02 March 2020

Thirteen Speciality Coffee Shops To Visit in Seattle

A conference for work last month meant I was able to make a long-awaited visit to Seattle and its long-established and varied coffee scene. I was working for most of the six days I spent there, but luckily, I was based very centrally with lots of good coffee options nearby. A few early-morning jogs and two days off at the end of my trip meant I was able to visit a baker's dozen of speciality coffee shops during my stay. I've left plenty more for my next visit, but read on for my thoughts on the places I sampled (my very favourites marked in purple in the map below).

Anchorhead Coffee (Downtown)
I was delighted when the organiser of one of my meetings suggested we rendezvous at Anchorhead Coffee, a large coffee shop a couple of blocks from the convention centre on Seventh Avenue. Located in the lobby of the 1600 Seventh skyscraper, Anchorhead was incredibly busy when I arrived, with the queue snaking around the edge of the room; I suspect a fair few conference attendees had the same idea as me! This meant I had some time to choose among the ten single-origin Anchorhead coffees available on pourover.

I opted for a Guatemalan El Limonar filter coffee, which had blood orange and melon flavour notes. I also realised soon after I ordered that my 'barista' for the morning would be the automated Poursteady machine that stood next to the gorgeous blue espresso machine on the counter. The coffee tasted even better as it cooled, and my colleagues were equally impressed with their espresso-based drinks. A colourful spectrum of retail bags of beans was also available to purchase.

Anchorhead Coffee is located at 1600 Seventh Avenue nr Olive Way. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Capitol Coffee Works (Capitol Hill)
Capitol Coffee Works and its three sister locations, each of which takes the name of the neighbourhood it occupies, like to celebrate diversity and uniqueness. I had planned to visit Seattle Coffee Works downtown but happened upon the cafe in funky Capitol Hill instead. The cafe is fairly small, although there is also a small seating area upstairs that overlooks the main area. It was busy when I arrived on a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon, but I managed to nab a table near the coffee bar. It's a bright space, with minimalist décor, a beautiful Synesso machine and stunning ceramics.

There was an impressive choice of single-origin coffees and brew methods available. Having just had a couple of espressos, I switched back to filter coffee and ordered an Ethiopian Addisu variety. Brewed through the Aeropress, the cherry and hibiscus notes came through nicely. They also sell coffee beans and kit.

Capitol Coffee Works is located at 907 East Pike Street nr Broadway (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Cedar & Spokes (Belltown)
I saw an A-board for Cedar & Spokes near Pike Place Market and followed the short trail to the bright, airy cafe in the southern part of Belltown. Although they were serving pourovers brewed in the Kalita Wave, I was about to head back to the airport and short on time, so I ordered a cortado.

The espresso was a single-origin Guatemalan coffee, which was brewed by the friendly barista and which paired nicely with a little milk. Sitting in one of the window seats, I enjoyed soaking up a few last moments of sunshine before returning to grey London. Cedar & Spokes is open until 7 pm and they serve wine, beer and cocktails too (if you're on a Seattle happy hour crawl, Cedar & Spokes' is 4–6 pm).

Cedar & Spokes is located at 2125 Western Avenue nr Elliott. Website. Instagram.

Cherry Street Coffee House (Downtown)
As well as the original location — on Cherry Street, funnily enough — there is a veritable orchard of other Cherry Street Coffee Houses in Seattle. I visited the one nearest the convention centre, on Olive Way, for a pre-conference breakfast one morning. The macchiato, brewed with Counter Culture coffee, was very good, and my egg and cheese breakfast bagel.

Cherry Street Coffee House is located at 509 Olive Way bet. 5th and 6th Ave (and other locations). Website. Instagram.

Elm Coffee Roasters (South Lake Union and Pioneer Square)
I was able to visit both of Elm Coffee Roasters' Seattle cafes, starting with the location on Ninth Avenue North, a few blocks south of Lake Union. The coffee shop is located in the entrance of an office building, occupying a light, high-ceilinged space with a marble counter and green tiling. I knew they served a one and one here, but when I spotted the 'one of everything' on the menu, that was always going to be my order. During my visit this involved a split-shot espresso and macchiato with a single-origin Colombian 9 Swans coffee, and a batch-brew filter coffee with a different Colombian variety, the Yorgeny Torenz. Everything tasted great, but the espresso drinks were particularly well brewed.

On my last day, I stocked up on beans at Elm's other location near Pioneer Square. The gorgeous coffee bar is pictured below. I was lucky with the weather, but the light was particularly lovely. I sampled an Ethiopian Guji coffee as a filter coffee, which I enjoyed so much that I bought a bag of the beans, roasted on site, to take home. The forest green packaging of the retail bags was very classy too.

Elm Coffee Roasters is located at 240 Second Avenue South at South Main (Pioneer Square), and 230 Ninth Avenue North nr Thomas (South Lake Union). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Espresso Vivace (Capitol Hill)
One of Seattle's longest-established independent coffee companies, Espresso Vivace has been serving up quality espresso for over 30 years. I visited the large, bustling cafe–roastery on Broadway East in Capitol Hill, which also doubles up as a live music venue. There's also another cafe and a kiosk. As I was in Espresso Vivace, I knew I had to order an espresso, and as it was single-origin Sunday, I decided to try the Sulawesi single-origin coffee from Indonesia. The coffee was good, the staff were welcoming and the atmosphere was great. Espresso Vivace is a must-visit for anyone interested in Seattle coffee culture and history.

Espresso Vivace is located at 532 Broadway East nr E. Mercer. Website. Instagram.

La Marzocco Cafe (Queen Anne)
It was a chilly, grey morning after a late night reception at the Burke Museum, but my motivation to run up along the waterfront to Seattle Center was high. I was excited to visit the La Marzocco Cafe, a spacious cafe inside KEXP radio station. With many small tables and some comfy seats, I can imagine it's often very busy, but early on a Sunday morning, it was fairly quiet, giving me time to explore the mini museum of La Marzocco espresso machines and coffee kit available for purchase. I wasn't quite persuaded to impulse-purchase a Linea Mini, but I was up for some breakfast.

During my visit, they were serving coffee from Five Elephant, one of my favourite Berlin roasters, and I had an impeccable piccolo brewed with Five Elephants' Dancing Goats blend, which was smooth and sweet. I enjoyed some banana bread too before putting my gloves back on and running back out into the cold.

La Marzocco Cafe is located at KEXP, 472 First Avenue North nr Republican. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Monorail Espresso (Downtown)
Minutes after checking into my hotel in downtown Seattle, I walked past a hole-in-the-wall coffee counter on Pike Street. There was a long queue and several customers sitting at one of the two benches on the sidewalk. When fellow coffee lover Coffee & Content recommended I visit Monorail Espresso, I realised that the coffee shop, whose original coffee cart was set up in 1980, was the popular spot I'd spotted earlier. I returned another morning for an excellent macchiato and a good chat with the barista. There is also a tongue-in-cheek 'directions menu', so bear in mind the small supplementary charges when asking the baristas where to find the monorail (it's very close!), Nordstrom or REI!

Monorail Espresso is located at 510 Pike Street nr Fifth Ave (and other locations). Website. Instagram.

Slate Coffee Roasters (Pioneer Square)
I visited Slate Coffee Roasters' cafe on Second Avenue, a couple of blocks from Pioneer Square, though the roasting company, founded in 2011, also has branches in Ballard and near the university. The Pioneer Square cafe is long and slim, with most of the small tables and seats along the wall opposite the counter. With monochrome décor and a selection of freshly roasted single-origin coffees, it made for a pleasant visit on a quiet afternoon.

Sheltering from the drizzle, I warmed up with a Ugandan Sipi Falls natural coffee brewed as a pourover in the Kalita Wave. The raspberry and dark chocolate flavours made for a sweet, well-balanced brew, and I regretted my failure to buy any beans after I didn't manage to return to the coffee shop.

Slate Coffee Roasters is located at 602 Second Avenue at James (and other locations). Website. TwitterInstagram.

Storyville Coffee (Downtown)
Rather slicker than some of the other coffee shops in town, Storyville Coffee's Pike Place Market cafe has a mesmerising curved coffee bar at its centre. I enjoyed my cortado, but if you go, promise me you'll try one of the frosted cinnamon rolls, one of the best incarnations of this decadent treat that I've tried.

Storyville Coffee is located at 94 Pike Street (top floor) nr First Ave (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Victrola Coffee Roasters (Downtown)
Less than two hours after touching down at Sea-Tac airport, I was sipping a delightful pourover coffee at Victrola Coffee Roasters' sleek Pine Street coffee bar. I had been eyeing up some natural Burundi Mpanga beans on the retail shelf while I was waiting to order, so I was happy to hear that was the coffee they were serving as a hand-brewed pourover. I sipped my coffee at the long table facing the futuristic coffee bar, enjoying the juicy blueberry and plum notes.

Victrola Coffee Roasters is located at 300 Pine Street nr Third Ave (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Zeitgeist Coffee (Pioneer Square)
Another Seattle coffee mainstay, Zeitgeist Coffee has a real sense of community with friendly baristas, local artwork on the walls and retro décor. Serving Italian espresso-based drinks and pastries, the doppio macchiatos and almond croissants here came highly recommended, so that was my breakfast. The coffee was strong but smooth, and the pastry was delicious.

My walking tour guide told me that Zeitgeist and Espresso Vivace regularly top polls of locals' favourite coffee shops and while there are certainly coffee shops in the city that are more modern or higher tech, a tour of Seattle's coffee scene wouldn't be complete without a visit.

Zeitgeist Coffee is located at 171 South Jackson Street nr Second Ave South. Website. Instagram.

A note on Starbucks...
The first Starbucks opened in Pike Place Market in 1971, and whatever you feel about the company, its impact on the coffee scene of Seattle, and the world, is impossible to ignore. As of 2019, there are over 130 Starbucks in Seattle. The original Starbucks relocated slightly and is now based at 1912 Pike Place, just opposite Pike Place Market. The store features signage and other items from the original store, and it's always busy. Had I had a bit more time, or fewer independent coffee shops on my list, I might have lined up for an espresso at the place where it all began...

The original Starbucks Reserve Roastery is also based in Seattle, at 1124 Pike Street. The mammoth store is impressive with areas dedicated to roasting, brewing, consuming and retail. It was extremely busy even late on a Sunday night. I had had my fill of coffee for the day, but there was a nice-sounding Guatemalan single-origin coffee on the brew bar. Some of the merchandise — mainly the coffee-making and -drinking kit — was nice too, although rather expensive.

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