Coffee Craze, Seattle
Just try and say Seattle without thinking of coffee. Even my beer-obsessed mind can't fathom a day without the java in this caffeine-infused culture. As you walk around town, you notice the number one accessory is the coffee cup. And when you don't have one of your own, you start looking for a place to get one. That's okay, you never have to look long in Seattle. There must be a coffee shop on ever block. Home to not only Starbucks but a plethora of copycats and those from which Starbucks sprang. Not to mention too many independents to mention. If you ever dreamed of opening a coffee house, Seattle must be the best place to do it despite what seems insurmountable competition. With a population that seems to treat the stuff like an intravenous necessary for survival, you're bound to never run out of customers.
But seriously, if you like coffee, this is one town to have some. I remember when I first came here in 1994. Starbucks was a local phenomenon and despite not really being into coffee, I could not help but be sucked in. I thought about opening one on the east coast but on telling friends about it once I got home, they all said it would never work. Sometimes, you really shouldn't listen to your friends.
So, when in Seattle, do as people from Seattle do, stop and have a coffee. No time for that, get one and walk around with it. You won't be alone.
I haven't realize that Seattlelites have unique customs. But, come to think of it, Seattlelites do!
The people here are caffeineted - for lack of a better word. The residents here drink their coffee strong. And, they have lots of choices when they drink coffee.
When coming to Seattle, you will be surprised how many coffee stands we have. There are those little tiny houses called coffee stands at almost every gasoline station or parking lot and the regulars like the Tully's Coffee Shop, The Seattle's Best or to Starbucks.
Also, you will probably spend a lot of time looking at the menu of just ordering coffee alone.
It seems like every corner in Seattle has a coffee shop like those I mentioned above.
When ordering, we can distinguish or pinpoint who is not from Seattle or who is a tourist or visitor just by the way they order coffee.
Here's how you order coffee in Seattle at Starbucks:
1. Pick what kind of drink (coffee, mocha) you like
2. Do you like it in small, medium, tall, or benti cup?
2. Do you like caffeineted or decaffeineted?
3. Do you like it with white sugar, brown sugar or sugar free?
4. Do you like it with milk, half and half, or cream?
5. When ordering it, do you like it drip? (This is cheape because they get the cup and don't grind the coffee. They just get it from the big thermos).
6. Do you like the cream with foam or no foam?
On average, a Seattlelite employee downtown spends $400 a month on coffee alone. Yes, it's true! Being a Seattlelite, I already know that. Starbucks originated in Seattle!
I know how to order coffee, the Seattlelite-style but most of the time and to save money, I bring my own coffee at work. I have those thermos/cups that I bought from Starbucks and just pour my coffee with cream and sugar and come to work!
Looking for a place to work? Yup, me too, and we are not alone. I have scoured cafes in Seattle and all of it's neighborhoods looking for multi-faceted vistas to complete my online projects. So if you want truly authentic Seattle coffee, good food, interesting atmosphere, good music, a peaceful place to work with reliable and fast wi-fi... try the following places. And trust me, I am a local expert who is always in search of the best-dressed place for my business endeavors... ... and leave your cell phone turned off, the best places issue a no blabbing rule.
*** FAVORITE *** StarLife on the Oasis (in the University District (ask for the owner, 'Wings')
Victrola (on Capitol Hill)
Vivace (Capitol Hill)
Cafe Ladro (numerous locations)
Uptown Espresso (numerous locations)
Cafe Fiore (on 85th) is a nice small cafe just up the hill from a lovely beach park. 3125 NW 85th. They have a few (not a lot) of branches in Seattle - a lot more personal than some of the humongous chains. The one I visited was in Ballard/Sunset Hill.
My first introduction to the Seattle area was at a chain restaurant. A pot full of coffee was placed on my table... and it was lunchtime. The people of Seattle love their coffee, of that there can be no doubt. In fact, local coffee shops have become favored meeting places, especially for young people (more or less serving the social function that pubs do in the British Isles).
The best-known coffee shop worldwide is Starbucks, though interestingly it is not viewed as the best coffee in Seattle. Every neighborhood has its own small espresso shop, but the big three chains in Seattle are Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and Tully's. My favorite of the chains is Tully's.
As for what to buy, there is a dizzying array of choices, mainly centering on some combination of espresso, steamed milk, and flavoring. My personal favorite is Grande Wet Cappuccino, but experiment and determine your favorite. Be warned that the drinks can be quite expensive -- $4 or more per cup for some concoctions. You can save a bit of money if you order plain coffee (about $2).
One final note: at the counter, you will usually notice a tip jar. "Baristas" (coffee attendants) don't normally get paid all that well, so they rely on tips to augment their income. Tipping is optional, however: regular customers will typically throw their returned coins or $1 in the cup if they are ordering a complicated beverage. Tipping is not expected if you're ordering a plain coffee.
So you are from out of town and you are visiting the lovely University of Washington Seattle campus, but where to go for some great coffee? Definitely skip the Tully's scattered around in campus buildings and go to the little independent coffee spots instead. My suggestions:
*Design Coffee in Gould Hall (across the street from the "main campus" area, located on 15th NE & 40th) serves wonderfully smooth coffee by Caffe Vita and the baristas are very friendly. Not sure what hours are during fall-spring. This coffee shop has been run by the Architecture program for over 20 years and prides itself on being independent from the UW's Housing and Food services...and net profits also go towards funding lectures and other programs for the school.
*Parnassus Cafe & Art Gallery located in the basement of the Art building (northern part of the Quad). Not only is this place run by students, but the net profits go TO students in the art department in the form of fabulous scholarships. Open (fall-spring) Mon-Thur 8:15am - 4pm, Friday 8:15am - 2pm.
TA DA! Two of my favorite coffee joints on campus. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Oh, and try to tip generously because most students tend to skimp...ya know, college is already expensive enough. :-)
You can hardly travel anywhere in the Northwest without seeing a drive-through Espresso stand. This one happens to be in Juanita on Lake Washington's eastside, but you can find them anywhere. I don't drink coffee at all (strange for a Seattleite, I know), but I have become so accustomed to seeing these cute little stands that I just assumed that they were everywhere - NOT SO! To my surprise when we lived in Texas a couple of years ago, not an Espresso stand in sight!
Coffee shops are everywhere in Seattle. There's a reason why the Starbucks chain started here. Maybe its the weather, but you can't walk a block without seeing a coffee place or two. In addition to the big chain, Seattle's Best Coffee, another national chain which started here, is pretty popular and there are dozens of small cofffee shops and espresso stands lining the streets of downtown Seattle as well.
Seattle has a reputation for being wired on coffee - it's well deserved. Recent tests of Seattle sewer discharge water showed an elevated level of caffeine.
Starbuck's is headquarted in the SoDo neighborhood (south downtown) in a giant historic warehouse, and it traces its history to Seattle's civic soul - the Pike Place Public Market. It's no wonder that we Seattelites are coffee snobs.
For me and most of my friends, the idea of opening a can of Folgers is like suggesting that trailer parks are a preferred way of living! It may be true for some, but not most. Yes, most of us grind out beans fresh. The French Press method is preferred in my houshold.
So, if you come to Seattle - you must partake of our coffee culture. There are two ways of enjoying your coffee: on the go, or relaxed. I prefer the later. But, to enjoy that, one must seek certain locations. Look for leather armchairs and sofas.
Starbucks has a strong but bitter brew. I prefer Tully's or SBC. In both cases you can walk in, order, then enjoy a seat in a leather armchair and read the paper (the one in my neighborhood has a fireplace too.) Most Starbucks have wireless internet access (T-Mobile subscription required).
But don't just pursue the name brand coffee shops. Try some of the small non-chainstore establishments. I like Bauhaus Coffee or Cafe Vita - both on Capitol Hill. Also, Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square or Uptown Espresson in Belltown. If you drink in, many places will serve your coffee in a china cup or mug, which, in my opinion, heightens the experience.
In Seattle, home of the $4 buzz, there are premium coffee outlets everywhere from Starbucks to Seattle's Best.
This place, "Zeitgeist Coffee" is my favorite. I think it has the best coffee, ambience, location, staff, mood, etc.
They post and display art from local artists in an intimate & tasteful way.
Located at 171 S. Jackson St. downtown, about 2nd & Jackson, near Pioneer Square. A street or 2 north from Seahawks football stadium and a couple streets west of Salumis, the best sandwiches in the city.
Excellent vibes, staff is very knowledgeable and friendly as opposed to the callow baristas of Starbucks.
Check out their website Zeitgeist Coffee and you'll see right away why it is special & imho superior to most of the other coffee places in Seattle.
The locals love the stuff and so do I.
Although I'm now on decaff which helps with the metabolism.
Th home of Starbucks and Best Coffee Co, so these are the main "dealers". You can normally get your fix any time of day.
"A double tall non-fat latte to go please"
Just in case you are confused as to the reasoning behind all of this...Smokers have cigarettes, Seattle has coffee.
Much as a smoker finds comfort in having a cigarette in hand, a Washintonian finds comfort in having a mocha...or americano...or tall double shot vanilla soy latte in hand.
Your most popular choices will be from Starbuck's (the pioneers of this phenomenon), Tully's & Seattle's Best Coffee (SBC)
While most people associate Starbucks with Seattle's coffee culture, the true coffee culture is found in local shops. We are spoiled by these awesome beverages, prepared by skilled barristas (vs. the automatic espresso machines used in many Starbucks locations these days).
If you're staying downtown, try Cafe Ladro and Top Pot Doughnuts.
In Belltown - Macrina Bakery has great espresso drinks. Uptown Espresso on 4th and Vine is awesome. And Bellino on 2nd uses the creamy-delicious Vivace method of making their drinks : )
These are just a FEW of the many fine local shops.
If you MUST go to Starbucks, go to the one across from Pike Place Market - The Original, which opened in 1971.
Until I moved to Seattle I thought coffee was just something you drank in the morning or perhaps when entertaining you would serve with dessert. However, in Seattle coffee is something you drink all day long in many forms: Tall Non-fat Rasberry Mocha, Grande Skinny Latte, Double Tall Non Fat Caramel Frappaccino. Aahhhh.... to drink coffee is to truly learn a whole new language!
As a true Seattlite, my favorite is Starbucks which happens to be on practically every corner.
Yes, Seattle is the coffee craziest place in the world probably. Until recently, it was monopolized by 3 major companies: Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Tully's. But recently, the almighty hand of Starbucks reached out and grabbed up Seattle's Best as well, so now there's Starbucks posing as Seattle's Best. It was a sad day in Seattle, let me tell you. (Especially since Seattle's Best was my fav -- they're the only ones who give you chocolate sticks with your coffee.)
If you have a spare hour or two in Seattle, try walking around downtown counting how many coffee shops there are, and figure out things like # of coffee shops per 100sq ft, or # of coffee shops per capita, or # of coffee shops/days of the year, or... :-)
Starbucks #1 pick: Grande non-fat mocha chocolate brownie frappaccino with mint, light whip.
Seattle's Best #1 pick: Grande decaf mocha no whip.
Seattle's Best #2 pick: Tall eggnog latte (only in the winter).
Tully's #1 pick: Medium Spin.
For those of you who prefer the less established brands, it's best to get out of downtown Seattle. (Although Nordstrom does have a tasty coffee place at street level).
I recommend going to Capitol Hill, Wallingford, Fremont, or the University District, and just walking around until you find a place that strikes your fancy. It shouldn't take long!