Maker Story: Caffè Appassionato

Tucker McHugh, Owner of Caffe Appassionato in Seattle

Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood isn’t the first place you’d think to look for a coffee roaster, yet it’s been the home of Caffè Appassionato since 1990. When you stop to think about it, though, Magnolia’s Fisherman’s Terminal makes perfect sense as the home of Caffè Appassionato: the roastery sits in community with fishmongers and grocers, among generations of hard-working families and with views of the prettiest skyline we’ve ever seen. 

As you've probably noticed, we have a big bias toward all things Washington, so when it was time to create private-label coffee roasts, we looked no further than that roastery nestled in Fisherman’s Terminal: Caffè Appassionato. 

Rainy Day Roast from Caffe Appassionato in Seattle


One of Seattle’s First Coffee Roasting Companies

We sat down with Tucker McHugh, Caffè Appassionato’s co-founder (steaming brew in hand, naturally), to talk about coffee and all things Washington. In our conversation, one of the first things he said about the founding of his roastery was, “It seems like yesterday.” And isn’t that a metaphor for all things? 

Tucker and his team decided to put their roaster behind glass at their Magnolia roastery. They restored a roaster from the 1950s, and passersby can watch Caffè Appassionato’s roasters work. While many companies have automated this process to be done by machines, Caffè Appassionato still roasts every batch by hand. 

Gourmet Coffee in Seattle

It was Seattle in the 90s. Grunge rock was taking over, romcoms showed the Monorail as a main form of commute, and the Mariners were having a moment. In parallel, the soon-to-be booming coffee industry was in its infancy. “Seattle’s Best and Starbucks came in at the same time,” Tucker told us. And while those big-name roasteries focused on the buzzword of the decade—acidity—said to make Seattle’s favorite caffeinated beverage “dance on the tongue,” Tucker and his team took a slightly different approach. 

They hired a good friend who also happened to be a doctor “to tell us what acid does to the body.” They found quickly that acid can upset a drinker’s stomach, so they tried a few different roasting processes to control their coffee’s acid. Ultimately landing on a low and slow approach, Tucker and his Caffè Appassionato team still roast their beans two to three times longer than the aforementioned big-name roasteries, boasting beans roasted from center to ends.

“Today, we tout ourselves as ‘low acid, stomach-friendly,’” Tucker smiled.


Evergreen Roast from Caffe Appassionato in Seattle


Caffè Appassionato and Made In Washington 

Wholesale quickly became Caffè Appassionato’s bread and butter. In a former career, Tucker met the team at Made In Washington, so when he started selling his coffee wholesale, he immediately thought to offer Made In Washington a private-label roast. 

As Tucker told us, “Made In Washington often comes to us and says ‘Here’s the story we want to tell. Now, you create the taste to go along with it.’” That first roast eventually led to five, all exclusive to Made In Washington. 

The blends have names like Rainy Day Roast (balanced), Bigfoot’s Mighty Brew (mellow and rich), Evergreen (vivid, smoky, and dark), and Market Espresso (robust). 

“It’s been a good, communicative relationship,” he continued. “We don’t just make the coffee. We go to the stores and tell our story.” What we appreciate about our Makers, including Caffè Appasionato, is their focus on our partnership. 

“We’re more than just a supplier,” Tucker asserted. “And we’re always there when they need us.” 


Seattle Market Espresso Blend from Caffe Appassionato


Tucker’s Favorite Thing About Washington

Like many of us, Tucker deeply appreciates the unique beauty of Washington’s islands. His favorite thing about Washington? “Whidbey Island. It’s rural, but there’s some sophistication.” 

Caffe Appassionato, a family-owned, full-bodied, low-acid craft coffee roaster, creates, designs, and makes its blends in Seattle, WA.

Tags: Seattle