Maybe it’s the rain-soaked, blustery weather that demands steaming mugs or the population’s continued drive for innovation that requires frequent caffeine boosts, but Seattle loves coffee. Sure, they’ve got Starbucks, which dates to 1971 at Pike Place Market, but coffee culture runs so much deeper than the world’s most famous coffee brand. Companies like Espresso Vivace and Victrola Coffee Roasters helped inspire a dedicated barista cadre that’s scattered across the country. Seattle has enough high-quality options to turn even the steeliest coffee drinker into quivering delirium, but I’ll focus on nine of my favorite stops during visits from April 24 – 26, 2019 and May 24 – 30, 2019.
Establishments appear in alphabetical order, not in order of preference.
I’ve seen Capital One Cafés in L.A. that serve Peet’s coffee, which is fine, but The Lounge by AT&T takes the in-store concept up several notches at the base of a mixed-use Capitol Hill development, where Danielle and David Hulton from Ada’s Technical Books & Cafe opened Ada’s Discovery Cafe in 2018. The couple named their business for mother of computer programming Ada Lovelace. A two-group Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine, two Kyoto style cold brew towers, and Olympia Coffee fuel a tile-fronted bar that highlights a space featuring comfortable booths. Barista champion statues on shelves behind the bar belong to Cole McBride, 2018 U.S. Barista Champion, and he created compelling signature beverages, dubbed Discoveries, such as Cannon Iced Coffee. The drink, named for Mike Cannon, who worked with McBride at bygone Neptune Coffee in Greenwood, combines Kyotobot cold brew with tangy lime juice, simple syrup, and Scrappy’s lime bitters.
MUST ORDER: Cannon Iced Coffee
Now that we live in a digital era, the notion of an analog business might seem counterintuitive, but Tim Hayden and Danny Hanlon have built a community coffee hub on Capitol Hill by embracing timeless values like hospitality and quality. The airy space features bench seating, a speckled green floor, wooden counter, welcoming communal table, and of course a vinyl soundtrack. A cream colored two-group Synesso espresso machine and beans from two local roasters – Stamp Act and Herkimer – power their coffee program. I opted for single-origin Stamp Act espresso from Colombian farmer Leonid Ramirez that delivered honey-sweet acidity. Hibiscus cold brew soda is an effervescent, lower caffeine alternative. Bonus: sister establishment B-Side Foods is around the corner and serves one of Seattle’s best breakfasts.
MUST ORDER: Hibiscus Cold Brew Soda, Single Origin Espresso
Brice Sanders started with a humble coffee cart and now runs one of Belltown’s best looking cafés, which resides below co-working offices, just uphill from Seattle’s waterfront. Cedar & Spokes Coffee Bar is a versatile café that touts a white and wood color scheme and combines classic cocktails, craft beer, and a focused food menu with an ambitious coffee program. The latter incorporates a white two-group La Marzocco cafe, batch brewer, cold brew, their own beans roasted in nearby Redmond, and guest beans from Santa Cruz’s Cat & Cloud. I enjoyed a cappuccino featuring Red Velvet Couch, a house blend of Colombian and Ethiopian beans, which my barista prepared with notable artistry. I returned for cold brew and espresso starring Cat & Cloud’s The Answer espresso blend. Cedar & Spokes staffers also have been known to spin LPs, a nice touch.
MUST ORDER: Cold Brew, Espresso
Brendan Mullally spent seven years working in New York City coffee bars, including as a Joe Pro Shop manager, before returning home to Seattle to open Elm Coffee Roasters in Pioneer Square. The glass-fronted café houses a marble bar and wood tables. A two-group La Marzocco espresso machine and Probat roaster in back power caffeinated proceedings. One of Everything combines espresso with brewed coffee and a macchiato made with house-milked hazelnuts. My satisfying triumvirate showcased Nine Swans espresso starring Colombian beans.
MUST ORDER: One of Everything
5. Fulcrum Café
Fulcrum Café is the culmination of a coffee journey that Lee Falck, Bobby Holt and Brian Jurus embarked upon in 2012. Their caffeinated destination debuted near the Space Needle in December 2018 and features Bryan Alfred’s massive wraparound mural that depicts surrounding topography, titled “Aside the Mountaintops,” along with a marble bar and modern interconnected ring chandeliers. A three-group La Marzocco Strada espresso machine and a two-group Brew Bar fuel drinks, which appear in impressive Pigeon Toe ceramic mugs. Snuggle Me, Sesame was a rich, nutty signature beverage crafted with espresso, toasted black sesame sauce, brown sugar syrup, oat milk, and sesame seeds. V60 featured rarely seen Chinese coffee from Menglian Daya in Yunnan province that delivered on descriptors predicting “honey, berry, black tea” notes.
MUST ORDER: V60, Snuggle Me, Sesame