Good coffee is not hard to come by in Seattle, but what if you’re in the mood for that one special drink, where should you go? Or, maybe you want the perfect ambiance to read a book, have a conversation, people watch… What’s the right spot? Four years of sampling the best and the worst of Seattle coffee has lead to the creation of this list.
1. Americano: The best americano in town is at Chaco Canyon. Their brand spanking new La Marzocco espresso machine, local and organic coffee from Lighthouse Roasters, and careful baristas make the americano everything it was meant to be. I love combining this nutty roast with a splash of soy and a tiny bit of sugar.
2. Italiano: Ordering this under-appreciated drink can result in raised eyebrows or confused looks, but not at the Green Lake Zoka. The baristas are quirky, knowledgable, and refreshingly unsnooty. The balance of their espresso roast (high acidity, earthy finish) lends itself to an italiano rather than a straight shot of espresso. They pull a double shot unless you request otherwise. I’d recommend the smaller demitasse cup with no addatives.
3. Espresso: Bar none, the best shots in town are at the Capitol Hill Stumptown. I can’t say enough about the quality of espresso there. Beautiful crema, rich flavors (balance of carmel undertones with high earth notes and a low acid finish). Plus the baristas make sure to pull the perfect shot. They roast their beans in the basement and have tastings every afternoon. This is a can’t miss for espresso lovers. Honorable mentions: Walnut Street Coffee, Cafe Umbria.
4. Soy Latte: Many changing variables make this a difficult call, but it’s got to go to Zeitgeist in spite of the snooty downtowners behind the counter. Thankfully their skill is equal to their snootyness so they steam the soy to perfection, give you a beautiful pour, and pull phenomenal shots. In addition, there are plenty of seats, so its easy to lock down a table for an hour to write the next great American novel.
5. Generic Corporate Slop: If for some reason you simply have to sell your soul to the man who sold the Sonics, there are two Starbucks that are a cut above the rest. Last I checked (for reasearch purposes only) the Madison Park Starbucks still pulled shots by hand. Rumor has it that when Schultz deigns to imbibe his own sludge he buys it at this store. This keeps the baristas on their toes, at least in theory. Second is the Starbucks in Wallingford.
6. Cappucino: I’ll have more to say about this space below, but Cafe Umbria is the place to go for an Italian coffee experience. The single most perfect cappucino that I have ever seen/imbibed was created here. The pour was minimalist, just one arc of espresso broke the smooth white head on the drink. There was no scraping or scooping foam onto the top to make it dry. Just the perfect steam, shot, and pour.
7. Best Overall Space (Quirky): So many variables go into this that I had to split the category in two. Whether you like crepes, wine, cheese, import beer, quality local art, friendly baristas (as talented as they are friendly), interesting clientele, Joe Bar is your place. They also make the best mocha in town. All this combines to make Joe Bar the best place in Seattle to drink a great cup of coffee, whatever your beverage. And please, please, try a double shot of espresso over brown sugar.
8. Best Overall Space (Upscale): Again, many variables. But Cafe Umbria takes the cake (and eats it too). As I said above, this is perfect Italian experience. Their gelato is brought in from Gelatiamo–the best gelato in town, their espresso is top notch. Combine this with the brick promenade, sparkling water, trees out front, and you’ve got the best place to be on a sunny Seattle afternoon.
9. Best Slutty Drink: If you’re in the mood for something that will shorten your life but increase your happiness, swing in to Tutta Bella and order the shakerato. It’s a double pull (roughly four shots) from their hand pull espresso machine that is lightly sweetened, skaken, and delicious.
Hope you enjoy the list. What are your favorite places/drinks?