Seattle Coffee: The Best Cafes and Roasters

Young woman on rainy pedestrian crossing, Seattle, Washington State, USA
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Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee, and Tully’s are ubiquitous in Seattle and Tacoma. All were founded in Seattle and, while they still possess a bit of unique Seattle flavor, these companies have gone big business. For locals, there’s a lot more to the Seattle coffee scene than big business—namely, local coffee shops and small chains. Really, nothing is better than a locally roasted brew. While coffee beans aren’t exactly grown in the Pacific Northwest, local roasts benefit from being roasted in small batches, and from community relationships with roasteries and with customers. Many local roasteries also focus on fair trade, trading direct with farmers and sourcing organic coffee beans, making their brews more appealing to socially and environmentally conscious patrons.

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    Caffe Luca was founded in Italy and brought to Seattle about 20 years ago during the early days of Seattle’s love affair with coffee. Impressively, the company has retained the same master roaster ever since. Still today, Caffe Luca focuses on Italian roasts, which are dark but not burnt, roasted for longer, caramelizing the carbohydrates within the beans. “We source only the most sought-after lots of the highest quality, Class 1, high altitude Arabica coffee beans, and roast them in true Italian fashion,” says Caffe Luca owner Greg Gould. “Notes of chocolate, caramel and brown sugar are prominent, unlike any other coffees in the Seattle area.”

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    Caffe Umbria

    Caffe Umbria is named after the Umbria region in Italy, which is where the Bizzarri family hails from, and where they began roasting coffee in the 1940s. Today, Caffe Umbria’s master roaster is Emanuele Bizzarri’s, the third generation to work as a coffee roaster. These generations of experience make Caffe Umbria unique. “All of our coffees are blends, which means combining different varietals of beans to create a unique and balanced flavor profile in each of our coffees,” says Jesse Sweeney, co-founder, and VP of sales. “Blending also allows for a consistent profile year after year which is not the case in single origin coffees.” Caffe Umbria uses beans from all over the world, but primarily from South and Central America.​

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    Caffe Vita works Farm Direct with farmers around the world, searching out exceptional coffees and farms that adhere to strict criteria—namely that the farmers are well paid, that the coffee is grown sustainably and without chemicals, and that the farmers must treat and pay employees well. Caffe Vita representatives venture out to the farms at least once each harvest time to ensure all these requirements are met. Beans are roasted locally on old Probat and Gothot roasters, and there are several cafes in Seattle, south in Olympia and Portland, and one each in New York City and L.A.! Beyond Caffe Vita cafes, Caffe Vita coffee is sold wholesale and the roastery partners with other coffee shops.

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    Fonte Coffee

    Fonte Coffee is some of the finest in Seattle, with a clientele list to back it up, including Wynn and Mirage in Las Vegas, W Hotels, Google, and Four Seasons hotels! Brews have gathered plenty of national attention for their quality, but also have received high marks locally as a fine micro-coffee—a unique line for Fonte to tread, and one they do successfully. Fonte also maintains a focus on purchasing directly from bean farmers, who grown beans sustainably. Roasteries are overseen by master roaster Steve Smith, and roasts are shipped to customers within 24 hours of roasting, ensuring some of the freshest coffee anywhere.

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    Victrola started as a neighborhood café with a 1920s-vintage appeal in 2000. By 2003, Victrola ventured into experimenting with roasting its own beans and the rest was history! Today, Victrola is one of the most popular local roasters and is available at many local cafes that partner with the roastery, as well as the Victrola cafes listed below. The company roasts beans grown in the world’s best coffee-growing regions, from South and Central America to East Africa to Indonesia, and works with each to bring out the best characteristics. The cafes and the coffee have garnered national and local attention—“Food and Wine Magazine” chose Victrola as one of the nation’s top cafes in 2012! On Wednesdays, the Victrola Roastery and Café on Pike Street offers free public cuppings, a method of brewing and sampling a coffee. You’ll get to taste. You’ll get to learn. You can’t go wrong.

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    Founded in 1996 by a University of Washington alum named Jeff Babcock, Zoka has branched out to a few locations, but still keeps a focus on community—from the local community to a wider community that interweaves employees, customers and farmers. All Zoka locations have free Wi-Fi and welcome you to hang out. Zoka coffees are roasted in small batches and beans are carefully selected. Zoka operates on a Family Direct Trade basis, meaning the company gets to know the bean farmers it works with—even visiting the farms around the world at least once a year.