Year end blogging feels unexpectedly intimidating. There's suddenly a lot of pressure to say something profound, or at least, in some way climactic. It seems, after a year of intentionally drinking more coffee than I ought to, I should be able to stand at the changing of the decade and offer a definitive guide to the best and worst in Seattle's coffee. Unfortunately, if I've learned one thing in the past year, it is that there is very little coffee-related that you can class as definitive. Coffee is a growing, changing industry... one that is growing and changing on a daily basis. There is a lot to be said, but on topics as diverse as fair trade, roasting, and this year's trendy "pressure profiling," there is very little that is settled.
January, 2010 - Beginning Coffee by finishing Grad School.
After giving it some thought, I've decided that the best thing to do is to simply offer a recap of the year, in the form of my five favorite cups of coffee from 2010. Most of the year was spent drinking espresso, so these are, necessarily, espresso-oriented rankings. That is not to say that other brews offered by these destinations are any less superior.
5. Seattle Coffee Works takes number five, on two counts: first, for having the best "Slow Bar" around. And second, for having the happiest mugs (mugs to drink out of, not the faces of the staff... although those mugs are usually pretty happy, too). Both of these categories are extremely important categories, but for most people, the slow bar is more of a draw. If you want to do a side-by-side comparison of different beans without doing a cupping, or are curious how flavor is changed in a vacuum pot vs. french press, Seattle Coffee Works' slow bar is the place to go.
4. Fonte Coffee & Wine Bar takes number four for offering the at once most alarming, interesting and appealing straight shot of single origin espresso encountered all year (courtesy of Brazil). The Fonte menu has one-of-a-kind beverages, such as their sage latte, and shows an attention to detail that extends as far as offering different espresso for milk vs. non-milk beverages. It also may be the only respectable destination in the city for a non-casual coffee date. Feel free to dress up for this one!
3. Is a split category, half of it going to Stumptown on 12th for offering Seattle's best cupping, and the other half going to Tougo in the Central District (ironically) for being the best place to drink Stumptown. Props must be given to any roastery that can make a cupping really, truly accessible, educational, and fun. Likewise, props must also be given to any coffee shop that can prepare a coffee better than its own roastery can!
2. Cafe Cuzco in Ballard is the best place to cheer up, the best place to write, the best place to drop in on an impromptu jam session, and as an added bonus: serves up one of the best americanos in town. As a coffee shop, it's also a best place to watch soccer. As a cafe, it offers one of the only options for traditional Peruvian food in Seattle. Cafe Cuzco originally inspired this whole coffee blogging idea, almost one year ago, and to date remains one of my favorite coffee shop destinations in Seattle.
1. Finally, The Victrola Roastery on Pike, throughout all of 2010, has in my opinion had the most consistently excellent espresso. Every so often, another roaster might steal the "favorite espresso" category, but it's never for very long. Thus far, Victrola has always won me back in short order as the place I know I can count on for a really good cup of coffee. ...They also proved to have the best peppermint latte city-wide over this holiday season. And you may rest assured that I drank plenty of peppermint lattes in the name of testing that theory; the information is reliable.
So there you have it: an entire year, reduced to five convenient locations. (Six locations, if you were paying attention.) Happy New Year, Seattle! May your December 31st parties all be perfectly offset by your January 1st coffee.