There’s a new report making the rounds on the Internet right now that claims Seattle is not the best city for coffee lovers, instead giving that title to Berkeley, California. The survey, published by Apartment Guide, even puts Vancouver, Washington and San Francisco in front of Seattle, which is ranked fourth on the list.
You only need to know that this company is ranking Vancouver, Washington, a rather boring suburb of Portland, over Seattle to know this list is ridiculous. But if you look at how the company ranked each city the whole report loses all credibility. Apartment Guide didn’t actually try to measure which city has the best coffee, they only ranked different large cities based on the number of coffee shops in each city, as if a person who loves coffee is really just looking for the maximum number of options for getting coffee.
That’s absurd and paints coffee lovers as drug addicts, happy to live wherever there are the most options for acquiring their drug. “I’ll live in Vancouver since there are so many coffee shops I will never have to wait in line for my caffeine,” says the hypothetical Apartment Guide coffee lover.
If Apartment Guide actually looked at the quality of the coffee in each city Seattle would easily have taken the top spot.
Every large American city now has at least some good coffee, but Seattle is crowded with world-class coffee roasters. Deciding where to get coffee in Seattle is a difficult experience, only because there are too many good options. If you’re on Capitol Hill you’re faced with choosing between Café Vita or Capitol Coffee or Espresso Vivace or Victrola. If you’re down in Pioneer you have to decide between Slate or Caffee Umbria or Zeitgeist. Other cities would be luck to have one of these roasters or cafes, meanwhile we are filled with them.
Christine Clarridge over at the Times did a good job of taking on this terrible Apartment Guide list by talking with some local coffee gurus like David Schomer of Espresso Vivace and Ross Beamish of Anchorhead. I was really happy to see Beamish in the story, as Anchorhead is one of the city’s best roasters and cafes. And Schomer gave Clarridge some good quotes, including when he decried San Francisco's new style of "horrible, sour coffee.” But Clarridge’s story doesn’t fully state how pivotal Seattle has been in the modern history of coffee. We have undoubtedly improved the quality of the world’s coffee. We pioneered second and third wave coffee and we’ll pioneer the fourth wave when we get to it.
Seattle’s coffee history, of course, includes Starbucks, which sells some questionable coffee but convinced America that coffee (even if it has more sugar than caffeine in it) is worth spending more than a dollar on. Starbucks also brought espresso into America’s consciousness after Kent Bakke, a Seattleite, convinced the company to use La Marzocco espresso machines. Bakke eventually invested in La Marzocco and the iconic Italian espresso company was even based in Ballard for a few years.
Seattle is home to three manufacturers that create the most innovative espresso machines in the world. Synesso, Slayer, and Mavam create espresso machines that coffee experts around the world fiend for. People use these company’s espresso machines as guidebooks for traveling to great cafés. If a café in Japan or Argentina has a Slayer machine you can trust that they make great coffee. These companies have become like stamps that guarantee the café serves great coffee, and that guarantee comes with another note: made in Seattle, the best coffee city in the world.