Food & Drink

Seattle Magazine’s Ultimate Coffee Guide

A celebration of Seattle's caffeinated culture

By Rachel Hart, Brangien Davis, Matthew Amster-Burton, Shannon Borg , Sara Dickerman, John Levesque December 31, 1969

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Seattle magazine.

For many of us, it’s the first word we croak in the morning: Coffee. Not a question, nor a command (though sometimes a plea), but most often a statement—a fact of daily life, especially in Seattle, where, as you may have heard, we drink a lot of coffee. Lately, our beloved local ritual of going for coffee (before work, during work, after work, to get some work done) has been enriched by a new “foodie” approach. Suddenly we find ourselves knowing where our beans came from, whether they were sustainably grown with fair trade practices, and whether the grounds were pressed, poured-over or Clovered. We study bean bags as if they were wine labels. (And we’ve read the word “artisanal” more times than we care to mention.) Though it all may seem a little highfalutin for the humble beverage we’ve been gulping for so long, we’re willing to give it a try. 

In July, The Daily Beast reported the no-duh news that Seattle is the most caffeinated city in the nation (based on number of coffee shops, coffee consumption and monthly spending on coffee). With this issue, we celebrate our city’s status as the national seat of caffeine. Here’s to our rich coffee history, the feisty competition among our indie shops, our complicated who-begat-whom lineage of local coffee roasters, the omnipresence of lidded white (compostable!) cups, and, of course, the glorious flavor of coffee. Raise a cup and drink deep.

As coffee roasters and drinkers ride a new wave of obsession with single-origin beans, small-farm sourcing, artisanal roasting and high-precision brewing, SARA DICKERMAN takes us down memory lane with a history of Seattle’s caffeinated culture—looking at how our love affair with the drink came to be and how it continues to evolve.


Given the throngs of people filling Seattle’s countless coffee shops morning, noon and night, it’s a wonder any of the city’s office buildings are occupied at all. The phenomenon speaks to our sincere love of java, but also our fervent belief in the essential “third place” between work and home.
The Independents Shops
Iconic Shops
The Corporate Giants
Coffee Carts
Kid-friendly Coffee Shops

The bean has arrived. Once a mere commodity, coffee beans in the past decade or so have been treated like wine grapes—coddled, encouraged and coaxed into their full potential. Now, more than ever, the coffee bean’s pedigree is everything.
Locally Roasted Beans
International Coffee
The Terroir of a Bean
Coffee Talk: A Look at the Coffee Lexicon

Shops for In-Home Gear
Career Baristas
The Perfect Foods for Pairing with Your Coffee
Seattle’s Coffee History
The Personalities
What the Locals Order
Seattle Coffee Survey


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