Copper Tree Coffee House: The Owner and its Origins


Emi Nakata, Online Editor

Every day, countless Prep students and faculty make a pit stop at the Copper Tree Coffee House for a morning boost or a mid-afternoon refresh. It is conveniently located on 10th Ave E, which is perfect for those in need of a quick and delicious pick-me-up. Copper Tree has become a staple in the Prep community and its owner, Israel Martinez (aka Izzy), has become a friend to many.

Martinez grew up in Shelton, WA, but moved to Seattle in 2004 to attend the University of Washington. While he always thought he’d return to Shelton after college, he ended up meeting the love of his life, Brooke, and owning a coffee shop.

For Martinez, a day off is “like finding a four-leaf clover at the park”. On those days, he likes to sleep in as long as possible then get brunch with his wife. Besides being a barista and business owner, Martinez has many other passions. He is very fond of plants, and is often referred to as “THAT plant guy” by his friends. He also loves dogs.

Martinez shared a bit about Copper Tree’s rich history. The building was originally transformed from an office space or barber shop to the coffee shop it is today. There have been three previous owners, the most recent one being Maeve. She was a retired Coast Guard Captain who sailed on the ice breaker. The students who went to Prep from 2014 to 2017 would remember the coffee shop as the Polar Café, its previous name, as well as her shop dogs, Maddie, a Husky, and Hobbie.

Martinez worked at Starbucks while attending UW and went on to work at Polar Café for about a month with Maeve. With about nine years of barista experience under his belt, Maeve saw that Martinez was ready and more than qualified to become the next owner. She helped him transition from employee to owner, which is when it became the famous Copper Tree Coffee House.

One of Martinez’s favorite drinks to make, which unfortunately is not on the menu yet is: “two shots of espresso over ice, with white mocha and shaken in a shaker with maybe a little bit of breve milk or alternative milk. It’s cold, it’s frothy, a little sweet and not a lot of liquid”. The most popular drinks, however, are either a regular 12 oz latte, a 12 oz tea latte, or a honey lavender latte.

Over the years, Martinez has had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, specifically Prep students. In fact, Martinez’s favorite part about Copper Tree is the people. He gets to meet individuals of all ages, each at different stages of their lives with unique backgrounds.

“I honestly feel old being next to Seattle Prep. It’s great seeing Seattle Prep graduates that have been in college for a few years but seeing them come back after graduating college AND then working at the school!? Definitely a ‘Woah!’ moment” said Martinez.

Working at Copper Tree is generally very light- hearted and sweet, but at times, it can also be a little intense. It is a very popular coffee shop, so it is normally very busy. Martinez is often working at a very fast pace, yet regardless of whether he is preparing one drink or six, he always seeks to get to know his customers and have a genuine conversation with them.

When asked about business during COVID, Martinez responded with: “It’s interesting being on this end of things and seeing the effects not just in my shop but with all the other business owners I’ve met over the years”.

Like most businesses during COVID, Copper Tree has had its own share of challenges, the most prominent one being the switch from a sit-down store to what it is now a to-go window. He did so after the COVID restrictions were placed on small businesses. He had originally planned to open back up completely in August, but with the Delta Variant and school starting, he realized that the to-go window was the best way to stay open and keep the customers safe. He hopes to open the sit-down section of the Copper Tree once again for what he believes “is probably the best neighborhood in Seattle”.