Why I love Espresso and What Really Happened in Seattle
I cannot remember my first cup of espresso but I have had countless sweet memories of delicious coffee over the years.
When in 2007 I decided to give up my daily coffee, I missed more than anything the idea of having a cup of espresso, the preparation, and the aroma. It takes great courage to break an addiction, and greater risk still to return to it on occasion. While I have ditched the daily habit, I slightly bend the rules when visiting cities which take local pride in their delicious local beans. Besides, what fun is life if we don’t sometimes throw caution to the wind and indulge on our most sinful cravings, and live to write a post about it? And so it is with that determination that we set out to thoroughly delight in the Emerald city’s coffee shop downtown haven. Here is an account of the 7 memorable stops on our path in a mid-October visit to Seattle.
Note: I kept my impressions of the coffee shops objective, consistent, and to a very high standard. Service and friendliness of owners and staff is as important to me as the taste factor. I took my husband’s account into consideration too, so this is the tale of an ex-espresso-drinker and a current coffee lover infused in one. And the Numbers are merely the order with which we visited each place, no more.
Number 1 Espresso in Seattle: Caffe Ladro:
It was a good thing we stopped at Caffe Ladro more than once. The first owner barely said a word to us during the transaction. the second time we were greeted slightly better but overall, the warmth of welcome lacks here. The shop is located at an intersection, and with its tall ceilings, slanted windows, a great many yellow fabric light balls hanging from the ceiling, makes for a nice ambiance, save for the bizarre art that I could not appreciate. It is note-worthy to mention that this is one of the very few coffee shops which opens early: 5:30am! We visited them at 6am the second time to make sure of that! They claim their coffee is made from organic shade grown coffee beans. The unfriendly lady did not serve my order in a real mug but the guy on the second visit gave me an espresso cup.
My single shot Americano with a dash of cream was tasty, with no hint of bitterness, and as per Andy, full body yet light. I noticed both times, mid-afternoon and early AM, did not afford much staying traffic to this place, but Andy insisted on them having a really delicious cup of joe!
Number 2 Espresso in Seattle: The Kaladi Brothers:
I was so excited this morning, anticipating a great yoga class right across the street, watching the Seattle rain come down and absolutely loving life. The ambiance at The Kaladi Brothers screams a hip, coffee shop hang-out with yummy java and where you can spend hours and still leave with a tinge of sadness.
The staff is funny and welcoming, warm and entertaining. The ambiance is fun, and they did have heavy cream for my espresso. The espresso was supreme, strong but not bitter, creamy foam, intoxicating aroma and served in a perfect cup and saucer with a spoon. I nearly regretted leaving after 30 minutes to go to yoga.
Number 3 Espresso in Seattle: Caffe Senso Unico:
We waited outside for 10minutes until the kind lady opened the doors to Caffe Senso at 7:30am on the weekend (with earlier hours on the week days). The coffee shop is decorated with the sights and sounds of Italy, as she told us rightly so since the owner is from Northern Italy, where he currently was traveling. That led us down the ultimate Italy conversation, and we found her to be warm, funny and sincere.
The caffe has its own line happy ceramic design for all mugs and cups. I ordered a single shot Machiato; my husband however ordered a double shot Americano, which she made as a single at first. While Andy would drink anything she would have handed him to save awkwardness, sweet heart that he is, she refused and started over with the right order, a sign of a true barista!
We sat there for another 30 minutes and sadly, I did not see anyone else enter. We left hoping for sure that traffic will pour in much like the rain as the day wears on.
Traveling changes your mind and expands your horizons! If you like to see the other travel stories here, check the On the Road category.
Number 4 Espresso in Seattle: Seattle Coffee Works:
Seattle Coffee Works was one of our quicker stops, and we truly stumbled upon it, checked out the ambiance and promptly went in.
The shop was crowded mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and the barista were loud and entertaining. I sat back and enjoyed watching Andy order. They seemed to know the names of the customers, and keep the energy of the place up.
I ordered and consumed a heavenly cup of Espresso, quite possibly one of the very best. It was made to perfection, and I could have easily followed it with a second, whereas usually the single shot is more than enough and leaves me thirsty. It was also served in a perfect red espresso cup! While it seemed a bit too crowded for any quiet conversation or deep thinking, I was able to read and relax fine.
The staff was superb, the location ideal in the heart of downtown Seattle, and the happiness and buzz contained within that red cup kept me going for a few more hours on foot. (Many thanks to Coffee Hero for providing the middle photo on the collage!)
Number 5 Espresso in Seattle: Local Color, Art & Coffee:
I admit that I did not drink the coffee here at Local Color Art & Coffee. I simply could not bring myself to consume another cup so soon, but my husband did and I sat and observed.
It had been a particularly heavy morning with conversation, and espresso I was not craving. This coffee shop is located right across one of my favorite spots in Seattle, the Pike Street Market. The location is ideal and it attracts a great deal of traffic. The girls running the place are very friendly, and gave great service to Andy. They do happen to have only the very tall high chairs which I really don’t care to relax in for long. Overall, this place carries the ambiance and feel for a cafe with coffee rather than a coffee shop with snacks. It enjoys a very popular location no doubt, and I think the coffee was at best passable, given the high standard that all others were setting for us. I don’t think I missed out on much by skipping this once.
Number 6 Espresso in Seattle: Monorail Expresso:
Sometimes, I wonder what keeps the shop owners so upbeat, so excited to see customers, to happy even in the cold, rain, cloud, and busiest traffic hour with no help. This might have been one of the reasons we stopped here to let the nice old guy make us a memorable cup. As the name implies, this is not a full-service coffee shop, it is much like a hot-dog stand by the building side of the road, with a table and couple of chairs across the sidewalk under the tree. The owner greeted us most warmly.
Andy ordered my Machiato but asked for a go-cup (!), and kind that he was, the owner made the switch a bit late in the process just to make me happy. He also showed us how he puts a dash of sugar on top of pressed espresso before pouring out the coffee. I stood around the corner to enjoy my Machiato. I did not think I would enjoy so much standing to drink. The people watching on busy Seattle streets are nice, and I was crazy for the cloudy, rainy, cool weather. As far as the pure taste of my espresso however, I must say that I tasted some bitterness, and the sugar did not have the anticipated affect of creating that ideal blend between strong and creamy coffee without the bitterness. I felt forgiving and while I rank the espresso above average at best, I rank the service very high.
Number 7 Espresso in Seattle: Macrina Bakery & Cafe:
This was to be our last stop as we were leaving the beautiful opera and heading back to wait it out for the red eye flight. This place is mainly a bakery turned coffee shop, and the look of delicious pastries and cookies from the window beckoned me. Hard as I am on myself, and on my poor husband, I am too weak to resist temptation especially when combined with coffee. We went in and chose two cookies: A gingerbread and a chocolate chip. I told him what I want and went to grab a table.
While waiting, I poured us some water and started to nibble at my cookie, and then at his, only to find them hard as rock – definite measure of stale. Very disappointing. Then Andy brought my single shot of espresso in a large white plastic cup. You’d have to agree with me that one shot of espresso belongs in a tiny cup the size of one shot – that is why man invented espresso cups and why coffee shops stock them like there is no tomorrow. Apparently they were out or too lazy to rinse out a cup for me. I think that just about did it.
I would not return to Macrina for the bakery or the coffee, and in hindsight, the service was not that great either. Oh well, they cannot all be stars!
My most favorite spot in Seattle?
So hard to tell ~ competition is tough and plenty of coffee shops to thoroughly enjoy in this wonderful cit of Seattle, to which we shall be back for fun, and maybe another cup or two of creamy, perfect espresso! As for now, back to drinking that Oolong tea with Raw honey and kicking the habit of espresso once again.