There are many great coffee cities in the world, but perhaps nowhere holds a more legitimate claim to being the center of the caffeinated universe than Seattle. Home to global megabrands and small, independent roasters alike, it's pretty much Shangri-La for anyone that appreciates coffee culture and all the things that come with it. Here, we look at the cafés serving up the best espresso, cold brew, and pour-over in the city, plus the places — a legendary bookstore, a bustling city park — where you can enjoy your drink on the go. From old standbys to the new kids on the block, these are the drivers of Seattle's thriving coffee scene.Read More
What Drives Seattle's Coffee Culture?
1. Espresso Vivace
The brainchild of espresso obsessives David Schomer and Geneva Sullivan, Vivace has been an integral part of the Seattle coffee landscape since it opened up shop in 1988. More than two-and-a-half decades later, its precise preparation methods and crew of friendly, capable baristas are still earning the respect of locals and visitors alike. Check out the flagship Brix location or its sister Sidewalk Bar in Capitol Hill, or stop by the newest outpost (dubbed Alley 24) in South Lake Union.
2. Milstead & Co.
Andrew Milstead’s café is a multi-roaster shop, with beans coming from a rotating roster of roasters like Wrecking Ball and Portland’s esteemed Heart Roasters. It’s also a coffee geek haven where the baristas will chat with you as you wait for your individually prepared pour-over. Not great if you’re in a hurry, but it’s the kind of mindful service that inspires coffee lovers near and far to make the trek to the Fremont shop for a mid-morning pick-me-up.
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3. Slate Coffee Bar
Once operated out of an Airstream trailer, family-run Slate now has a brick-and-mortar shop on Sixth Avenue. The shop is set in a building that used to operate as a grocery store back in the early 1900s when streetcars were still running in the area. Now, the shop — which serves its espresso in stemware for a touch of class — is preaching the gospel of “exposure roasting,” in which their beans are roasted just long enough to highlight their distinguishing characteristics.
4. Kerry Park
Seattle, WA 98109
The quintessential park for picture-taking, with its expansive views of the downtown skyline and the Space Needle, Kerry Park understandably has a tendency to get crowded during the day. Stop by early in the morning after picking up a to-go cold brew to avoid the mid-day bustle and drink in the views (and your coffee).
A fixture of Capitol Hill’s 15th Avenue since 2000, Victrola has grown considerably since opening its doors. Now with three separate locations, the mini-chain channels the look and feel of the Jazz Age, most notably in its newest outpost, housed in a 1920s Auto Row building. The shops serve only sustainable, in-season coffee, and a small roasting space is nestled in the back of the café on 15th.
6. Vif Wine and Coffee
Part café, part wine bar, Vif is a dual-concept shop that comes courtesy of owners Shawn Mead and Lauren Feldman. The space in Fremont sells a mix of ethically sourced coffee, naturally produced wine, and small bites to go along with each. So if you’re a little too jittery from that espresso, you can calm down with a glass of rosé and an avocado tartine.
7. Green Lake Park
Part of the grand 1903 Olmsted Plan to create a series of interconnected green spaces around the city, Green Lake is one of Seattle’s most beloved parks. That means it gets busy, especially on weekends. But it also means it’s a prime location for people-watching. A great place to stake out a bench and relax as you watch the world go by.
8. Elliott Bay Book Company
Considered one of the best independent book stores in the city, The Elliott Bay Book Company was founded in 1973 by Walter Carr. Though the shop relocated from its original Pioneer Square location to a spot on 10th Avenue on Capitol Hill in 2010, it still retains the charm and fiercely independent ethos it’s had since the beginning. Ask the knowledgable staff for a recommendation if you’re looking to get your hands on a book about, say, the history of roasting.
9. Left Bank Books
Another one of the best indie book stores in Seattle, Left Bank also traces its roots back to 1973. With a focus on independent and small-press titles, there’s a bit of a radical, anti-authoritarian streak to its collection of over 10,000 new and used titles. Whether you’re interested discussing the merits of anarchist thought or just want to find a great new graphic novel to read at a café, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.
10. Bakery Nouveau
Coffee and pastries are natural bedfellows, and Bakery Nouveau serves up some of the best pastries in town from its locations in West Seattle and Capitol Hill. Everything on the menu — from the cakes to the tarts and cookies — is a safe bet, but the twice-baked almond croissant is a real standout. Bonus: It goes great with a latte.
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