Coffee in Seattle

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Seattle is regarded as a world center for coffee roasting and coffee supply chain management. Related to this, many of the city's inhabitants are coffee enthusiasts; the city is known for its prominent coffee culture and numerous coffeehouses.

Coffee consumption and culture[edit]

People in Seattle consume more coffee than in any other American city; one study stated that there are 35 coffee shops per 100,000 residents and that Seattle people spend an average of $36 a month on coffee.[1] It is nearly impossible to walk past a single block in a commercial area in Seattle without walking past at least one coffee shop. Coffee drinkers can get coffee at a local sidewalk stand, parking lot, tiny coffee houses, big coffee houses, drive-through, and even delivery.[2]

Several Seattle Ethiopian restaurants carry forward one or another degree of Ethiopian coffee tradition, which includes doing their own roasting. These include the Jebena Cafe in Pinehurst, Kaffa Coffee & Wine Bar in the Rainier Valley,[3] and Adey Abeba in the Central District.[4]

In the early 2000s in Seattle a coffee concept called the bikini barista began to be implemented by various marketers throughout the area. Coffee distribution in this business model utilizes baristas wearing little clothing to prepare and serve the coffee.[5]


Seattle Coffee Works
Storyville Coffee at Pike Place Market

Numerous coffee roasting companies are headquartered in Seattle, including:

Storyville Coffee also operates within the Seattle metropolitan area.


Starbucks is Seattle's largest coffee retailer. It was founded in 1971 in Pike Place Market as a roaster, but only later became an espresso bar. In 1984 ownership of the company changed and Howard Schultz led a massive international expansion of the company.[11] In 2003, Starbucks acquired pioneering Seattle roaster Seattle's Best Coffee (SBC, originally Stewart Brothers' Coffee).[10]

Tully's Coffee[edit]

Tully's Coffee was at one time Seattle's second-largest coffee retailer. As of March 2018 there no longer are any Tully’s retail locations in the United States. Tom Tully O'Keefe founded the chain in Kent, Washington in 1992 to rival the expansion of Starbucks with an alternative business model.[12]

Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Company[edit]

Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Company

Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Company was founded in 1995 to produce excellent artisan coffee and to implement an ethical model for coffee production which bypassed the fair trade business model and sourced coffee beans directly from the farmers producing it.[13]

Espresso Vivace[edit]

Espresso Vivace is a set of coffeehouses and a roaster. Founded in 1988[10] by a Boeing engineer, the coffee is produced to exacting specifications to match the owner's taste and the taste of patrons who prefer this different blend.[14]


Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters opened a roasting facility in Seattle[10] in 2010.[citation needed] On October 6, 2015, it was announced that San Francisco-based Peet's Coffee (a division of JAB Holding Company of Germany, since 2012) would acquire Stumptown.[15]


Ghost Alley Espresso
Monorail Espresso
Zeitgeist Coffee

Seattle coffeehouse culture includes chains, such as Starbucks, Tully's Coffee and Seattle's Best Coffee, alongside many independently owned coffee shops.[16] Independently owned coffee shops include:[17][18]

Café Allegro[edit]

Café Allegro

Café Allegro is a coffeeshop in University District. Its founder worked with Starbucks roasters to develop the original Starbucks espresso roast, which is darker than most other roasts but still lighter than the darkest roast. That espresso roast remains the standard Starbucks espresso offering, but it was developed for Café Allegro.[11]

Last Exit on Brooklyn[edit]

The Last Exit on Brooklyn was a coffee house which opened in 1967 and closed in 2000. It was a gathering place for high-level chess players and intellectuals, and the proprietor worked to "create a haven where students and the benign crazies" were welcome and where "everyone felt equal and there were no sacred cows".[19]

Top Pot Doughnuts[edit]

Top Pot Doughnuts was founded in 2002 on Capitol Hill as a pastry bakery which also roasts and sells coffee.[20] It has since expanded to locations across the Puget Sound region and Dallas, Texas.

Bauhaus Coffee and Books[edit]

A precursor to Top Pot Doughnuts; Bauhaus Strong Coffee was founded on October 5, 1993,[21] and is notable for an unusual coffeehouse space design, which the Top Pot Doughnuts co-founders later applied to its design.[22] While the original location closed on October 5, 2013, a new Capitol Hill location later opened that year, following two new locations in Ballard and Green Lake.[21] All three were closed abruptly on December 13, 2015.[23][24] Owner Joel Radin filed bankruptcy in February 2017.[25]

Coffee technology[edit]

In 2007 the Coffee Equipment Company released a product called the Clover, which was a machine which brewed coffee one cup at a time. The company was acquired by Starbucks who now produces the Clover.[26]

Coffee events[edit]

Coffee: World in your Cup is the name of an exhibition and community series which premiered in Seattle through most of 2009 at the Burke Museum. The exhibition includes displays of equipment at the museum and a lecture series with talks in various locations wherein experts talk about aspects of the coffee industry.[27]

The World Barista Championship was held in Seattle in April 2015.[28] The competition, and its winner Sasa Sestic, were the subject of a documentary film The Coffee Man.[29]

Seattle coffee in popular culture[edit]

In the NBC series Frasier, the characters are often seen drinking coffee at the fictional Café Nervosa, which is said to have been inspired by the real-life Elliott Bay Café.[30]

In The Sopranos, two episodes featured coffee shops based on Starbucks. "Our Cafe du jour is New Zealand Peaberry", says a barista, as Paulie Walnuts bemoans the acquisition of Italian coffee culture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Coffee Capitals: 20 Cities That Drink the Most Caffeine". The Daily Beast. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  2. ^ "Coffee City". The Seattle Times.
  3. ^ Naomi Tomky, Seattle's Other Coffee Culture, The Stranger, 2015-10-13. Accessed 2015-10-23.
  4. ^ Julia Wayne, 8 Fantastic Ethiopian Restaurants Around Seattle, Seattle Eater, 2015-09-17. Accessed 2015-10-23.
  5. ^ Caitlin A. Johnson (February 18, 2007). "Shedding Clothes And Selling Coffee". CBS News. Retrieved March 9, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d "Seattle Area Coffee Roasters". Seattle Coffee Scene.
  7. ^ Herkimer Coffee website
  8. ^ "Coffee". Top Pot Doughnuts and Coffee.
  9. ^ Borg, Shannon (October 2010). "Seattle Coffee Guide: Locally Roasted Beans" (Coffee: How Seattle Built a Culture). Retrieved 15 November 2011. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ a b c d Shannon Borg, Seattle Coffee Guide: Locally Roasted Beans, Seattle Magazine, October 2010. Accessed 2015-10-23.
  11. ^ a b Schultz, Howard; Yang, Dori Jones (1997). Pour your heart into it : how Starbucks built a company one cup at a time (1st paperback ed.). New York, N.Y.: Hyperion. pp. 100–104. ISBN 978-0-7868-6315-0.
  12. ^ Ouchi, Monica Soto (20 February 2005). "Business & Technology | Tully's Coffee: A brand that belies its size". Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  13. ^ Fitzpatrick, Tamra (March 26, 1999). "Finding Niche Brews Big-Time Success For Small Coffee Roaster". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  14. ^ Meet espresso's exacting master Archived November 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine - Food Inc. -, May 9, 2003
  15. ^ The New York Times Peet’s Buys Stumptown Coffee Roasters
  16. ^ "Coffee Chain World - Coffee Business News, US Coffee Chains, World Coffee Chains, Largest Coffee Chains, Open a Coffee Shop". Archived from the original on 2011-12-28. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  17. ^ Allison, Melissa (20 August 2008). "Starbucks no longer gives small coffee shops the jitters". The Seattle Times.
  18. ^ "Best Independent Coffee Shops in Seattle". Noble House Hotels & Resorts. 24 April 2018. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  19. ^ "Last Exit, many returns: 20 years and many fads later, laid back U District coffeehouse show no signs of slowing down", Seattle Times, June 20, 1987, p. E1.
  20. ^ "About Us : Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts". 2011. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  21. ^ a b "Bauhaus Coffee and Books finally opens up in Ballard". Ballard News-Tribune. October 17, 2013. Archived from the original on December 18, 2015. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  22. ^ Brangien, Davis; Mickool, Sheila; Amster-Burton, Matthew (October 2010). "Seattle Coffee Guide: The Iconic shops". Seattle. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  23. ^ Graf, Heather (December 11, 2015). "Bauhaus Coffee going out of business". KING-TV. Archived from the original on December 18, 2015. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  24. ^ Garbes, Angela (December 11, 2015). "Emotions Run High at Ballard's Bauhaus Coffee, Which Is Closing Forever Because of "Financial Difficulties"". The Stranger. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  25. ^ "Capitol Hill food+drink | the Bauhaus bankruptcy". 7 April 2016.
  26. ^ "The Clover Brewing System". 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  27. ^ "Coffee: The World in Your Cup - Burke Museum". 2009. Archived from the original on 12 October 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  28. ^ Nick Brown (February 23, 2015), "Say Hello to the 2015 U.S. Coffee Championship Winners", Daily Coffee News (website), Roast Magazine
  29. ^ Howard Bryman (April 7, 2016), "The Coffee Man: A Documentary on 2015 World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic", Daily Coffee News (website), Roast Magazine
  30. ^ "Elliott Bay Cafe – The Inspiration for Cafe Nervosa on "Frasier"". 14 October 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2016.

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