Seattle's Social Coffee Scene
When it comes to meeting places in Seattle, cafes and coffee houses outnumber bars by a factor of 5 to one. Rumored to have more cafes per capita than any other city in North America, Seattle is home to large chains and small independent coffee houses alike. Each cafe has a distinctly different vibe and its own loyal coffeephiles.
Amid the clatter of china and the soothing hum of coffee machines, Seattle residents tend to gather for a communal cup of java or a reprieve. As one barista puts it, coffee drinkers fall into two distinct groups: solitary sippers and your social sippers. Among the solitary drinkers, a large proportion come for the free wireless internet. The non-solitary come for everything else.
Unlike New York City, where some cafes have banned laptops, there are cafes and even chains that cater to those in search of 24-hour wireless internet service like Short Stop Coffee. At many cafes, internet service is a key part of the operation where even small kiosks are designed with power plugs in the floor.
The social life of a typical Seattle cafe changes from hour to hour starting with the hung-over or the early-to-work crowd (depending on whether the cafe opens at dawn or is an all-nighter) followed by moms pushing strollers.
The mid-morning crowd is a motley collection of civic workers in dungarees on a coffee break to entrepreneurs and Lululemon-clad yoga enthusiasts. Later in the morning and throughout the day, you get retirees, office and retail employees on coffee breaks, and the ubiquitous laptop users. In trendy neigborhoods like Belltown, there are groups of poets, knitters, language learners and book club enthusiasts.
Even dog owners can find cafes which cater to canines such as the Stumptown Coffee in Capitol Hill, which offers free dog biscuits.
If Seattle is the coffee capital, two of the essential neighbourhoods for coffee are Fremont and Capitol Hill. Freemont is hip and eclectic, and welcomes visitors with a sign that says “Welcome to the Center of the Universe”. Capitol Hill has an interesting mix of shops, art-house theatres and trendy restaurants. Both neighbourhods are friendly and full of interesting local coffee shops.
While Seattle has an established reputation as a coffee capital, particularly thanks to Starbucks Coffee, many other cities in the Pacific Northwest also offer vibrant coffee scenes. Portland, San Francisco and Vancouver all offer great coffee scenes and the same kind of temperate, cloudy weather that makes sipping a coffee in a warm, friendly cafe so enjoyable.
Photo Credit: Benson Kua