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.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
La Marzocco espresso machines have been “Handmade in Florence” since 1927 and their cafe within the KEXP radio station building has been a cool brand extension of the company’s Ballard headquarters since 2016, re-programming the roasters and menu every five weeks. The stained glass framed coffee bar sits adjacent to communal seating (tables and lounge chairs) and a performance stage. Yes, that’s a disco ball and Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream vending machine. This cafe always showcases the hottest La Marzocco gear. During my visits, that meant the KB90, a boxy red and stainless steel espresso machine that’s ergonomically optimized for baristas. In April, La Marzocco programmed the bar with Pacific Northwest roasters. I drank a Tuscan Sunrise signature beverage based on Italian breakfast featuring Coava espresso, steamed milk, and syrup made using orange juice, black tea, cardamom, and cinnamon. I also drank light brewed coffee from Dorothea, who roasted beans from Nepal. I returned in May to find La Marzocco showcasing Metric Coffee from Chicago. According to my barista, who was also demo-ing espresso machines, Metric Coffee has a patio at their coffee bar. In warmer weather, that patio really drives a lot of business, so they honored that features with a signature drink called Patio Season that started out chocolaty and eventually drank more tart, combining cold brew, hibiscus, rosella tisane, lime, and sparking water.
MUST ORDER: Brewed Coffee, Patio Season, Tuscan Sunrise
Shirley Henderson had Squirrel as a nickname growing up and handles the coffee side, and partner Sharon Blyth-Moss chops hair at Squirrel Chops, a modern coffee bar and barber shop at the base of a mixed-use development called The Central that debuted in October 2017. A black two-group Slayer espresso machine and Slate Coffee Roasters beans power the bar, which displays an impressive axe above the menu. I arrived just before closing time and scored a memorable Coffee Fizz with espresso, Pellegrino sparkling water and two syrups – cardamom and vanilla – served over ice.
MUST ORDER: Coffee Fizz
Storyville is a specialty coffee bar located on Pike Place Market’s top floor, next to Matt’s in the Market. The semi-hidden oasis with market views features a round bar with racing stripes, comfortable brown couches and lounge chairs, fireplace that’s great in cooler weather, and photos of Seattle and the coffee roasting process. The logo depicts a boy running with a toy airplane, a nice callout to our collective childhood wonder. Two silver three group Synesso espresso machines and Storyville-roasted beans combine on a thoughtful coffee program. Food is also strong. I enjoyed their breakfast sandwich made with eggs, hickory-smoked bacon, and tangy pesto goat cheese on a pretzel roll studded with sea salt flakes. Their sea salt caramel roll is also required eating, teaming beautiful caramel melded inextricably with buttery puff pastry.
MUST ORDER: Breakfast Sandwich, Sea Salt Caramel Roll, Cappuccino
9. Tougo Coffee
Brian Wells was the “Creator of the Poly/Multi Roaster platform” in 2007, and he now has three coffee bars, most recently launching across from Yesler Terrace Park in March 2019. His coffee program features beans from roasters like Onyx, Heart, and Kuma, a Modbar for espresso and pourover, and single-group La Marzocco espresso machine. I enjoyed a soulful mug of Colombia El Hato pourover that girded me for the pouring rain. An outdoor patio with sculptures that include a welcoming woman lead to a glass-fronted space complete with communal table, counter seats, and wall-mounted murals preaching values like community.
MUST ORDER: Colombia El Hato