A smoke break at Seattle's Liberty Coffee, photo (also used as feature photo): Scooter the Photographer; all other images Ryan Dorn.

Out of the hundreds of coffee shops in Seattle, here are 8 local cafes that serve the best coffee and add to the culture of their neighborhoods.
Zoka Coffee

Large windows, worn tables, and beat-up wood floors give Zoka Coffee Roasters and Tea Company an unassuming feel. They were one of the first Seattle shops to design rosetta patterns in latte foam.

Anjuli makes a pretty cup at Zola.

A barista named Anjuli was making that pattern in my cappuccino the last time I was there as she told me she hoped to compete in the Northwest Barista Championship later that month.

They have two locations but I usually visit the Tangletown shop after grabbing a Mighty-O Donut across the street.

2200 North 56th St.

Cherry Street Coffee

Cherry Street Coffee has five locations between historic Pioneer Square and Belltown. Each one looks vastly different. From a fifteen-foot spray painted “Love” behind the counter at one to modern Asian décor at another, each location is artsy and colorful.

This is the coffee shop I frequent when I’m hitting up the art walk on the first Thursday of every month — a dry cappuccino brings out my inner wannabe-artist as I move from one gallery to the next. For the local working folks, they’ve designated lunch hours for laptop use — between 11:30-1:30 there’s plenty of room away from the windows to keep glare to a minimum.

1212 1st Ave. or 103 Cherry St.

Trabant Coffee and Chai

I’m not that into bacon scones, but I know where to go when I’m in the mood. Trabant Coffee and Chai has a love affair with weird astronauts and good coffee.

They still have a Clover Brewing System machine, an apparatus that’s almost only found in Starbucks anymore (they bought Clover and stopped distributing their machines to the little guys). The machine makes a single cup of joe that’s completely customizable from temperature to length of time brewed.

The funky, colorful astronaut paintings on the inside and outside of the University District location go with the vibe of the comic book shop next door and the large college-student customer base. But grownups can eat and drink here too. Anchor Porter with a shot of espresso is one of their specialties. I wonder if that goes good with bacon scones? I might be too afraid to find out.

1309 NE 45th St.

Victrola Coffee Roasters

Coffee geeks unite for Victrola Coffee Roasters. Funky and hip in Capitol Hill, this shop knows how to make coffee.

Victrola goes the distance with ethics.

Tattooed baristas with ear gauges meticulously craft espresso drinks as vintage jazz plays in the background. Two certified Q cuppers and remarkable attention to detail make this one of the best spots for coffee in the city.

They feature a handful of single origin beans, including espresso — not just from one country or one farm, but from one lot on a specific farm. They participate in direct trade when possible, visiting each bean grower to see what they’re purchasing and making sure the grower is treated fairly. And if the coffee on the shelf is older than seven days, they compost it.

411 15th Ave. E

Cloud City Coffee

Cloud City Coffee is a large, family-friendly shop that’s been serving Maple Leaf for nine years. When I go, I sink into the comfy couch and watch little ones tear up the kids’ area as I enjoy a cup from True North Coffee Roasters, a local family-run company.

When I’m in a hurry, their drip coffee is served at the “honor bar” where I can leave a buck for a twelve-ounce — or bring my own sixteen-ounce mug and still pay the same price. Their scones, quickbread, and coffee cake change almost daily.

8801 Roosevelt Way NE

Java Bean

Just blocks from historical Old Ballard, walking into the Java Bean is like entering a hunting lodge. Antlers and wooden snowshoes hang on the walls surrounded by black and white pictures of national parks and a large painted mural of Mount Rainier.

Their website displays fishing photos and the local ski/snow report, and reminds me of the Montana coffee shop I worked at in college. In the summer I fight off wicked ice cream headaches while slurping on a bean freeze (ice blended frozen coffee) and in the winter, café mole (spiced chocolate) mochas fuel me before skiing heavy powder in the North Cascades.

5819 24th Ave. NW

Café Javasti

The smell of crepes hits you walking into Café Javasti. On the rare occasion I’m not in the mood for a chicken and pesto crepe, I get the blueberry scone, loaded with juicy, fresh berries.

Big open windows and lots of places to sit inside and out make this a great place to hang out and read or work on their free Wi-Fi. Moms with strollers are just as likely to be enjoying the small Maple Leaf and Wedgwood locations as professionals on their way to work. Their seasonal menus are always changing. My summer favorite is the Earl Greyhound — Earl Grey tea with agave syrup and grapefruit juice.

8410 5th Ave. NE

Café Fiore

Café Fiore is one of the city’s first organic coffee houses.

Fiore might just be worth the attitude.

The Ballard location is a dark, brick structure with glowing orange menus. If it’s sunny in Seattle (and that’s a big if), the Queen Anne location provides a south-facing porch to soak up the sun.

The staff is usually bordering on rude but the Americanos are great here because their espresso is exceptional. Dagoba chocolate is a big reason why the Sevilla — a mocha with strips of orange zest — can bring my wife out of the mid-winter blues.

5405 Leary Ave. NW

These eight shops aren’t the only places in Seattle to enjoy good coffee. They’re everywhere, doing their best to compete as big coffee chains try to take over. With unique products, a community vibe where the baristas recognize you, and a passion for coffee, these are just a few local shops where you can vote for the little guy.

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