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For the grand opening, they’ll be selling the signature sea salt coffee — a sweetened Americano with sea salt cream and a dusting of cocoa powder that ends up tasting a bit like melted ice cream in the best kind of way — for just 10 cents. (Image: Seattle Refined)

The 'Starbucks of Taiwan' Opens in Southcenter Mall

If you’ve been to Southcenter in the last week, you may have already seen the lines snaking out from the new café and bakery: as word of 85°C Bakery Cafe's soft opening spread, those who know of the chain made their way down.

“We’ve already had people drive down from Canada,” said marketing manager Christopher Jocson.

Friday, February 24 is the store’s official grand opening, though they’ve been not-so-quietly selling the sea salt iced coffees and brioche breads from the new location for a week now. It’s the chain’s 26th location in the U.S. and one of 900 stores worldwide. For the grand opening, they’ll be selling the signature sea salt coffee — a sweetened Americano with sea salt cream and a dusting of cocoa powder that ends up tasting a bit like melted ice cream in the best kind of way — for just 10 cents. They’ll also be giving out Washington State mugs and tote bags all weekend, and starting next week, vouchers for free drinks with every drink purchased.

The chain was started in Taiwan in 2004 by Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who wanted to make the kind of high-quality pastry he was seeing in fancy restaurants accessible to everyone. The name comes from the temperature he believed is optimal for brewing coffee at. And that coffee — which the chain sources from Guatemala and roasts itself — is actually what brought them to Washington.

“It’s a coffee hub here,” said Jocson, and they wanted to share their product with the coffee-focused community here. But coffee is only half the magic drawing people to the new shop.

Once inside the bright store, a line snakes through rows of self-serve pastries and breads — more than 60 different types — and patrons pile the trays high. Japanese, Taiwanese, and European flavors and techniques mash up into unique baked goods, some more successful than others. Calamari stick happens to be a sleeper hit — no squidy flavor involved — taking its name from the black ink that colors it (and, oddly, not stick shaped). Mostly the round bun tastes like a garlic cheese bread. The Portuguese-style egg tarts, with flaky pastry, are perfectly done. And each baked good is made every hour, with staff running out with fresh deliveries, shouting “fresh bread!”

Further in, rows of display cases hold the additional 40 types of cake that can be ordered, along with the beverages. The options are overwhelming, but Jocson offered some crib notes for the greatest hits, beginning with the brioche bread that he says “started the whole chain.” He mentions that the marble taro is one of the most popular breads and also recommends the savory options, like the cheese dogs, and the new spicy sausage bread that’s part of a collaboration with Sriracha. His personal favorite is the light-as-air Hokkaido cheesecake, though.

Whatever you decide to get, if you’re heading down this weekend, prepare for a line: at their last opening, in Texas, the lines got up to 90 minutes just to get into the store. But, as with so much, patience will be your friend: the chain plans to open in Federal Way and Lynnwood as well by the end of the year.

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