By Sierra Christman…
Coffee is my favorite paradox. It’s bitter, it’s sweet. It’s overcomplicated, it’s simple. It’s cheap, it’s expensive. It’s an addiction, it’s a health food. It’s singularly divisive and unifying. It’s nothing to some, and everything to others.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I didn’t think much about it. Coffee was a dreaded errand for lowly interns and production assistants; we held up the lines at Starbucks asking for six variations on a nonfat latte for our bosses, while personally consuming vast quantities of the cheap, black sludge on offer at the office only because it was free. I wasn’t making pilgrimages to Intelligentsia, I didn’t know or care about the source of the coffee beans, nor did I think that my time as a barista was anything other than a temporary way to make ends meet. Then, I moved to Seattle.
Coffee is a religion here. Every day, Seattleites show up in their business casual best to worship at the altar of the bean. Maybe it’s the cold, drizzly weather, maybe it’s the number of detail-oriented tech jobs flooding the city, maybe it’s just because Starbucks was born here and people are sentimental—whatever the reason, coffee is nothing to snub. After I’d tried a few local places, I began to understand what all the fuss was about. I started to rely, albeit reluctantly at first, on the hipster baristas who talked about the varied flavors of different roasts and the proper way to steam milk for a latte. Drink by drink, I embraced the Seattle coffee culture.
There are so many coffee shops, roasters, and cafes in Seattle—there are probably too many to count. There are almost as many lists of the best coffee spots in Seattle, but I’ve found that it really depends on how you prefer your caffeine fix. To each their own, as they say.
However you like it, I’m confident you’ll be able to enjoy your coffee at any one of my favorite places. Here are my top three favorite coffee spots in Seattle, in no particular order.
• Ballard Coffee Works: This is my favorite place to go for coffee beans. They have roasts of every flavor and strength, but take my advice and head for the lighter beans. There’s much more depth of flavor in a light to medium body roast than a dark roast, and it’s hard to find one that you won’t enjoy brewing before work during your week. If you’re feeling socially conscious, take comfort in the fact that most of the beans are fair trade, directly from the coffee farmers and growers themselves.
• Espresso Vivace: Most Seattleites will tell you this is the place to go if you want the best coffee in the city, and for good reason. When I want to sit and enjoy a creamy, foamy, perfectly balanced espresso drink, I come here. Ordering a venti-frap-caramel-anything will get you the evil eye, so your best bet is to keep it simple. Try a cappuccino or an espresso, and experience the best coffee your taste buds have touched.
• Bulldog News and Espresso: I used to work in the University District and my once-a-week indulgence at Bulldog quickly became a daily need. Lots of people (especially students from the University of Washington) come here for the immense selection of independent, hard-to-find magazines and newspapers, but just as many come here for barista Nathaniel Jackson, who has been making and serving coffee for almost 40 years. Needless to say, the man knows his craft, and he could probably make you a very impressive latte from skim milk and Folgers. (Fortunately, he uses better ingredients.)
If you aren’t near the Pacific Northwest and can’t make it out to Seattle any time soon, my advice is to find a small, local café. Explore beyond the regions of your nearby Starbucks and listen to the suggestions of the wise and skillful hipster baristas. Good coffee is so worth it. Embrace it. Go with it. And drink up.