Seattle is known for its unreal coffee scene. A quick Google search brings it up on multiple lists as one of the top coffee cities in the world. It’s also common knowledge that Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, and while I’m not ashamed to admit that I do enjoy the occasional Starbucks beverage, Seattle has so SO much more to offer in the coffee department. If you only drink Starbucks while you’re here, I promise you that you are missing out on some of the best coffee and espresso that will ever grace your tastebuds. There are so many incredible options that I’ve decided that the only way for me to do this any justice is to make it a series. I’ve already got a list of about 15 coffeeshops I want to talk about, but I feel like 5 seems like a good place to start. I drink a lot of coffee and have a lot of time on my hands, ok? Let me just preface this by saying that although I almost always order a black americano, and therefore cannot necessarily comment on the specialty drinks at each location, it does mean that I can tell you about the quality of the beans, and isn’t that really the most important thing? I mean, anything tastes good if you add enough cream to it, but the beans? Those have to speak for themselves (Ok well I’ll speak for them, but you know what I mean). Plus I watched one Epicurious video about coffee beans and now I’m pretty much an expert. Now obviously you want the place to have great coffee, but I’m also always on the hunt for one with a great vibe. I like a place that I can spend a few hours in with my laptop or a book. For me, these places fill both of those requirements.
Victrola Coffee Roasters - 310 E Pike St
Victrola is literally, and I do mean literally, just a few steps up the street from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. The SRR is basically a Disneyland for coffee lovers and definitely worth a visit, but when it comes to actually purchasing a coffee, you should save your $ and go to Victrola. You still get the benefit of coffee that was roasted on site, save a couple of bucks and still enjoy a deliciously smooth roast. It cost me over $5 for my americano at SRR, but only $3 at Victrola, which means more money for snacks. And who doesn’t want snacks? They have a few locations, however this one is their showcase cafe. It’s a bright, open space with exposed brick walls and ample seating. Victrola buys small quantities of fresh beans from coffee farmers in Africa, South America, and Asia and then roasts them in-house. Large windows line one wall, letting you see into the roasting room, and if you’re lucky, you might just catch them roasting a fresh batch. They’ve got all of your typical coffee orders, plus french press and pour-over options, which are nice when you want to hang out and get some work done. Weather is hot? Opt for one of their iced-coffees which are equally as good. Hungry? They have a really good selection of super delicious, locally-made sandwiches from Bread & Bone. What’s not to love?
Kaladi Brothers Coffee - 517 E Pike St
I actually discovered Kaladi Brothers one day when the seating was full at Victrola and I was heading back up the other side of Pike Street in search of another coffee shop. Kaladi Brothers was such a pleasant surprise. This Alaskan-based coffee shop has 16 locations, 15 of which are in Alaska. So how did one make it down here to Seattle? The owners of KBC originally got the idea to open the first espresso cart in Anchorage, Alaska after having visited the Monorail Espresso cart in Seattle in the ‘80s. The business took off, becoming a coffee staple in Alaska, and in 2006, Kaladi Brothers Coffee returned to the place of its inception. You wouldn’t know it from the street, but it’s HUGE. If you want a fairly good guarantee of seating, head here. It’s also one of the more affordable coffee shops I’ve come across, which of course is a bonus. They have a good selection of light foods to munch on, and also beer, because sometimes coffee just doesn’t do the trick. The coffee is decent, but honestly it’s the atmosphere that I like the best. It’s also dog-friendly and any day that I can pet a dog while I drink my coffee is a good one.
Wondering about the red goat on their logo? Here’s a fun coffee fact for you - the goat, as well as the name Kaladi, come from the story of the origins of coffee. Basically, Kaladi (a goat-herder) saw his goats having a grand old time jumping around after having chewed on some berries. Naturally, his response was to eat the berries as well (questionable choice, but ok), and immediately he felt energized. He was so excited that he decided to share his findings with a nearby monastery. The monk was all, “oh, hell no” (probably not those words exactly, but maybe) and threw them in the fire. Joke was on him, because the smell of the beans roasting was delicious. I’m not exactly sure whose idea it was to pick up the fire-beans, dissolve them in water, and drink it (probably the crazy goat-herder, since he seems to be down with anything), but THANK YOU. Because now we have coffee. (source: Wikipedia, kind of)
Capitol Coffee Works - 907 E Pike St
This has basically turned into a Coffee Crawl (which should be a thing), because if you keep heading up Pike from Kaladi Brothers, you’ll find this coffee shop. There are a few “Coffee Works” locations around Seattle, and each one is named after the neighborhood in which it’s located (except for the downtown location, named Seattle Coffee Works). The interior also varies by location. This one is definitely smaller than the other two aforementioned coffee shops, but it’s such a cute space. It’s all bright and white, with wooden and leather details. There’s even a swing chair and a little area upstairs with tables that look over the space below. My favorite thing might be the printing above the bar that reads “Coffee is a fruit” because it makes me feel better about some of my life choices. They too, roast their own coffee and they source the beans directly from “environmentally and socially conscious coffee growers,” according to their website. On their site, you can also see the faces and locations of the farmers and farms they source from, which is pretty neat. They make a great americano and a BOMB oat milk latte. By now, oat milk is pretty well-known as a milk substitute (so much so that the best oat milk [Oatly, duh], is constantly in short supply), but when I first stopped in last summer, it wasn’t so common. I was intrigued and ordered an oat milk latte and it was AMAZING. Hands down one of the best lattes I’ve ever had. I later faced disappointment when I would come in and they would be out of oat milk (how many times can I say that word until it starts to annoy you? Probably about 3 oat milks ago), but if they have it in stock, GET IT. Chris was a little unsure at first, but all it took was one sip to get him on board. Once you’ve got your oat milk latte, find a seat upstairs (if you can), and let the people watching begin.
Little Oddfellows - 1521 10th Ave
Just off Pike on 10th Ave, Little Oddfellows (the little sister of Oddfellows Cafe + Bar) is nestled in the back of Elliott Bay Bookstore. Oddfellows Cafe + Bar is one of my favorite places in Seattle and is likely going to be at the top of a brunch post in the future, but I sometimes feel a little guilty going there and only having a cup of everlasting coffee (which is ultimately why I always end up with at least a biscuit and jam if I’m working in there). Little Oddfellows is a perfect alternative when I don’t want to feel like I’m camping in a server’s section for hours on end. They offer all of the same coffee choices as Oddfellows, as well as juices, pastries (seriously, get the biscuit and jam), and small plates. Oh, and also wine. When you’re working there for hours, sometimes you need to start with a coffee and end with a wine, right? Or is that just me? The coffee is from a great little local roaster just down the street, Caffe Vita (they’ll be featured in part 2, so just hang tight). There isn’t a ton of seating, so you’ve got to be quick to snag a table. If there isn’t much seating left, I’ll sometimes wander around the bookstore for a little while, and as soon as a table opens up, I’ll jump on it. Now, you don’t get the same gorgeous natural light that you do in Oddfellows, but you do get the wonderfully cozy vibe that comes from being surrounded by books. There is something seriously comforting about being enclosed by books while you sip your coffee on a rainy day (so basically all winter here). Books and coffee, people - it’s a pairing that’s right up there with doughnuts and coffee. Bring me all three and we’ll be best friends forever.
Espresso Vivace - 532 Broadway E
This might just be THE best espresso in Seattle. Bold statement, I know, but I stand by it. Apparently Chef Emeril has described it as the best espresso IN ALL OF THE US so BAM, I’m obviously right (also, what happened to Emeril??). Oh, and did I mention that the owner, David Schomer, is credited with developing latte art in the US? ‘Grammers of the world, rejoice. You have him to thank for your perfectly instagrammable latte. AND he’s fighting back against his own global warming footprint (C02 is produced during the roasting process) by planting thousands of trees in Seattle. David, you da best. But back to the espresso. It's a smooth roast, without any bitterness or acidic aftertaste. In fact, it’s slightly sweet and is always topped with the perfect layer of crema. I don’t know how they do it, but it definitely stands apart from the other local espressos I’ve had. Like I said, I usually drink my coffees/americanos black, and I think it’s almost criminal to add anything to this one. I’m sure any of their lattes would be unreal as well, on account of the beans, but you seriously don’t need it. Even if you never drink your coffee black, now is the time to give it a try. They have two major locations (the flagship is in Capitol Hill and they just recently opened one in SLU), as well as a walk-up bar in Capitol Hill, for those who want a coffee on the go. The interior of the flagship store is decent, though not as nice as the aforementioned shops, but the coffee is so good that I don’t care. What I do appreciate about the flagship cafe, is its designated quiet room. Sometimes coffee shops can be pretty noisy, and even though I usually welcome the white noise, sometimes you need a bit of peace to get your work done. Want to visit with friends? Don’t worry, they’ve got plenty of space for that, too. Now go and get yourself some of this sweet, sweet nectar.
Alright, well this concludes the first segment in the “Seattle’s Best Coffee Shops” series. Now, I know what you’re thinking - “But Jenny, you’ve already told us what your favorite espresso is, so what’s the point?” and you know, maybe I could have kept that one in my back pocket a little longer… BUT THE PEOPLE DESERVE TO KNOW. And besides, there are still plenty of great coffee shops in Seattle deserving of your attention. You’ll see. In the next coffee posts, I’ll even *gasp* leave my Capitol Hill neighborhood. I know, crazy right? It’s just come to my attention that there was a lack of puns this time around, so I hope this was a stimulating blog post and that I’ve made a strong case for these coffee shops, even if these puns are weak. Yeah, yeah - I’ll do better next time, I promise.
Last but not least, not in Seattle or prefer to have your coffee at home? Several of these coffee shops have brew guides on their websites for your home-brewing pleasure.
Espresso Vivace Latte Art Tutorial (I bet I could make a rather convincing blob)
Behold the Oat Milk Latte @ Capitol Coffee Works, because I know that black americanos do not make the most interesting coffee pictures