere All At Once


Hours:

Monday - Friday        6 AM–6 PM

Saturday & Sunday 8 AM–3 PM


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