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History of Coffee in Seattle

Seattle’s coffee history in a cup.

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| September 19, 2018
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Seattle is a city growing by the second – watered by a perpetual sheet of rain, pollinated with clever ideas, and tended to by eclectic hands. However, something other than rain keeps this city hydrated from the inside out. At Seattle’s core, amongst other things, is coffee. Infusing the city and running through the veins of our streets, coffee shops can be found on most corners. However much coffee you drink every day, have you ever wondered how the coffee scene blossomed in Seattle? We’ll be sharing some of the history behind how coffee took its pedestal in our region and a few of our favorite local coffee shops around town.

From the 1800s on, America has enjoyed coffee. Back then, coffee was not nearly as fancy as it is now. Lattes hadn’t been born yet and cold brew wasn’t even a thought. As time moved on, why did Seattle become the perfect nest to nurture a coffee scene? With the drizzly weather, a warm cup of coffee just makes sense. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, Seattle was a rich mélange of Bohemian culture, rainy months, and casual gatherings with friends. Coffee shops began popping up as a place to gather, exchange ideas, hear local artists perform, enjoy a warm drink sheltered from the cold, or get work done.

There were many movements that fit under the umbrella of the counterculture that made up the 1960s and onward into the 80s – anti-corporate being one of them. During this time, coffee drinkers began pulling away from major coffee chains and began seeking out smaller, local coffee shops instead. Once this began, a switch could not be turned off. People were opening hole-in-the-wall coffee shops left and right, each with their own roasts and genuine flare. There are so many ways to enjoy this delicious beverage. Even though many were not crafted in Seattle, a lot of different blends and concoctions rose to the top of the enjoyment list thanks to the booming Seattle coffee culture. Lattes gained their fame here in the early 1980s, Frappuccino took the stage in the mid-1990s through Starbucks, and cold brew became its most popular in just the last 10 years.

Here are a few of the oldest and most popular coffee shops in the Seattle area you may not already know about. Make sure you check them out!

history of coffee cafe allegro iconCafé Allegro

Known as Seattle’s original espresso bar, Café Allegro opened in 1975 in the University District and has been thriving ever since. Walls lined with art, book worms nestled in every corner, and fresh-roasted coffee on site, this place is a historical gem serving up a tasty Cup of Joe.


history of coffee moore coffee shop iconMoore Coffee Shop

Recently showcased in Food Network magazine as the #2 rated coffee shop in Seattle, the Moore Coffee Shop is known for beautiful latte art, an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere, and delicious waffles and sandwiches. For some added originality, it’s likely that you’ll find Totoro, a cat, or an elephant in your latte foam.


history of coffee seattle coffee works iconSeattle Coffee Works

With many competing locations around the area, this café takes pride in sourcing coffee from “environmentally and socially conscious coffee growers” and serving it in an open space with natural light, plants, and a fresh design.


history of coffee cafe d'arte iconCafé D’arte

Another historical spot to visit, Café D’arte (which means “art of coffee”) was opened in 1985 in Pioneer Square by Mauro Cipolla after moving to the PNW from Italy. Continuing the Italian coffee tradition of cozy shops and serving up pastries from local bakeries, this place isn’t one to miss.


history of coffee anchorhead coffee iconAnchorhead Coffee

A twist on your typical café, Anchorhead Coffee serves classic drinks as well as specialty treats at two locations. Order the “Quaffle”, a cross between a cinnamon roll, croissant, and waffle. Or try the pistachio matcha latte for something subtly sweet and nutty. This café is a great place to spy on the city with a sophisticated and modern nautical atmosphere.


history of coffee bartells coffee icon

Bartell’s Coffee Bars

We also take pride in serving some of your favorite brands for when you need them most. In case you haven’t visited yet, we have three store locations with coffee bars, all serving fresh, local roasts for whenever you’re on the go:

Our coffee bar locations:

What’s your favorite coffee shop in Seattle?

Sources: Seattle Coffee Scene, Bean Box, Seattle Magazine, Quora, Visit the USA.