Seattle's Coffee Culture
Get a taste of America’s capital of caffeine
With 2.5 coffee shops for every 1,000 citizens, Seattle has the greatest concentration of coffee houses in the country, which underscores a key element of Seattle’s reputation: the city is awash in caffeine.
In a remarkably short time—the world’s first Starbucks opened here in 1971—coffee houses have become the social and community centres of the Emerald City, where you go on dates, take the kids, listen to music, sit with your laptop, finish your great American novel or meet your friends. In Seattle, you’ll find coffee shops attached to everything from launderettes to barbershops, cinemas to strip clubs.
Coffee beans don’t grow in these parts, but there are a few good reasons for Seattle’s emergence as the world coffee capital. A warm, legal stimulant is just the thing to take the edge off the Pacific Northwest’s long and dismal wet winters, and the city’s large and relatively affluent population demands good coffee in dizzying variety all day long—it’s not just for breakfast anymore.
There’s also the influence of a little coffee shop, named after a character in the novel Moby-Dick, that turned into an internationally big (well, huge) deal. The original Starbucks began in Pike Place Market as a plain-Jane hole-in-the-wall coffee shop but, having awakened a coffee revolution, has been opening everywhere else since—there are now more than 10,000 Starbucks retail operations on the planet—and counting. Still in business, that first location attracts Starbucks pilgrims from all over the world.
There are plenty of other Starbucks shops in Seattle, but there are also lots of more quirky and unique indie coffeehouses. The Capitol Hill area is home to many, including Bauhaus Book & Coffee, a bustling, book-filled hangout abuzz with the neighbourhood vibe; Espresso Vivace, renowned for its devotion to perfection in coffee; and the art deco Victrola Coffee, which hosts live music and art shows. In the Maple Leaf neighbourhood, Cloud City offers an area for kids, a dollar-a-cup ‘honour bar’ and an emphasis on wireless connectivity. If you’re after no-nonsense coffee and loads of food to go with it, head to famous 24-hour Beth’s Café, home to the he-man’s 12-egg omelette.
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Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.