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Closet coffee king could leave Starbucks steamed

la marzocco cafe showroom

The Maserati of the coffee industry has opened its first sit-and-sip unit in the United States, a cafe in the new headquarters of a hip Seattle radio station.

The U.S. beachhead of La Marzocco, the Italian manufacturer of high-end espresso machines, drew its first cup this weekend in the new headquarters of KEXP. The unit is intended to serve the same purpose as Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery showcase stores, which celebrate coffee brewing as a high art. Coffees from a variety of heartthrob roasters will be brewed and sampled on premise, and a showroom will highlight blends for take-home use.

“The cafe and showroom will serve as a platform for showcasing the breadth and diversity of specialty coffee today,” the Florence, Italy-based company explains on its website.

The unit will function like a celebrity-chef popup restaurant. Each month, a new roaster will take over the space to showcase its beans and brews, drafting a new menu of selections, retraining the staff and even reconfiguring the production equipment. La Marzocco opened with a spotlight on Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

La Marzocco has been part of the American coffee scene for decades, though few on the customer side of the service counter might know it. Its espresso makers, which cost upward of $15,000 each, were used by Starbucks during the chain’s fast-growth years, but were eventually replaced in most stores by higher-tech equipment. The original Starbucks, in Seattle’s Pike Place, still uses a La Marzocco brewer.

The company first started manufacturing espresso makers in 1927.

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