I recently got an email from someone planning on visiting Seattle this summer.
We are planning our first trip to Seattle this weekend and obviously a trip to a couple coffee shops is in order. We’re wondering if you could recommend a couple of your favourites in the downtown area? If you could only visit, say three shops – which ones would you go to?
In no particular order, here are the three best coffee shops in downtown Seattle.
Seattle Coffee Works
As you emerge from Pike Place Market, look for the 14 foot sign of the man drinking coffee. They roast right on location and have some of the best espresso blends in the city. In the right part of the cafe, they have a “Slow Bar”. This is where you can have a coffee made in a slower brewing method, such as Chemex or Vac-Pot. Seattle Coffee Works is a must visit for any Seattle tourist.
If you want a true Italian style espresso, this is the place to go. Stella proudly uses robusta coffee in their espresso blend. If you hear someone say that robusta is by nature inferior to arabica, that is nonsense. Robusta adds crema and mouth-feel to espresso. Although not required, it adds a flavor dimension that I really enjoy. Stella has one of the best and certainly the most unique espresso blend in the city.
Trabant uses coffee roasted by 49th Parallel Roasters in BC. If you’ve never had the Epic Espresso Blend, you need to check it out. Trabant also has a Clover Coffee machine. This means you can avoid the Starbucks at 1st and Pike and actually drink great coffee in the Clover.
Word to the Tourists
Yes Starbucks has a long history in the Pike Place Market and with Seattle, but the quality of the coffee is no different than what you can get in your hometown. If you are a Starbucks fan, I encourage you to visit the Roy Street Coffee and Tea concept store in Capitol Hill. It is Starbucks at their best. It is still not as good as Seattle Coffee Works, Stella or Trabant, but they are better than the two Pike Market tourist locations (Original and Heritage).
UPDATE (MARCH 2011): Stella Cafe is now gone. It has been replaced by a bar. Other cafes serve Stella coffee, but I can’t recommend any of them. Your best bet for them is now mail order.
Seattle Coffee Works – 107 Pike Street
Stella Caffe – 1224 1st Avenue
Trabant Coffee – 602 2nd Avenue
Starbucks Coffee College – Article where I discuss the Roy Street Coffee and Tea location.
Seattle – The blogger who emailed me posted on her trip to Seattle where she visited the 3 coffee shops I recommended.
Jul 24, 2010 — 9:23 pm
Thanks for this post and for your recommendations! The coffee we had in these three places was truly memorable. My favourite was the Roman Cappuccino at Stella and Brad liked the latte he had at Trabant.
I’m assuming that when you took those photos, you went into each place and had an espresso. Oh….yum.
Jul 25, 2010 — 7:43 am
@Jabba – Glad you found the 3 great coffee places in downtown Seattle. At Stella, I just get espresso. Sometimes I’ll get a Clover at Trabant. At SCW, I sometimes will get something made that Slow Bar, but usually I get espresso.
Jul 28, 2010 — 5:51 pm
I can never find decent parking downtown. Can you tell me about places North of the Ship Canal….
Cafe Solstice (music too loud)
Jul 28, 2010 — 6:04 pm
@bernie – I never park downtown. I park either in Capitol Hill or Queen Anne and then walk a few miles. I’d rather feed the espresso machine than a parking meter. 🙂
Zoka has great coffee. However, I stopped going there when they started charging $2.71 for an espresso. Herkimer is also great, especially some of their accounts like Muse Coffee and Cortona. I’ve never been to Solstice.