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Does Seattle have it's own cool coffee place like Intelligensia or Blue Bottle?

Thinking about a trip to Seattle. No offense but I've noticed the only sophisticated coffee places in Seattle were imports like Stumptown from Portland. Your Caffe Vita looks ok. Does Seattle have cool, sophisticated coffee places like Blue Bottle from SF or Intelligensia from Chicago/LA? I'm talking amazing coffee in a cool setting like reclaimed wood, etc. You know the look. Seems like Seattle coffee places are a bit ma and pa. Thanks guys.

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  1. Industrial chic, converted warehouses, beards and flannelette shirts aren't as cool when you notice that every coffee house is doing it, with minor variations on the theme - the hipster uniform has too many forms of conscious and inadvertent irony to dissect - still, they're earnest, charming and turn out good coffee, and that's the most important thing.

    11 Replies
    1. re: mugen

      Again. Very helpful. Seems like Seattle is way behind the times in terms of coffee environment. Coffee should be a crafted culinary experience in a gorgeous space. It's happening in LA, SF and Portland but as far as I can tell, not Seattle.

      1. re: ralston6000

        For myself, I am glad to hear your report that Seattle is not yet a maximo-snob (sorry, a "crafted culinary experience in a gorgeous space") place for coffee.

        We may be just down-home folks, but we do have a lot of folks who know how to brew or pull a damn fine cup. Even out here in my town of Twisp, a town of 800, we have a great local roaster, Blue Star.

        1. re: RandyB

          x2.

          Decor does not a coffee culture make. Our "ma and pa" coffee scene has been leading the way for more than three decades, since the days when all you could get in cities like Chicago and LA were Folger's and Maxwell House.

          1. re: Gizmo56

            +3.

            For the OP....

            Being a coffee loving Angelino & born and raised in Seattle I can honestly say....
            Give me Vivace, or any other innovative coffee place in Seattle, any day of the week 24/7 over Intelligensia in LA or Blue Bottle in SF....
            A hipster, 'cool' vibe decor does not a great pulled shot make.
            I suggest you do some research...'ma and pa' isn't at all what would be considered even remotely accurate in describing Seattle's coffee scene and never has been.

            1. re: latindancer

              Thanks. I'll try Vivace. It certainly looks "colorful". Not exactly what I was looking for but I will certainly try it. One thing I noticed about people responding is that they don't seem to like an urban chic, hip whatever atmosphere. Would you say the same thing to someone wanting "great food in a rustic atmosphere"? Would you say, rustic doesn't make the food, "do your research." Anyway. I appreciate the recommendation, though, really.

              1. re: ralston6000

                I have a degree of loyalty, which can often time come across as defensive, when it comes to my previous hometown and coffee.
                i, honorably, was one of the first to try the icon David Schomer's Vivace coffee in the early '80's when he pulled shots on a kiosk on the side of the street.
                David's roasting method has been taught and learned from some the great roasters all over the world. He eventually relocated to a space on Capital Hill, in Seattle, which turns out some of the best espresso I've ever tasted....nothing, in my opinion, matches it...
                Can't say I've known any of the other posters, but Seattle, in itself, is very urban chic and hip. Frankly, I've never considered Portland, in any way, competitive with Seattle when it comes to food (including some of the finest bakeries), wine, art, coffee, innovative music, of course the geographical setting against the beautiful Puget Sound and a myriad of other subjects on a list too long to mention. Perhaps I'm missing something?

                1. re: latindancer

                  I'm so glad. I am definitely excited to check Seattle out. Thanks.

                2. re: ralston6000

                  Another place to try when you go to Seattle :)...

                  Stumptown....I think you'd like it also.

        2. re: mugen

          +1, Mugen. The whole reclaimed wood warehouse space is so cliche, I don't know how anyone can actually think that's sophisticated. Chains have spaces that look like this!

          I've also been to locations of Intelligensia in Chicago and Stumptown in Portland and they were just coffee shops. Nothing like you describe in terms of decor. Maybe that's just one special flagship location that has the decor you like.

        3. I'm afraid I don't pay much attention to the decoration, but I can say something about the coffee. Seattle has many excellent roasters. My favorite is Herkimer, followed by Seattle Coffee Works. Vivace, Zoka, Umbria, Vita and Ladro also come to mind. Trabant doesn't roast their own (they mostly use Kuma, another local roaster), but they do have Clover machines, which are kind of nice.

          You can find pictures of these places on Yelp, or their respective websites, and see if any of them have the appearance you're looking for.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Scrofula

            Thanks! This is great. I will check them all out!

            1. re: ralston6000

              Sure. Victrola, Lighthouse and Milstead are other places that often come up in these discussions. I don't think Milstead roasts their own, but I hear they do a good pour-over.

              1. re: Scrofula

                Milstead fits the bill EXACTLY so far. You did good. Thanks again.

          2. i vote for the dark horse: kaladi. last i heard, they roast in Juneau and Seattle is their lower-48 post. great barisatas, even over the years.

            1. Seattle definitely has many restaurants that I think match the vibe you are describing (reclaimed wood, perhaps spaces converted from an industrial use?). For example La Spiga and Cafe Presse (which is in the same building as the Stumptown on 12th) are beautiful reclaimed spaces.

              One coffee bar that hasn't been mentioned is Fonte, a cafe and wine bar across the street from SAM. It's good and a nice space.

              Have a great visit!

              3 Replies
              1. re: mtcmtc

                I checked out all three and all three are exactly the vibe I was looking for. Amazing. Thanks alot. Really appreciate that.

                1. re: ralston6000

                  Great. Glad I could help. Actually, then, if you're looking for restaurants that are similar, there are a multitude of restaurants in the Capitol Hill neighborhood with this sort of look/feel. Quinn's, Rione XIII, Oddfellows, and Zoe come to mind. Rione XIII is a particularly nice space I think and I've heard generally good things about the food, but I've only had drinks and apps there.

                  1. re: mtcmtc

                    Funny that you mentioned Rione XIII. I was planning on going to Tavolata, which I think is their sister restaurant. And I love the look of Rione, too. Will check out all the others. This is great. Thanks again!

              2. i drop in vivace every once and a while (and have since they opened) but the attitude of the baristas drives me away in spite of the quality. starbucks has spent a fortune creating a seemingly welcoming but sbliminally repelling space (e.g., ever so slightly uncomfortable seats discourage malingering types) but vivace seems to hire passionate but snotty staff to the same effect.

                1. No offense taken. That being said I would not equate "highly financed" (which is what it takes to attain the level of slick design and build quality you are referring to) with "sophisticated" -- refined, nuanced, highly developed. Still, you like what you like ...

                  A couple links:
                  http://seattlecoffeescene.com/
                  http://seattlecoffeescene.com/2012-se...
                  http://www.seattlemag.com/article/sea...
                  http://www.imbibemagazine.com/Best-Co...
                  I would also check Sprudge.com.

                  I think one of the most interesting things about the Seattle scene is the number of roasters here. Most but not all have their own cafes.

                  Here are most of the roasters in Seattle (it is possible there are more that I don't know about!

                  )

                  1. Ladro http://www.caffeladro.com/
                  The roastery is on lower Queen Anne is but they have a number of locations around town including downtown by the art museum Here is a link to their calendar of various tasting events: http://www.caffeladro.com/calendar.html

                  2. Fonte, http://www.fontecoffee.com
                  The roastery is in Georgetown. They have a cafe on 1st Ave downtown below the Four Seasons. As mentioned in other posts this has a higher level of design than average.

                  4. Victrola http://www.victrolacoffee.com
                  Their roastery and primary cafe (of three) is located on Capitol Hill. They do free cuppings on Wednesday mornings at 11am.

                  5. Vivace http://www.espressovivace.com/
                  The roastery is up on Capitol Hill (on 11th) and they have retail locations on Capitol Hill and South Lake Union (across from REI)

                  6. Vita, http://caffevita.com
                  The main location where the roastery is located is on Capitol Hill. They have a number of locations including one in Pioneer Square downtown. I noted that they have a Public Brewing School with cuppings at the Capitol Hill location. Contact trainingdept@caffevita.com for more information.

                  7. Umbria http://www.caffeumbria.com/v2/indexb....
                  The roastery is in South Seattle. They have a cafe in Pioneer Square.

                  8. Seven http://7roasters.wordpress.com/
                  They are cased in Ballard. They have no cafe but you could try their coffee at Cafe Besalu

                  9. Lighthouse http://www.lighthouseroasters.com
                  Roaster/Cafe is between Ballard, Fremont and Phinney Ridge

                  10. Herkimer http://herkimercoffee.com/
                  Roaster/Cafe is on Phinney Ridge

                  11. Zoka http://www.zokacoffee.com/
                  The Roastery is just south of the ship canal near the Ballard Bridge (interbay). They also have several cafes. The closest to dowtown is in the South Lake Union neighborhood.

                  12. Slate http://slatecoffee.com/
                  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Slate-...
                  Even though they are technically not open yet , One of their baristas just won the NW Brewer's Cup. They were hosted at the La Marzocca Brewer's Showcase (La Marzocca USA is based in Ballard). The roastery will be in the Central District and they have acquired a space for a cafe in Ballard.

                  13. Seattle Coffee Works. http://www.seattlecoffeeworks.com
                  They micro-roast basically right across from Pike Place Market and have a next door cafe.

                  14. Kuma http://www.kumacoffee.com/
                  The company is based in Seattle but the roastery is in Bellevue, across Lake Washington. It can be found at Tougo Coffee (Capitol Hill) and Trabant Coffee (Pioneer Square

                  )

                  15. Stumptown, http://stumptowncoffee.com/
                  A Portland based company they roast in Seattle for the Seattle market. The roastery and cafes are on Capitol Hill.

                  16. Fremont Coffee Company http://fremontcoffee.net/ To the best of my knowledge one location
                  in the Fremont neighborhood.

                  Also:
                  Tony's http://www.tonyscoffee.com/
                  The coffee is actually roasted in Bellingham but their cupping lab/cafe is between Ballard and Phinney Ridge. Tony's does cuppings on Saturdays at noon https://www.facebook.com/tonyscoffeebar

                  A couple of the more serious coffee shops in town.
                  MiIstead: http://www.milsteadandco.com/
                  Tougo Coffee Co.: http://tougocoffee.com/
                  Trabant Coffee Co. http://www.trabantcoffee.com/

                  A couple others that have higher level of design:
                  Zeitgeist Coffee (Pioneer Square): http://zeitgeistcoffee.com/

                  Cafe Fiore (Ballard): http://www.caffefiore.com/ The location on Leary just off historic Ballard Avenue in a early 20th C. brick building has a exposed brick walls, wood floors and a kind of contemporary twist on arts and crafts design.

                  Porchlight Coffee (which is also a record label
                  )http://porchlightcoffee.com/
                  https://plus.google.com/1138120968091...

                  -K

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: klsalas

                    7 has a cafe which may or may not be called Makeda (the whole name thing is unclear) at 77th and Greenwood.

                    1. re: dagoose

                      Hey Thanks. I didn't realize that. I am going to check them out.

                    2. re: klsalas

                      Yeah, too bad Seattle doesn't have any cool coffee places like Intelligensia or Blue Bottle. Just a coffee wasteland, I guess...

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        ;-) I came from DC about 12 years ago ... talk about a coffee wasteland (then ... I have heard things are changing).

                        1. re: klsalas

                          Hi klsalas,

                          I moved away from Baltimore last summer, and after living there for 5 years and scouting out the espresso houses within driving distance, the only two I would recommend in DC are Murky Coffee and Peregrine. I felt they are about equal in terms of espresso quality, but Murky is more relaxed and laid back in decor, while Peregrine is a bit more refined in decor. I think they both use beans from Counter Culture in North Carolina, a high quality roaster.

                          alarash

                        2. re: kaleokahu

                          I have to admit that I am starting to find irritating the refrain I have seen in several articles about how Seattle is behind the times in its coffee culture.

                          I have read on a few occasions now that places like Portland and New York have this progressive coffee culture and that Seattle is stuck in the second wave with people who drink big specialized coffee drinks with flavored syrups. Apart from these conclusory remarks I never see examples demonstrating how exactly Portland, New York, LA or other cities are are leading the way or that somehow Seattle is not keeping up with the times.

                          Seattle has a pretty substantial third wave and that arrived in full force years ago. Seattle companies have been hugely influential in helping to improve the standards for coffee growing and processing, building relationships between growers, traders and roasters, micro-roasting, coffee technology, providing varied coffee experiences and coffee appreciation.

                          I also find it notable that figures influential in the third wave got their start in Seattle or have worked in Seattle. Trish Rothgeb (Wrecking Ball Roasters) was widely credited with coining the term "third wave" of coffee in 2002 or 2003 (she was Trish Skeie at the time). She later worked as a roaster and green coffee buyer for Zoka in Seattle. A 2009 article mentioned that she worked at Zoka until about two years before. As I mentioned in an earlier post Duane Sorenson was from outside of Tacoma and worked as a roaster in Seattle for Lighthouse before starting Stumptown. I was also reading that Eileen Hassi one of the founders of Ritual Coffee Roasters worked in Torrefazione Italia in Seattle. The impetus for her starting Ritual was when Seattle bought out T.I.

                          On the Direct Trade front, more than five years ago, in 2007, the LA Times reported that Mike McConnell, Vita's founder, would travel to forge relationships with farmers, educate them about the coffee profile he seeks, and establish direct trade. In its Spring 2007 newsletter Cafe Umbria reported on similar trips and that it was using certified fair trade coffee. Zoka has established a sustainable family direct trade model but even in 2007 when they were a Roast Magazine roaster of the year, they were cited as a company that had "a number of certified organic coffees (7 right now)" and also "strives for full traceability." The article added that Zoka "buyers do make a conscious effort to visit farms and verify firsthand that the producers: 1) maintain a diverse and multi-level shade canopy (when appropriate) on their farms; 2) use natural, worm-generated compost made from cherry pulp at a micro-mill; 3) when necessary, use only parabolic dryers fueled by renewable sources rather than timber from surrounding forests; and 4) safely neutralize all the wastewater from wet mills.” In 2010 Kuma Coffee became the first roaster in Seattle to issue a transparency statement about what they were paying per pound for all coffee in their inventory. This closely followed Counter Culture's release of a transparency statement the same summer.

                          Here is a good overview of some of the coffee personalities and innovators in Seattle. http://www.seattlemag.com/article/sea...

                          In terms of multi-roaster cafes, top baristas and the availability of multiple brewing techniques I was reading an article on Food Republic about LA mutli-roaster cafes. There were about 10 listed. Of course LA is like 470 square miles (land area) with 3.8 million people as of July 2011. Seattle's land area is 84 sq. miles and population is just over 0.6 million people as of July 2011. Proportionately we probably have as many if not more than LA.

                          People talk a lot about Milstead as being the mutli-roaster cafe that is leading Seattle in terms of sophistication of the coffee drinking experience but people seem to glaze right over Sebastian Simsch who opened Seattle Coffee Works as a multi-roaster cafe with multiple brewing methods more than 5 years ago. He owns sibling Ballard Coffee Works as well. Tougo and Trabant are both multi-roaster cafes with a similar focus. Oh yeah ... I forgot that Broadcast carries Stumptown and Sightglass with additional rotating roasters and they have french press, clever & cold brew. Canlis has also gotten some press about their revamped multi-roaster coffee service. The guys at Slate were talking about it and it was mentioned in the Eater Seattle heat map. Right now they are featuring Intelligentsia and Bows and Arrows espresso and Intelligentsia, B&A and Ritual brewed via chemex.
                          http://canlis.com/drink/coffee/
                          http://seattle.eater.com/archives/201...

                          As an aside Multi-roaster cafes are markers of an appreciative coffee scene but I think an argument can be made that they are more likely to spring up in places where there is no a lot in the way of local roasters to choose from. Seattle customers can find a range of national and candian roasters around town (I heard that Handsome is also coming to town) but there is already an embarrassment of riches with more than a dozen indie roasters to choose from (and that is not including Tony's (Bellingham), Batdorf and Bronson (Olympia), Useless Bay (Langley), Mukilteo, Honeymoon Bay (Oak Harbor), Velton's and Common Grounds (Everett), Valhalla, Metronome or Blue Bird (Tacoma) etc.

                          Nationally renowned Fonte features their own roast but they have been doing flights and different brewing techniques at their 1st Avenue cafe for three and a half years.

                          Upstart Slate is also exciting coffee fans here. Their baristas are some of the best in the NW with two winning recent awards and they offer only three menu options presently: Espresso Neat, Espresso with Milk, and Hand Brewed Coffee. Their coffee is direct trade and micro-roasted in their own facility. Here is their manifesto or mission and guiding principles. http://slatecoffee.com/about/

                          FInally I would point out that cuppings for customers, once mostly conducted by coffee buyers, were already commonplace enough here by June 2007 to warrant an article in Seattle Magazine. http://sandbox.seattlemag.com/article...

                          1. re: klsalas

                            Hi klsalas,

                            "I am starting to find irritating the refrain I have seen in several articles about how Seattle is behind the times in its coffee culture."

                            Seattle is the espresso Mecca of the world.

                            Not because we're smarter, or inherently better, but because we are infatuated by espresso.

                            The mean of Seattlites' interest in espresso is significantly higher than the mean interest in espresso of people in other cities.

                            Because the mean of our population distribution is "right-shifted", we have a larger percentage (and larger absolute number) of people who are 110% dedicated to coffee as their career in such a way that they push the leading edge of its technology. In other words, we have produced more coffee geniuses.

                            Why is there a higher than average interest in coffee in Seattle? High number of gray days per year making caffeine use common (and hence a large economic consumer market)? Prominent history of coffee/espresso in our city?

                            The others are making great contributions, too, but you can't blame them for being a bit jealous.

                            alarash

                          1. re: klsalas

                            Kuma is still my favorite local roaster. Others agree; they have won all manner of high scores on review sites.

                            Kuma is also available at Empire in Columbia City, which also provides reclaimed wood benches and exposed brick to make the coffee taste even better. Sorry, no haughty hipster attitude. But there is a gent that works weekends and wears a bowtie, if that helps the OP.

                          2. I think Cafe Nervosa is quite popular with medical professionals and media personalities.

                            1. Milstead is closest to Blue Bottle minus some pretension. Not meant to offend anyone, just that at BB they're very specific about what they'll serve and how.

                              1. All of the "3rd wave" coffee shops you mention above exist because of the importation and systematic optimization of advanced espresso techniques from northern Italy by Seattle's David Schomer of Espresso Vivace after two research trips he made in 1989. I am not saying that no one else has made a meaningful contribution. But, I am saying that he literally spearheaded the effort, and even his critics cannot deny that he pioneered the search for espresso that tastes like fresh coffee beans smell, and he applied his training in engineering to advance each step of the espresso roasting and extracting process.

                                I think that history will treat him as the father of modern espresso.

                                Espresso Vivace is my favorite espresso shop that I've ever been to anywhere. I would recommend getting a short latte. It was the first drink I ever tried there, and I'll never forget how it opened my eyes to what espresso is capable of being.

                                The following are all outstanding coffee shops, roughly equivalent to Stumptown and Intelligentsia, in my opinion. I have yet to try Blue Bottle, but the next time I drive over the Bay Bridge into the City, I'll be sure to stop in.

                                Victrola
                                Lighthouse
                                Vita
                                Zoka
                                Umbria
                                Herkimer

                                I have not been to Milstead, Trabant, Kuma, or Slate, as I no longer live in Seattle, and have not kept up with the newer roasters.

                                I'm not offended.

                                However, I'm puzzled that you've "noticed the only sophisticated coffee places in Seattle were imports like Stumptown from Portland."

                                And even more puzzled that you ask, "Does Seattle have cool, sophisticated coffee places...?"

                                I wonder if your next inquiry might be if we have a music scene, or if Seattle has produced any musicians?

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: alarash

                                    I could be wrong, but it seemed to me that the OP was equating "cool" with a certain specific sort of appearance, more so than quality (though that was also required) of coffee.

                                  2. A few other items of interest when it comes to coffee in Seattle

                                    -the first commercial coffee carts originated in the Pacific NW. Monorail Espresso's walk up shop originally started as the first street espresso cart in Seattle. I read that a guy in LA did private parties with an espresso cart as early as 1978 but could not get licensed for street operation for some time). A coffee cart debuted at the Edmonds Art Festival in 1979 but shortly thereafter they sold the cart to a guy who called it Ambrosia coffee. He in turn sold it to Ed Beek who called it Monorail Espresso.
                                    http://seattletimes.com/ABPub/zoom/ht...

                                    -The Clover system was designed by a Ballard firm
                                    http://seattletimes.com/html/business...

                                    -Synesso machines, from La Marzocco alums, are designed and built in Seattle.

                                    -Slayer machines are also designed and built in Seattle.

                                    -La Marzocco USA is based in Seattle (in the Ballard neighborhood).

                                    -Duane Sorenson is from Washington and worked at Lighthouse in Seattle before starting Stumptown.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: klsalas

                                      I arrived in Seattle in the early 70s, having gone to high school and college in NYC. We went to Greenwich Village for coffeehouses doing espresso and Italian pastries. I think a couple expensive restaurants in Seattle offered espresso, but no coffeehouses I knew of.

                                      The first I remember of a regular place to get it was when some guy from out of state showed up at the Last Exit on Brooklyn with his own, commercial espresso machine. The Exit was a hangout for students and serious chess before. The coffee wasn't that good and the food mediocre, but at least we had a coffeehouse.

                                      A few other places opened soon after. The breakthrough was the B&O Espresso on Capital Hill in 1976. The desserts were fabulous. This was the place that made it for me. Sadly, they closed last year. Their website said they'll be reopening (small) in Ballard this year, and back on Capital Hill next year.

                                      I remember Monorail Espresso. I think it was after the B&O, but my time memory is hazy.

                                      1. I love Umbria and Zoka, but I discovered a local (Eastside) roaster with delectable coffees - Mt. Si.
                                        http://mtsicoffeeroasters.com/

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Cheesehugger

                                          Hi Cheesehugger,

                                          I lived in the city of Sammamish for about 8 years, and am excited to hear there is a coffee company in the area which you recommend. I will surely try it next time I am visiting the Seattle area, perhaps at the local farmer's market, as it seems they don't have a cafe at this point. Is anyone else using their beans, so I might try an doppio ristretto?

                                          Also, I wanted to thank the OP who recommended blue bottle in SF. I made a visit to their Mission neighborhood cafe (adjacent to a lovely ceramic company). They had a very sexy Strada espresso machine made by La Marzocco with pressure profiling (they use pre-set pressure profiles for their own espresso roast). While I realize milk conceals imperfections in espresso, I tend to prefer the velvety texture of micro-foamed milk, so I usually choose a short latte when I'm visiting a cafe for the first time.

                                          I agree with the OP that blue bottle is serving up quite delicious espresso, comparable with the others I listed in my prior post. I'll make it a point to be back the next time I'm in San Francisco.

                                          alarash

                                          1. re: alarash

                                            Thanks, Alarash. Mt. Si's FB page mentions that they'll be at the Issaquah farmers' market this year. I think that opens sometime in April.

                                            I have been trying to find out if any cafes use their coffee.

                                          1. re: klsalas

                                            worth the read.

                                            i'll try it next time i'm back home.

                                            1. re: alarash

                                              I happened to try it a few days ago. Had a Clever-drip, and found it decent, but not mindblowing (seems to be a pattern with the Clever dripper). The place seemed worth trying again.

                                              1. re: Scrofula

                                                I went down over the weekend with the wife and we had Bows and Arrows (Victoria) Leonino Campo and Agustino Forest brewed via Aeropress. I enjoyed it. They weigh the coffee, the water ... Knowledgeable staff. It was reasonably full but fairly quiet. A lot of people using laptops. They are at the bottom of Troll Avenue under the Aurora Bridge on 34th right next to History House.

                                                1. re: klsalas

                                                  Yeah, I've since tried the Aeropress there as well, and liked it a lot more than the Clever.

                                          2. One more new local roaster I just came across.
                                            http://www.conduitcoffee.com/

                                            Looks like you can find it at the Motore downtown (9th and Stewart).

                                            -K