Just back from Seattle. Never enough time. But I checked out a handful of shops from Imbibe Magazine’s 20 Best Shops in Seattle in 2012. http://www.imbibemagazine.com/Best-Coffee-Shops-in-Seattle
Of those listed I managed to visit Caffe Vita, Herkimer, Neptune, Trabant, Victrola, and Zoka. The standouts from my visit were Trabant -rockin’ Kuma’ Panama Natural on the bar and Victrola. Both shops were also coincidently the only shops (of the above) that had single origin espressos. The Pacific Northwest has a style. I wouldn’t say roasty -but something like roasty and lots of shop blends, not so many SOEs, and drier cappuccinos. The espresso style (which is all I tried) seems more balanced than daring palate-wise (however, I’m learning my palate preferences are in the minority and not in line with current SCAA high scoring marks and judging.) So what I mean by balance, is more sip to sip sameness within the cup, less brightness (and if it’s in the cup it’s subdued) -more millard reaction centric -so caramelized sugar/toasted cane. The cups are less layered or changing sip to sip. The menus were overall not so deconstructed, but more moderate than say a Starbucks (i.e., sizes but fewer, flavors but fewer, etc.) Also, the non-coffee offerings were more socially thoughtful, organic milks/non-milk ‘milks’, herbal teas, house made flavoring -and all had some sort of food menu -pastries mainly.
I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it to the Kuma Roastery and that I missed out on a visit to Empire Espresso Bar and Millstead & Co.
Also, design-wise the cafes that I visited had more of a finished ‘craftsman’ style than the super hollowed out industrial/lofty spaces of new third wave coffee shops. So less steel, concrete, raw wood -more finished carpentry, smooth rectilinear lines, painted trim, finished shelving -modest material richness -but not overly spare. Nice people, helpful, and serious about coffee. Excellent weather.