Seattle has long been linked with coffee culture, a connection fortified with the worldwide ubiquity of Starbucks, which opened its first store in the historic Pike Place Market during the spring of 1971. Add to that the city’s continued grunge culture and it’s just about the perfect place for the undone coolness and ragged populism that has come to define the coffeehouse vibe.
Needless to say, there are a lot of great options in Washington’s biggest city. To make the decision a little easier, here are the best places to hit, depending on your brew behavior.
Best for a Flat White: Original Starbucks Coffee Café
A flat white (steamed milk and foam poured over espresso) is an Aussie import, and Starbucks is rather famously all over it, having made quite the hullabaloo about offering it in the United States. Head over to the original Starbucks in Pike Place to try it.
Best Pastries: Bakery Nouveau
Seattle is the land of coffee, so it follows that the pastries here are good, too. Ignore every other bake shop’s warm bread smells and head straight to Bakery Nouveau for their incredible double-baked almond croissant, which will result in you getting crumbs and powdered sugar and slivered nuts and euphoria all over yourself. Get one to-stay with a hot latte, or take it with you on a walk to Volunteer Park. If sweets aren’t your thing, we fully endorse gnawing on a baguette here as an acceptable breakfast.
Best for 24-Hour Java Fixes: Lost Lake Café & Lounge
Night owls can keep the booths warm at Lost Lake Café & Lounge. Not only do bottomless cups of hometown-favorite Caffé Vita coffee (choose from hot drip or cold brew) entice, but so do hearty dishes like breakfast bread pudding and Wild Boar Sloppy Joe, which is slow-cooked in Snoqualmie stout.
Best for Coffee-To-Go: Motofish Coffee
At Motofish Coffee, baristas tamp their espressos in a 1977 Mercedes diesel UniMog once used as a maintenance truck for the Swedish Forest Service. Beans, like Olympia Coffee Roasting Company’s Big Truck Espresso Blend, are often sourced from local roasters.
Best for breakfast: Biscuit Bitch
Biscuit Btch is a counter-service breakfast institution, and it’s your duty to eat here while you’re on Seattle soil. The homemade biscuits are great on their own, but if you don’t get the Btchwich with fried eggs, cheddar, spicy aioli, sausage, and country gravy, you’ve made a mistake. This is the perfect breakfast if you plan to do a day’s worth of hiking.
Best for Coffee Education: Victrola Coffee Roasters’ Pike Place Location
Coffee geeks are more than welcome at Victrola Coffee Roasters, where cuppings (wherein aficionados sniff and slurp just-ground coffee with hot water) are hosted every Wednesday at 11 a.m. It all lives inside the city’s Auto Row building, which has housed car dealerships as early as the 1920s.
Best for Coffee & Doughnuts: General Porpoise
There are a couple of donut spots the city is famous for, but the only one you need to know about is General Porpoise. They have a hot pink espresso machine, delicious homemade filled donuts (get the vanilla custard), and actual iced coffee instead of cold brews and iced Americanos.
Best for Pour-Overs: Slate Coffee Roasters
Belly up to Slate Coffee Roasters’ brew bar, where baristas use manual brewers like V60 and Chemex, for cups with in a cleaner mouth-feel. The café offers only a few options, each of which is brewed by hand. Don’t miss a deconstructed espresso or the four-course coffee flight.
Best almond milk latte: Anchored Ship Coffee Bar
Anchored Ship has the best almond milk latte in the city, a balcony with a full living room furniture set and string lights, and an eco-friendly nail salon through a hallway in the back, just in case you need a fresh coat of polish before Instagram-ing your hand clutching a mug full of foam art. Not to mention there are delicious specials that pop up, like lavender lemon cold brew. There are no reasons for you not to have a cup of coffee here.
Best for French Pastries: La Reve
For a taste of Paris, head to La Reve for a coffee and a french pastry. The old-world charm transports you back to what Paris used to be like. The pastries aren't cheap, but well worth every penny. I recommend the almond croissant. Located in a house on Queen Anne Avenue, during the summer enjoy the Seattle sun on the front patio.
Best for an Extra-Strong Cup: Espresso Vivace’s Capitol Hill Location
David Schomer, founder of Espresso Vivace, literally wrote the book on espresso, a manual by the name of Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques. The café, which roasts in the northern Italian style, is done up in mid century Formica tables, with matching chairs in primary colors.
Best for Rock-Star Baristas: Cherry Street Coffee House
The best baristas across America rigorously compete against each other Top Chef–style each year at the U.S. Barista Championship. Last year, Laila Ghambari—the director of coffee at Cherry Street Coffee—snagged first place, wowing judges with coffee-cherry jam and steeped-coffee cherries in her signature drink. (And yes, aromatic smoke was involved.)
.Ten cafés across Seattle—in spots that include downtown, Pioneer Square, Belltown, and Capitol Hill—employ baristas under Ghambari’s tutelage. Whether one opts for a latte to witness flawless latte art, or a simple single shot of espresso, Cherry Street has a tendency to appease the pickiest of palates. Each café also sports its own design, from the graffiti-inspired murals behind the espresso bar in the West Edge neighborhood to Middle Eastern décor on Clay Street.
Best for Working Remotely: Zoka Coffee Roasters & Tea Co.’s Green Lake District Location
Drop by Zoka late on a weeknight, and you’ll likely spot students hunched over their laptops and textbooks. Walls of multi paned glass and dark woods make this café feel like an historic library, and surely pastries made in-house and single-origin pour-overs do a lot to cultivate the mind.