Mike Condon knows coffee, something he serves up daily at Mike’s Community Cup, where sweetness comes in many forms.
Condon comes to his coffee shop after three decades in the food and customer service industry, with Burger King and then at Starbucks.
It’s at the ubiquitous Starbucks that he became a certified coffee master, where he could identify the distinctive taste of each Starbucks coffee.
When he left Starbucks, that knack for taste served him as he searched for just the right coffee to sell at his own coffee shop on Military Road in SeaTac.
He settled on Gusto Crema from Caffe Umbria that roasts its own coffee in Seattle for wholesale and sells it at its own coffee shops in Seattle’s Pioneer Square and in Portland
That was about five years ago.
Since then through lean times, including a recession, Condon has built his own coffee shop where SeaTac meets Tukwila into a community gathering place and a popular spots for espresso lovers.
To go with his liquid treats, Condon buys fresh baked good from Alki Bakery and doughnuts from Top Pot. He didn’t want anything frozen.
“I wanted to try to bring in a coffee culture and a pastry culture, which people would really enjoy, instead of just something that’s there,” he said.
What Condon has also brought is a deep sense of community service, borne from his own experience raised by a single mother, growing up with little of his own.
“My mother taught me at a very young age to always help other people. So that’s what I do,” he said.
He and his customers annually collect school supplies for the Highline School District. His baristas donated tips to help replace the weight-room floor at Foster High School. He donated blankets and sheets to people he didn’t know who were forced from their apartments by fire.
He’s asked why he gives his money away.
He answers “because every night when I go home and I go to bed, I know I’ve done something right for that day.”
Something else he says he got right was his choice of Gusto Crema, which he said was “far and above” anything else he tasted. The coffee is highly rated, but that’s not why he chose it.
“I got it because I knew it was great,” he said.
Gusto Crema is a medium-roast, classic Italian espresso, according to Caffe Umbria’s website. It’s made with Brazilian and Central American beans.
The Brazilian beans and the medium roasting give Gusto Crema its sweetness and more crema, the top part of the espresso shot where sweetness of the coffee comes from, Condon explained.
Those into comparing will find Starbucks’ coffee stronger than Caffe Umbria’s, Condon said, because Starbucks uses a dark roast. But, Caffe Umbria is sweeter because of the medium roast.
“That’s where all the taste comes from and where it’s easier to mix with milk and easier to mix with product and still get the high-quality taste of the product out,” he said.