Seattle + coffee

August 25, 2010

Seattle and coffee go together like…oh, a horse & carriage, don’t they?

But around town, I’m seeing more Tully’s and Seattle’s Best coffee shops than Starbucks.

I’ve always thought Starbucks coffee tasted burnt. Over-roasted.

This week I’ve discovered the balanced, smooth, strong flavor of Starbucks Kona coffee. In fact, my fabulous husband just walked in with a couple of cups to start our morning.

At $22 a bag, I won’t be buying it for home brew. But I can buy a cup for $2.25 here and it’s delish.

Kona coffee is grown on only a 20-mile swath of land in Hawaii, and by small growers. Which is why it’s so costly. But if you haven’t tasted the rich flavor, you’re definitely missing out. If you see it by the cup, take a chance. Because most of us would have to break into our 401Ks to afford an entire bag.

Here’s a weird thing: Kona by the cup is offered only in Tall and Grande sizes. But each time we’ve ordered, they ask if we mind if they put it in a Venti cup. (Do we mind getting a Venti Kona for the cost of a Grande? Duh…) Maybe it’s a way to get us hooked, like over-loading cigarettes with nicotine.

I’ve never noticed this by-the-cup goodness offered in California and Florida Starbucks. But now that I have, it’s really the only Starbucks coffee I can drink straight, without disguising it in a Mocha.

Coffee shops have become our “third places,” I’ve read. Not home, not work, but a third place we commonly hang out.

Most coffee shops close early. I guess they’ve become daytime hangouts only and I’m not sure why. Back in beatnik times, coffee houses were destinations for late night poetry readings. These days, though, you’d be hard-pressed to find a coffee shop open past 7pm.

Since I’m not a big cocktailer, I like the idea of going out late for coffee, but it’s not easy to find a place that’s open. There must be other people like me, who aren’t kept awake by caffeine and who like the idea of sitting late at a coffee house.

The other thing that the big corporate coffee chains don’t do is host local talent: poets, musicians, actors. Seems to me that would boost evening clientele, and revenues. Today’s coffee shops are becoming more like Automats than places with individual personalities that reflect their neighborhoods.

The other night, when we were craving a little something, Starbucks was the only city center Seattle coffee shop we could find still open at 8pm, and they were sweeping up.

What would it take to start a movement to encourage evening hours and funky entertainment for today’s coffee shops?

6 comments on “Seattle + coffee
  1. If you can get away from “corporate coffee” as I like to call it and find a Stumptown or Vivace you will pleasantly surprised! Now that is coffee! We have some amazing small shops unique to us here in Seattle!

  2. The Starbucks bag said 100% Kona, but we’re going to order a bag from you because even my husband said it’s the best coffee he’s had in his life.

  3. Joaqin says:

    Starbucks makes sure that the 100% Kona declaration on the label is followed to the T. They sponsor coffee related events in Kona and don’t want to do what other large processors do here in the island and offshore: Call it 10% Kona and put 90% inferior foreign beans into the bag. Or call it Kona Style, Kona Classic, etc. and no Kona beans are in the bag.

    Yet the Starbucks price is double of what we local farmers ask when you buy farm direct. Guess their overhead drives it up that much.

    Best to check out single estate Kona coffee from various small farms. There are more than 700 of them! That’s the real deal and more distinct in taste than pooled coffee from various farms, and sold under a generic label. Many have even free shipping offers. is one of them.

    Even better: Come visit some farms and get caffeinated while enjoying the spectacular scenery on our coasts!

  4. Joaquin, a visit to this coffee lover sounds like a great idea!

    When’s the best time to visit a small farm?

  5. Joaqin says:

    Harvest starts around now and lasts into January. But its also the rainy season in Kona, meaning we have a downpour in the afternoon, otherwise sunshine in the mornings. The Kona Coffee Festival is a week in November (11/5-11/14) which much coffee related stuff to see and do. Flowering happens in March, April which is a major olfactory and visual experience, albeit short one.

    In short, there’s no real ‘bad’ time. The Kona area is densely packed with historically+geologically interesting locations. Plus beaches, cute little restaurants and open spaces.

  6. We just talked about this last night. Sounds like a trip is in next year’s plan and we want to tour a small farm. I am not a big festival fan but the Coffee Festival would be my kind of place. Thanks for the info. November’s weather in northern Calif is not always so good so a great time for us to go next yr. If not sooner. Thanks again. And today we’ll order some real Kona. 😉

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