If you are the type of traveller that loves to visit a new place on each trip and try to live like a local, Seattle is a great choice for your next trip. Life in Seattle is definitely distinct, and perhaps in part this is because of the rain, the spectacular evergreen trees, the thriving local music scene or maybe it is just the coffee. The truth is the Emerald City could have just as well been nicknamed the Café City.
Seattle locals love their coffee and they aren’t afraid to show it. Where else would you find an annual competitive event called “Coffee Fest?” Seattle is also birthplace to that now world-dominating coffee brand – Starbucks (yes, at one point in time, Starbucks was just a Seattle gleam in Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker’s eyes!) If you plan to visit Seattle, consider this your guide for “how to drink coffee like a local” and have the real Seattle cafe experience.
3 Coffee Brewing Models — All Seattle Born and Bred
Traditionally, there are two main models for brewing coffee; a third, newer model is now gaining prominence as well. Understanding Seattle’s brewing models can help you get oriented to all the unique flavors and aromas Seattle has to offer. As you are shopping for great hotel deals you can also note which cafes are nearby so you can try a different brewing model each morning at breakfast!
* The single-roaster model. The independent coffee shop buys all of its beans pre-roasted from a single roaster.
* The multi-roaster model. The independent coffee shop buys a selection of pre-roasted beans from premiere roasters.
* The brewpub or distillery model. The chain coffee shop roasts its own beans to brew and sell.
Locally Roasted Beans
These cafes feature locally roasted beans — both sourced from a variety of growers and grown in-house.
* Starbucks. Seattle is the only city in the world where a visit to Starbucks might be considered seeing a local landmark. Have a cup of Pike Place Roast, the chain’s original roasted offering that is named after the nearby Seattle market.
* Lighthouse Roasters. Owner Ed Leebrick is as much winemaker as coffee roaster. His model is a combination of the distillery and the multi-roaster, in that he buys small batches of several beans but roasts them himself on the premises.
* Seattle Coffee Works. Owner Sebastian Simsch is also the “roast master” of Seattle Coffee Works, a staple in Seattle’s competitive local roasters market since the 1950’s. All two dozen varieties of beans are roasted on-premises in “Anna,” Simsch’s red race car.
The Landmark Cafes of Seattle
These landmark cafes are not to be missed – they are as much a part of the “Seattle experience” as the city’s famous evergreen trees (responsible for giving Seattle its nickname as the “Emerald City.”)
* Milstead & Co. Milstead’s owner, Andrew Milstead, is a true coffee gourmand. His café is never deserted. His business model is simple —“Meet people where they are. Be nice to people.” His coffee may be high-brow, but the customer service is pure down-home Seattle friendliness.
* Aster Coffee Lounge. If you want to experience your cuppa roasted and brewed on a Seattle-made Clover coffee machine, the Aster Coffee Lounge is the place to do it.
* Equal Exchange. Like Aster, the Equal Exchange coffee co-op uses a Seattle-made machine, the Slayer, to brew and serve its socially conscious beans.
The Drive-Through Coffee Culture
If you find you have an especially busy schedule of sightseeing one day, this may be the perfect opportunity to experience Seattle’s singular drive-through coffee culture.
* Cowgirls Espresso. If you like your beans roasted and served by bikini-clad cowgirls, then Cowgirls Espresso’s founder and owner, Lori Bowden, read your mind. With theme days like “School Girl Thursday” and more than 15 locations to choose from, you can drive through as many times as you like during your trip.
* Blue Dog Kitchen. Kid-friendly Blue Dog Kitchen is open only from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. In addition to coffees, Blue Dog offers interesting teas and scrumptious pastries for kids and adults alike.
With so many great local cafes to sample, your only challenge while visiting Seattle may be to sample them all!
About the Author: Lara Bellford moved to Seattle when her husband got transferred for work. After he retired, they decided to stay — in part for the sights, in part for the scenery and in part for the fabulous coffee. Photo by bfishadow via Flickr Creative Commons