When most people think of Seattle and coffee, the first thing that comes to mind is Starbucks. You can get Starbucks anywhere, and Seattle has a huge variety of other coffee shops. If you're visiting Seattle and you want a brief taste of our wonderful coffee culture, these are my top six picks.
The first shop opened in Queen Anne, but now there are 13 of them around Seattle/Bellevue area. Their coffee beans are all organic and fair trade.
The drink you must get here is the "Medici." It's basically an orange mocha but with a peeled orange rind actually inserted into the bottom of your drink. The result is a sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavor and one of the best mochas I've ever had.
UW almuni opened Zoka in 1996. The one in Green Lake is the biggest and there are 4 other shops in Seattle and suburbs. Also, there are 2 shops in Tokyo (!) too, so if you're from Japan but want a taste of Seattle coffee, try the Zoka in Tokyo (Zokyo?).
Expect some fancy artwork in your latte foam, and I highly recommend grabbing coffee and then taking a walking around Green Lake.
Lighthouse says "it's just coffee. So we figured we might as well do it right." This coffee shop is tucked away in north Fremont in a quiet little neighborhood. Lighthouse is one of Seattle's most famous coffee shops. They roast in the house (literally in the shop) and they distribute their coffee to the coffee shops all over town.
They have this huge roaster machine in the shop and this guy keeps roasting all day long. They only roast in a small batch that makes the coffee very fresh. Also, if you become a member of "coffee of the month", they send you fresh roast coffee every month. They choose and roast unique blends each month.
Fremont Coffee Company opened in 2003 in a house on 35th street. The outside of the shop has a sunlit deck, couches, chairs, and lots of seating space if the weather is nice. They roast their own coffee downstairs so you can buy their beans here. If you like deep/bitter taste coffee, you'll love their coffee. (My mom back in Japan always requests their beans!)
Like the outside, the inside of the shop is like a house. It's divided into many small rooms and it doesn't feel like you're having coffee at a cafe, but rather at a friend's house.
My favorite thing about this coffee shop is that the baristas here always make a funny latte art: demons, skulls, cats, Pokemon, Pac-man, Hello Kitty -- you name it, they can probably draw it. If you want amazing coffee, coffee art, and atmosphere I highly recommend the Fremont Coffee company.
They have been roasting since 1995, started a small shop in Queen Ann. Now they have 9 shops in Pacific Northwest and one in NY as well. They distribute their coffee to many coffee shops in Seattle area. If you see a creepy clown picture on your coffee, that's vita coffee!
Vita has a drink called "Kyoto." Being Japanese, I was wondering what type of coffee Kyoto is. Upon asking a barista, I found out that Kyoto is a coffee brewed by cold water. It takes 8 hours to brew with this machine on the left. Cold brewed coffee has more caffeine than hot brew and winds up with an incredibly smooth flavor (no acidity or bitterness at all).
ETG is a super small coffee shop in Fremont that many people might just pass by without noticing it's even there. Only 2 people can fit in the store, but there are always people waiting outside (people who are in on the secret that they have amazing coffee). In addition to coffee they've got some terrific pastries, cookies, brownies, and muffins. The owner recently told me that their coffee shop had its 30th birthday during the 2012 Solstice Parade.
As you see, it's a tiny space so only two baristas can fit inside as well. The people here are all really friendly and nice even though they keep bumping into each other. The quaint, charming qualities of ETG makes it one of the best shops to visit in Seattle.