Caffe Dei is the only all-vegetarian/vegan coffee shop/cafe that exists in Tacoma and when it arrived last summer it was to the delight of many a local vegan. With a dual focus on providing some of the best coffee in Tacoma as well as making more vegan and vegetarian food available to the community, Caffe Dei quickly proved itself as an institution in the city.
I’ve interviewed Shuanna Holt and Shane Siegfried (owners of the business) before but that article came out long ago and so much has changed since then. One of the elements of Caffe Dei that I’ve truly come to appreciate and value that you really don’t see everywhere in the city is the fact that the business is always changing, evolving and adding new elements to it for the better. And as a result of this, customers get to experience these great additions as they frequent the shop.
Let’s get one thing out in the open before I go any further: first and foremost, Caffe Dei is a coffee shop. Shuanna has been a barista, coffee shop manager and roaster, and thus has worked every possible job in coffee. Shane has worked in the food industry and in food management for many years as well. Holt’s wanted to own her own business for years, and now with Caffe Dei, she keeps her coffee roots and still is able to cater to local vegetarians, vegans, those who are gluten-free and now to raw foodists as well. The shop is constantly featuring a new coffee roaster, and only features what they feel are the finest beans they can offer their customers, both in espresso form inhouse or in bags of beans to be purchased and enjoyed later at home. The current batch available is from Barefoot in Santa Clara, CA.
I could go on for ages about both the food and drinks created in this place as I’ve tried almost everything they offer (that’s vegan), but for brevity’s sake, I’ll just review one item out of each major menu.
The selection of house drinks at Caffe Dei is rich and feature spins on traditional coffeehouse offerings. The Arancione Moka is a mocha that features dark chocolate, steamed milk and fresh orange zest, the Picante Mocha boasts steamed milk, Mexican chocolate and a healthy dose of cayenne pepper, but my hands down favorite is the Sasquatch. A love child of the Americano and cappuccino, the Sasquatch is the one that I order nearly every time. Composed of just the right amount of foam and milk of choice (they offer regular milk, hemp, rice and soy) and perfectly pulled espresso, the Sasquatch is the ideal espresso-laced beverage. Caffe Dei features loose, fragrant teas galore that are created locally for those who opt out of extreme caffeination, (all can be ordered traditionally or iced) and as of very recently offers a few carefully selected wine offerings available both by the glass and bottle.
Front and center near the register and espresso machine are an impressive spread of pastries. The cafe brings in Seattle-based Macrina Bakery harvest breads for sandwiches, cupcakes, muffins, macaroons and more, some of which are vegan, some aren’t. The other half of their baked goods come from Flying Apron Bakery based in Fremont, (vegan, gluten-free, sometimes sugar-free) and their offerings include scones, cookies, banana bread and others. The cinnamon roll (below) is huge, flavorful and definitely takes a spin on the classic in its gluten-free form, yet definitely exudes a rich, sweet and savory flavor that’s perfect with any cup of coffee, anytime the day.
A few sandwiches are offered daily and most appeal to vegans in multiple grilled forms. Though I’ve tried all of them, I’d have to say that the breakfast sandwich – ciabatta bread with a house-made tofu scramble, vegan sausage, onions, a creamy, savory sauce and Daiya cheese for a bit extra (so worth it) – is my favorite. I don’t just order it for breakfast, I’ve also been known to order it for lunch or dinner. It’s that versatile and downright tasty.
Within the past month, Caffe Dei has extended their menu to be four pages, and two new sections added to it are the quinoa bowls and the raw salads. I sat down not long ago and was treated to a veritable “sampler platter” if you will of a mix of both of these new offerings, and out of them, a couple stood out to my taste buds.
The Kickin’ Cowboy Quinoa Salad combines greens, carrots, cucumber, fluffy quinoa, faux chicken strips, a homemade barbecue sauce, bell peppers and a nice surprise of black beans. Another sauce created for this dish is composed of tahini and garlic and has a thick, creamy texture that gives an even greater depth of flavor to the meal. I thought this bowl delicious, spicy and something that I could see myself consuming often. Though it’s composed of many elements, everything is evenly distributed, offering a filling meal filled with fresh ingredients.
My favorite of the new raw additions was hands down the Diamond Dragon Eye bowl. Filled with greens, cabbage, lightly steamed broccoli, grated carrot, sesame seeds, spiralized zucchini noodles, a tamari/sesame/ginger sauce with a kick and the centerpiece – kelp noodles – this bowl has got a lot of great things going on. This was my first time trying kelp noodles and though they have a unique texture, don’t let them scare you away as they add to the dish. Every element is crunchy, light and all is balanced with the signature savory strong sauce. You have to try it, and soon. Even if you rarely eat raw, this will make you want to try your hand at experimenting with it more. I consider this and the other additions to the raw side of the menu to be some of Shuanna’s most creative and inspired dishes offered at her cafe, and you can truly tell that these are a labor of love and dedication to her own raw foodism.
Last but not least, is an item that I actually have yet to try, but have heard some already rave about: the new dessert item, affagato. Composed of organic ice cream (vegan options available) with fresh shots of espresso pulled directly over them and topped off with a 100% dark Dutch chocolate, the affagato is a coffee + chocolate lover’s dream come true. While some may have coffee and a dessert post-meal, this new item allows you to combine both into one decadently sweet dish.
Caffe Dei also prides itself on being a true green business, and it recycles, composts and tries to create as little waste as possible. And they’re always looking to improve in this arena. On top of this, Shuanna has started some in-shop raw food prep courses (a two-day Raw 101 class and a 4-week intermediate raw course) to teach others how they can create delicious raw meals right in their own homes. As these types of classes are generally only offered north in Seattle, anyone interested in learning more about the raw lifestyle truly has an inspiration and generous resource here in Shuanna.
After reading all of this, you still won’t fully comprehend how wonderful Caffe Dei is until you go yourself. I’m not just talking about the drinks and the food either. The knowledgeable and friendly owners and baristas, the comfortable, open and inviting space, the art that changes monthly on the walls and the regulars who have taken up residence in their chairs also make it worth experiencing. I’m so glad that Caffe Dei is a part of the neighborhood and the community and that they are definitely helping Tacomans realize that vegan food can taste amazing and be served up in an inviting and welcoming fashion.
Caffe Dei is located at 2607 6th Ave. and is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the shop at (253) 572-2550 or check out their Facebook page.