Monday, May 28, 2012

Seattle's Best

Ever since Starbucks' global explosion, Seattle has become synonymous with coffee. But there is more to the city than the purveyor of burnt beans and Norah Jones. A longtime tea lover, I asked friends for suggestions on where to truly find Seattle's best coffee, in the hopes of becoming the stereotypical Seattleite: a java-drinking bean snob. While I didn't succeed in the latter, I still managed to discover three fantastic Starbucks alternatives.

Lighthouse Roasters

Lighthouse Roasters is located in Fremont, the quirky Seattle neighborhood that calls itself "The Center of the Universe". Among the many oddities found in Fremont include a Soviet-era statue of Lenin from Slovakia and an eighteen-foot troll statue under a bridge, clutching a real Volkswagen Beetle in his hand.  In comparison, Lighthouse Roasters seems quite tame. The shop is open, spacious, and sparsely decorated. As it was a balmy day, I ordered an iced Americano. It was rich without being overpowering, and not even a bit acidic. Usually I have to add sugar and lots of cream to make coffee palatable, but with this Americano I added only a splash of half-and-half and that was all I needed.

Lighthouse Roasters roasts their beans daily in small, vintage cast-iron roasters. You can order their blends and varietals from their website.

Stumptown Coffee

First let me add a disclaimer: Stumptown isn't a Seattle-based coffee shop. It started in Portland, before opening two locations in Seattle and one in Manhattan. I'm still a bit sore about that, since when it comes to Northwest subculture, Seattle is often overshadowed by its hipper city to the south. And for good reason, Portland has Powell's Books and Voodoo Donuts and even inspired the comedy-show Portlandia. I was really hoping Seattle could beat Portland with coffee, but I guess not.

Despite its "Portlandishness", many Seattleites believe that Stumptown has the best beans in the city, and they certainly win for their sheer number of varieties, from South America to Africa to Indonesia.
 When I stopped by the Stumptown on Capitol Hill, I was feeling a bit over-adventurous and ordered a con panna, an espresso shot topped with whipped cream. Big mistake. I'm not very good at stomaching incredibly bitter things, even in small quantities. I was about to call my trip to Stumptown a failure, when the barista mentioned they were roasting beans in the basement if I wanted to go see. Turns out I had also arrived just in time for a free cupping, where a barista walks you through the roasting process and lets you try some of Stumptown's different blends. Mission Stumptown: success!

You can order Stumptown's coffees online, or if you're on the East Coast check out their Manhattan location at 29th and Broadway.

Local Color

Another disclaimer: I had already been to Local Color. In fact, it's my favorite coffee shop in Seattle, and I always make sure to hit it up when I'm in my hometown. No, they don't roast their own beans. However, their ambiance and location can't be beat.

Local Color is located within a stone's throw of the original Starbucks in the Pike Place Market, one of the nation's oldest and largest public markets. I think it's this proximity to Starbucks that keeps Local Color practically devoid of tourists in one of the city's top tourist destinations, making the experience at Local Color "local" indeed.

However, I hold Local Color near-and-dear to my heart for two other reasons. Firstly, it's also an art gallery, and I always enjoy looking at the selected artists works displayed in the back. Secondly, they serve my favorite coffee drink in the city, their Aztec mocha. True, I don't like their Aztec mocha because of the quality of their coffee, but because of the added chocolate and spices (add enough chocolate and spices and I'll drink anything!) Nevertheless, all my friends have agreed the Aztec mocha is quite decadent, and certainly worth trying if you're ever in the great tourist-trap Pike Place Market.

-Elliott Brooks

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...