Sleepless in Seattle: Top 3 Coffee Shops in the City

Starbucks Roastery

Wednesday, 4:oo p.m.

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1124 Pike St, Seattle, is not to be underestimated. The corporate presence is like a burnt caramel aftertaste, one that sticks to your tongue despite the irresistible, apron-wearing hipsters who have been exclusively employed to serve customers with Apple-like efficiency.

The coffee bar is fully equipped with beakers that bubble over a flame, and cold-brew tap pours cloudy coffee on repeat. It’s Willie Wonka’s factory, from the sexy black-on-charcoal coffee cups to the long twisting bronze tubes that greedily protrude from glass vessels of coffee beans.

The Gravitas blend, exclusive to the Roastery and sourced from East Congo, is dark and smooth with a rich chocolate finish. Available as an espresso, in French press served with a timer, off the Clover (Starbucks’ proprietary inverse-French press conspiracy), or as brewed coffee.

StarbucksRoastery

Thursday, 8:30 a.m.

A shot glass sample of the cold brew reveals a floral, nutty, brown sugar-sweet taste and airy mouthfeel. Infused with nitrogen, it’s three-times-filtered and blessed with the crema quality of a stout beer. $6 for 12 ounces. I nurse it.

Victrola Coffee Roasters

Thursday, 11:43 a.m.

Here we have a coffee shop in Capitol Hill that’s just steps away from the famous/infamous Starbuck Roastery. Not down the street, or at the next block. Kitty-corner, battle stance. What’s their deal? Victrola – bold, reckless, purveyors of excellent coffee. Also, the retro 1920’s auto shop location was probably there first.

The barista, who had the likeness of a character Fred Armisen would play, promised a rich dark blend made with three Latin American coffees.

The first sip from the stocky white porcelain cup is marshmallows. Then dried fruit potpourri. Tobacco, a creamy mouthfeel that may have qualified as crema.  Then the chocolate, dark and bittersweet to the last drop.

The place is quiet, relying on the hum of coffee machines, clinking of mugs and the squeaking swing of the door. It lends itself to conversation at the communal table, adorned with a lone cactus centerpiece. Tables to the side host the clientele: people-watchers with books, students with headphones. A world in itself, far away from the hustle and bustle of a certain Shmarbucks.

La Marzocco

Thursday 3:45 p.m.

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Yes, that La Marzocco. You know -the Italian machines that come in retro colors of Fiats and adorn the distressed-wood countertops of dimly-lit hipster espresso shops across America? Let’s try again: the only brand with a cult following among coffee specialists and baristas who literally tattoo the logo across their bodies.

The Florence-based company’s first and only coffee shop is located in artsy Seattle neighborhood Queen Anne. The sign outside the shop promises “coffee and music,” and they do not mess around. La Marzocco shares the same space as KEXP-FM, an eclectic alternative rock radio station with ties to NPR and the University of Washington. DJ’s do their thing in the recording studio as the espresso machines buzz with beans from around the world, as part of a residency program featuring specially selected roasters each month.

MarzoccoMachine

On prominent display in the showroom are vintage espresso machines, exhibited with their own placards and sticker-shock inducing price tags. Before La Marzocco was a coffee shop, it was a maker and distributor of high-end espresso machines that helped define craft coffee culture in the U.S., particularly in cities like Seattle. Starbucks, founded in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, used the espresso machines up until 2004, according to the Seattle Times. The phenomenon of the “third space” that lives inside cafes is a much more recent and modern trend than the tradition of drinking coffee. A fresh wave of coffee enthusiasts is breathing new life into La Marzocco, a brand that’s always worked for the curation of quality coffee.

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