Seattle is stereotypically associated with its rainy weather, tech companies such as Amazon, being the birthplace of grunge music, and having some of the loudest football fans in the country. But perhaps The Emerald City is most symbolically known as a place that really loves coffee. Being the birthplace of Starbucks definitely deserves a significant amount of credit for this recognition, but Seattle’s coffee scene is so much more than just the big green mermaid cafe, and most Seattleites usually prefer grabbing a cup from one of the many smaller independent coffee shops in the city instead. After recently moving to Seattle, one of my main missions was to explore and try some of the many local cafes scattered around my new home. Here are 10 of my personal favorite places to people watch and read a book (from my favorite bookstores in Seattle) while enjoying a delicious coffee or warm frothy beverage in this wonderful city.
1.) Caffé Vita
1005 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122
With five locations around Seattle (as well as several out of state including in Portland, Oregon, and New York City), Caffé Vita has been roasting in the Emerald City since 1995. They focus on locally-roasted organic coffees and take great pride in their beans coming directly from the farm to their roastery. Each location has a slightly different vibe and ambiance, which makes the entire experience extra special and unique.
I chose to visit their flagship roastery in Capitol Hill and was immediately impressed with the aesthetic and atmosphere of the cafe. The interior is dark, dimly lit, a bit retro, and somewhat mysterious, and I found it to be a lovely place to sit at a table by myself and read a few chapters of Eckhart Tolle while sipping on a campfire mocha with oat milk. The inside can get crowded at times, but the cafe has a nice covered outdoor seated area on the sidewalk that offers a prime people-watching spot right in the heart of the Hill. Cafeé Vita has become one of my favorite local spots in my neighborhood and is an excellent place to experience and embrace the coffee culture of Seattle.
2.) Victrola Coffee
310 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122
Victrola is one of the most popular independent coffee shops in Seattle and roasts some of the best beans in the Pacific Northwest. There are three locations throughout the city, and I chose to visit their showcase cafe (which is inside a 1920’s auto row building) at the base of Capitol Hill. This location has a roastery, training facility, and cupping room on site, and is a wonderful spot to experience the past and present all at once. As the name suggests, Victrola’s vibes are those of the Jazz era and roaring 20’s, which is evident in the architecture, atmosphere, and charm of the cafe. It’s a bright and beautiful place to get some work done on a laptop, chat with some friends, read a book, or sit at a window seat or outside table and watch the world go by.
5000 20th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107
Coffee and plants are a beautiful pairing, and Root does them both to perfection. Not only is Root a specialty coffee bar, it’s also a full-fledged indoor plant shop! The most “Instagrammable” of all the cafes I’ve visited in Seattle, Root’s bright minimalist design and decor really allows the plants to stand out and gives the interior a relaxing and calming vibe. The barista and co-owner Hannah was very friendly and informative, and I appreciated her recommendations for which drink to order as well as what nearby places in Ballard to explore on my walk while enjoying my drink.
I opted for a candied pear latte with oat milk, which was one of the most delicious drinks I’ve had so far in Seattle. The beverages here are made with care and dedication to detail and taste, and I was truly impressed with my overall experience visiting this plant cafe. While there is no seating inside, there are a couple of tables and chairs outside in front. Since Root is located in such a beautiful historic neighborhood, I found it fitting and enjoyable to walk along Ballard Ave with my drink in hand and admire all the beautiful buildings while popping in and out of a few of the local shops in the area. If you plan to be in the Ballard section of Seattle, I definitely recommend visiting Root, and I know I’ll be back to try another one of their incredible creations every time I find myself in that part of the city as well.
4.) Zoka Coffee
2200 N 56th St #6204, Seattle, WA 98103
Zoka places a strong significance on direct trade and community development, has an impressive menu of single origins and blends, and has grown to four total cafes in the Seattle area. I visited their original location in the Greenlake neighborhood, which is very spacious with big windows and great natural light. There are plenty of seats, outlets, and free WiFi, so it’s a great place both to plug in to get some work done and to unplug and unwind in a relaxing, rustic atmosphere. I ordered a chai latte and sat at one of the chairs in the back, which offers a great view of the entire cafe and is the perfect secluded spot to take in the moment and take a pause from the fast-paced chaos of city life outside.
5.) Espresso Vivace
321 Broadway East, Seattle, WA 98102
Vivace has mastered both the art and science that goes into making a perfect espresso. Cafe owner David Schomer is credited with developing and popularizing latte art in the United States, so any cafe in the country that puts a little flower or heart-shaped swirl on top of your drink has David to thank for making that practice the standard. Vivace has several locations, including a cafe in Capitol Hill with inside seating, but I opted to visit their sidewalk bar just a couple of blocks down Broadway from their bigger coffee shop. To me, this sidewalk location perfectly embodies and represents the quintessential Seattle coffee culture experience.
After ordering your drink, you can either sit at one of the outdoor tables and people watch on the always busy and never boring Broadway, or take your beverage with you on an adventure to explore the quirky and eccentric Capitol Hill neighborhood. Many locals and visitors claim that Vivace has the best coffee in Seattle, and I see no reason to disagree with them.
6.) Storyville Coffee
94 Pike Street Top, floor Suite 34, Seattle, WA 98101
Storyville Coffee is located in the heart of Pike Place, and although it’s a bit difficult to find within the maze of the market, it’s worth the effort to enjoy this special cafe. Once inside, you’re rewarded with beautiful wooden decor and comfortable seating spaces, including chairs by the windows that offer views of the bustling market below and the breathtaking Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains in the distance. This is a great spot to take a break from the crowds and chaos of the market and to enjoy a well-known, yet still-hidden gem in Seattle. Skip the long lines at the tourist-trap “original” Starbucks down the road and instead grab a coffee here while visiting Pike Place!
7.) Fremont Coffee Company
459 N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103
Fremont Coffee looks like a house from the outside and feels like home inside. There are lots of cozy rooms with seating indoors, as well as an expansive wrap-around porch that offers plenty of outdoor seating. The entire cafe has an adorable atmosphere and good vibes, and the homey feel makes visiting this coffee shop an even more relaxing and enjoyable experience. Fremont Coffee Company offers fair-trade organic brews and is a best-kept secret right in plain sight in the Fremont neighborhood.
8.) Anchorhead Coffee
2003 Western Ave STE 110A, Seattle, WA 98121
Anchorhead has several locations in Seattle, and although I visited their location just a block away from Pike Place, the chill vibes and lack of crowds here felt a world away from the market. This particular location is very spacious with plenty of seating and shares its space with the Locust Cider taproom. I enjoyed their delicious seasonal beverage “Spice Spice Baby” which is a latte made with honey, warm spices, and orange. Anchorhead is a great place to study or get work done, the staff is friendly, and the coffee is very tasty. That’s a winning combination in my book.
9.) Kaladi Brothers Coffee
517 E Pike St Ste C, Seattle, WA 98122
This hip space in Capitol Hill offers brews made with house-roasted beans. This is another coffee shop that not only has great coffee but is also a great place to study or work. Kaladi has two floors, a spacious artsy atmosphere, and is dog friendly. The oat milk latte was a delicious beverage to sip on while reading and occasionally glancing up to peek at people working on their laptops or having conversations with friends. This cafe is a great community spot and is one of my local routine go-to’s in my neighborhood.
10.) Herkimer Coffee
901 Dexter Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
Herkimer Coffee places a strong emphasis on its quality, sustainability, and dedication to its craft. There are several locations in Seattle, and I enjoyed a mocha at the cafe in the Westlake area of the city, which has a stylish interior, large glass windows, and a great seating area in the loft upstairs. This coffee shop had some of the friendliest staff and nicest atmospheres of all the cafes I visited in the city. My only complaint about Herkimer (and a lot of cafes in Seattle in general) is that they close extremely early. This location closes at 3 PM, and overall most cafes I’ve visited in the city close by 5 or 6 PM at the latest. I’m generally more of a night person and I wish that a city that prides itself on coffee actually had more coffee shops that were open 24/7, or at least till later at night. Other than that, this cafe was excellent and congratulations to all the early birds out there that can enjoy Herkimer at 7 AM when they open.
Seattle has earned its nickname as the “coffee capital of the country” and is by far one of the most famous coffee cities in the entire world. It’s no secret that Seattle is known for coffee, and this list offers just a small sample of all the incredible cafes within this special city. These are a handful of my favorites, but with so many places to choose from in the city (and the standard set so high), you really can’t go wrong with trying any coffee shop in Seattle that catches your eye. I encourage everyone to come explore The Emerald City and either try some of the cafes on this list or discover one on your own to find your new favorite coffee shop here as well. Thanks for reading!
For even more suggestions, check out our story: 5 Killer Cafés in Seattle That Don’t Rhyme With “Arbucks”.