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Seattle is famous for its coffee, not least for being the birthplace of the Starbucks coffee empire, whose first store near is located downtown near Pike Place Market. However, Seattle has a lot more to offer, and this page should provide a starting point for exploring this essential element.

Along University Way

Cafe Solstice and Cafe Allegro Espresso Bar are two local favorites; opinions differ as to which one is the best around the university. Most of cafes around Seattle provide free wifi, making them nice places to work or gather with friends. Cafe Solstice also serves local draft beer at night (happy hour: 16:00–18:00) and occasionally has student bands perform around 19:00 on weekends.

Not Far from the University

  • Trabant Coffee has coffee roasted by 49th Parallel Coffee in Vancouver. They are also one of the few shops in town still operating a Clover machine, purchased prior to the Starbucks buyout. Clover machine coffee, unlike filter coffee, will retain the oil in the coffee beans, giving it a very different character in flavor.
  • Herkimer Coffee has pretty good house-roasted espresso with a deep earthy flavor that is quite distinctive.
  • Neptune Coffee also has a pretty good selection of coffee beans; some of them could taste like a tea with extremely floral aromas and a slight bergamot flavour.
  • Espresso Vivace is one of the local gourmet coffee pioneers with extensive research into all aspects of espresso production. They advocate precise temperature control (203.5±0.5°F) and have custom blends for straight versus milk-based drinks. A good shot here can have some amazing sweetness without sugar added.
  • Victrola Coffee is a local roaster of very high standard. They occasionally pull single-origin shots; most espresso is a blend.
  • Zoka has a store nearby the Burke-Gilman Trail. Try their special coffee made using the Chemex method, which eliminates sediment and brings out the coffee's finest character.


Seattle offers a fascinating way of evaluating a variety of coffees in one sitting. It's like wine tasting, but with coffee. The quality of coffee can be judged by its aroma, fragrance, body, acidity, flavor, and other features. Many coffee shops in Seattle provide this opportunity for free. Here are a couple of suggestion:

  • Zoka has monthly cupping. The day changes. Call ahead.
  • Stumptown has a more regular cupping daily at 15:00.

Of course, when you are in the coffee shop, don't forget to try some pastry. Many of the local coffee shops partner with the local bakeries, and sometimes they're full of surprises.


We would like to thank Michael Forbes for sharing his years of Seattle coffee experience with us.