Ten Great Coffee Shops Proving Seattle’s Continued Coffeehouse Dominance
Seattle has long been linked with coffee culture, a connection fortified with the worldwide ubiquity of Starbucks, which opened its first store in the historic Pike Place Market during the spring of 1971. Add to that the city’s continued grunge culture and it’s just about the perfect place for the undone coolness and ragged populism that has come to define the coffeehouse vibe.
Needless to say, there are a lot of great options in Washington’s biggest city. To make the decision a little easier, here are the best places to hit, depending on your brew behavior.
Best for a Flat White: Original Starbucks Coffee Café
A flat white (steamed milk and foam poured over espresso) is an Aussie import, and Starbucks is rather famously all over it, having made quite the hullabaloo about offering it in the United States. Head over to the original Starbucks in Pike Place to try it.
Best for 24-Hour Java Fixes: Lost Lake Café & Lounge
Night owls can keep the booths warm at Lost Lake Café & Lounge. Not only do bottomless cups of hometown-favorite Caffé Vita coffee (choose from hot drip or cold brew) entice, but so do hearty dishes like breakfast bread pudding and Wild Boar Sloppy Joe, which is slow-cooked in Snoqualmie stout.
Best for Design Fans: Voxx Coffee’s Eastlake Location
If you have a hankering for Jetsons-style furniture (read: boomerang tables), Voxx Coffee’s Eastlake location delivers. Baristas here pride themselves on developing seasonal drinks—and not just the much-maligned pumpkin-spiced latte, either. This spring Voxx offers an iced cardamom vanilla latte and coconut-lime Italian soda.
Best for Pastry Pairings: Caffe Umbria
Caffe Umbria, which has two locations in Seattle (Ballard and Pioneer Square), turns to two of the city’s best bakeries (Macrina Bakery and Le Panier) to stock its cases with sweets like macarons, tarts, cinnamon bread, and four (four!) types of croissant. This roaster also boasts Italian roots: Patriarch Ornello Bizzari opened a roasting shop in Perugia in the 1940s. His descendants moved the craft to Seattle in the 1980s, and eventually secured deals with places like Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to serve their coffee. Early risers can grab a latte (brewed with beans roasted by master roaster Emanuele Bizzarri) and pastry vice as early as 6 a.m. in Pioneer Square.
Best for Coffee-To-Go: Motofish Coffee
At Motofish Coffee, baristas tamp their espressos in a 1977 Mercedes diesel UniMog once used as a maintenance truck for the Swedish Forest Service. Beans, like Olympia Coffee Roasting Company’s Big Truck Espresso Blend, are often sourced from local roasters.
Best for Working Remotely: Zoka Coffee Roasters & Tea Co.’s Green Lake District Location
Drop by Zoka late on a weeknight, and you’ll likely spot students hunched over their laptops and textbooks. Walls of multipaned glass and dark woods make this café feel like an historic library, and surely pastries made in-house and single-origin pour-overs do a lot to cultivate the mind.
Best for an Extra-Strong Cup: Espresso Vivace’s Capitol Hill Location
David Schomer, founder of Espresso Vivace, literally wrote the book on espresso, a manual by the name of Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques. The café, which roasts in the northern Italian style, is done up in midcentury Formica tables, with matching chairs in primary colors.
Best for Coffee Education: Victrola Coffee Roasters’ Pike Place Location
Coffee geeks are more than welcome at Victrola Coffee Roasters, where cuppings (wherein aficionados sniff and slurp just-ground coffee with hot water) are hosted every Wednesday at 11 a.m. It all lives inside the city’s Auto Row building, which has housed car dealerships as early as the 1920s.
Best for Rock-Star Baristas: Cherry Street Coffee House
The best baristas across America rigorously compete against each other Top Chef–style each year at the U.S. Barista Championship. Last year, Laila Ghambari—the director of coffee at Cherry Street Coffee—snagged first place, wowing judges with coffee-cherry jam and steeped-coffee cherries in her signature drink. (And yes, aromatic smoke was involved.)
Ten cafés across Seattle—in spots that include downtown, Pioneer Square, Belltown, and Capitol Hill—employ baristas under Ghambari’s tutelage. Whether one opts for a latte to witness flawless latte art, or a simple single shot of espresso, Cherry Street has a tendency to appease the pickiest of palates. Each café also sports its own design, from the graffiti-inspired murals behind the espresso bar in the West Edge neighborhood to Middle Eastern décor on Clay Street.
Best for Pour-Overs: Slate Coffee Roasters
Belly up to Slate Coffee Roasters’ brew bar, where baristas use manual brewers like V60 and Chemex, for cups with in a cleaner mouth-feel. The café offers only a few options, each of which is brewed by hand. Don’t miss a deconstructed espresso or the four-course coffee flight.