What’s Happening at the Market: Connections through coffee

Rod Dirks is a highly passionate person. Those who know him can attest to his excitement for the small business community, public development and local connection. At the forefront of his dedication? That would be coffee. Small batch, hand-roasted coffee beans and masterfully prepared espresso beverages, to be specific.

For local coffee aficionados, Essence Coffee Roasters has become a household name — particularly in recent weeks as Essence celebrates its one-year anniversary of operations in Sequim.

Originating as a side project in Dirks’ South Dakota garage, Essence has expanded into a much-loved coffee shop on Washington Street, with a line of freshly roasted beans available to buy from local shops throughout the peninsula.

Mugs of Essence brew have become a mainstay in many a Sequimite’s morning routine. This makes it particularly exciting that Essence’s newest incarnation is in the form of a full espresso cart at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.

Dirks’ attention to quality makes the Sequim market the perfect venue for sharing his beans and espresso beverages with the community.

“There is a standard to uphold at the market,” Dirks says. “The market is perceived as a whole, not as individual vendors. It gave me the motive to meet their standards, so the market as a whole can be great.”

Essence avoids flavored syrups and additives when it comes to the crafting of their espresso beverages. The roaster opts instead to focus on the purity of the coffee itself.

“We want our coffee to shine through, we want you to taste the coffee,” Dirks says. “Our farmers went through a lot of work to grow this coffee and we go through a lot of work to roast it carefully and make sure it’s really excellent. We want you to taste that result. That shines through in all our drinks.

“I’m fond of saying that I can take a really good coffee and make it terrible, but I can’t make a really bad coffee and make it good. It’s my responsibility to make that coffee taste like I know it can.”

Dirks says he’s enjoyed the experience of immersing himself in the market vendor community.

“It’s great to be with like-minded people,” he says. “I think everybody there feels like they’re the best at what they do, and if they’re not the best, they’re trying to be the best. That’s great. That’s where I want to be.”

As one could imagine, opening a coffee roasting business in the middle of a pandemic was no easy feat for Dirks and the Essence crew. As a big believer in coffee as means to facilitate community, Dirks felt first-hand the impact pandemic restrictions had on his ability to foster community with guests at the café.

Now market guests have the opportunity each Saturday to connect with Dirks directly.

“In some ways, being at the farmers market is the start of a whole new era,” Dirks says. “We build relationships with all of our customers. It’s about connecting with people. That’s what I thrive on, that’s what I like to do.”

Celebrate the success of Essence Coffee Roasters and the other growers and makers of the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Saturday through October.

Visit your community market at Sequim City Hall Plaza at North Sequim Avenue and West Cedar Street, and at Centennial Place at the Sequim Avenue and Washington Street intersection.

Be sure to head to the market Facebook page to watch a video from Story Crane Productions featuring Essence Coffee Roasters.

Craving more market updates? Tune in every Friday at 4 p.m. to KSQM 91.5 FM for the live radio “Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market Hour” to hear a live interview with each week’s featured market vendor.

Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia is the Market Manager for the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.