Most people associate Seattle with two things: rain and coffee. These associations are not without merit: The Northwest city is, after all, the birthplace of international coffee megachain Starbucks, which launched in 1971 and now has more than 20,000 stores worldwide.In fact, Seattleites drink so much coffee that monitoring stations in Puget Sound identified low levels of caffeine in several water samples. Perhaps all those cloudy days are to blame; Seattleites seem to crave those vital doses of liquid sunshine to help stave off the blues.
The best coffee in Seattle is found in the city’s eclectic neighborhoods, where independent shops meticulously craft cup after cup of outstanding java. Whether you’re downing a shot of espresso pulled by a mustachioed barista in Capitol Hill or rubbing elbows with bicycle commuters in Fremont, an obsession for perfection is the constant. Some shops roast their own beans and do so with a thorough commitment to their craft, traveling the coffee-growing world to source only the best beans available. Others collect coffee from a variety of roasters — many of them local, too — showcasing single-origin beans that highlight regional differences similar to the terroir associated with wine. Yes, coffee is taken just that seriously in Seattle.
The one exception to this rule is the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, a sleek, ultramodern space sprawling across 15,000 square feet of coffee nerd paradise. Starbucks is clearly upping its game with this alternative to its cookie-cutter cafés.
Seattle’s other great coffee shops range from reliable standards like Espresso Vivace, Caffe Vita, and Victrola to newcomers like Milstead and Vif. Together, they’re helping Seattle maintain its reputation as one of the best cities in the world for coffee. What follows are the city’s 10 most cutting-edge coffee shops, the ones that consistently produce outstanding cups of coffee, staff knowledgeable baristas, offer a range of brewing styles, and source from among the world’s best coffee beans.
#1 Espresso Vivace
Espresso Vivace has been a Seattle staple for nearly 30 years. With two locations in Seattle, the espresso here is roasted to deep, caramel-y perfection. Opt for the Caffe Nico, a gorgeous shot of espresso with steamed half and half and a bright spritz of orange.
Melissa Shaw Photography
Neighborhood favorite Victrola, in Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill, always seems packed. They’ll reliably have several single-origin coffees on hand, about which the baristas speak knowledgeably. And they offer “cupping” classes so the uninitiated can learn more about terroir and roasting.