Throwback Thursday: Coffee Culture in Seattle

A quick history of the defining roasters and coffee hubs in the 206
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Seattle is a city where the freeze may be real, but our coffee is warm and inviting. Thus, on the second Thursday of each month, MOHAI hosts Seattle AntiFreeze, a social gathering meant to delve into other things besides the stereotypical nice-but-distant characteristic that sometimes defines us to newcomers. And in today's installment, from 6 to 7 p.m. (galleries are open until 8), they're exploring coffee culture in Seattle.

In its honor, we decided to dive back into the café milestones of our city. Because freeze or no-freeze, Seattle does pour a proud cup of coffee.


Every thriving culture is built upon a strong foundation. To coffee culture in Seattle, Starbucks is this cornerstone. Originally located at 2000 Western Avenue from 1971-1976, the first Starbucks opened by Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordom Bowker as a coffee bean retailer and roaster. The name comes from the chief on the Pequod whaling ship in Moby-Dick, Starbuck. Starbucks opened its first overseas location in Tokyo, Japan in 1996. It quickly took off as the world-superpower of coffee, now serving up its famous brew in 21,160 stores in 63 countries.

Espresso Vivace: 

Espresso Vivace, known to Seattleites as simply "Vivace," first opened its doors in 1988. David Schomer was a Boeing engineer prior to getting into the coffee business. He quickly became recognized for his fine-tuned brewing and roasting process, namely for customizing espresso machines to produce a constant water temperature. Schomer also popularized coffee art in the United States, and draws in baristas from across the world coming to learn from his techniques.  

Caffe Vita: 

Caffe Vita was born in 1995 at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill. Originally opened by partners Mike McConnell, Mike Prins and Michael Foster, McConnell soon after took the lead, growing Caffe Vita in Seattle while pioneering the Farm Direct movement. Now with nine locations in the Pacific Northwest, a roasteria cafe in New York and a cafe in Los Angeles, Caffe Vita is known for its delicious coffee just as much as its fair and sustainable sourcing practices. 



Victrola Coffee Roasters opened in 2000, stemming from a need in the 15th Avenue area of Captiol Hill for good coffee and a local hang-out. From early on Victrola roasted its own coffee, and demonstrated a committment to educating the community about it while providing a relaxed and architecturally astute place in which to drink it. Drawing design inspiration from the jazz music and home phonograph of the 1920s, Victrola's locations on Beacon Hill, 15th Avenue and East Pike have stayed true to their roots, all boasting a vintage charm and quintessential neighborhood feel. 

Top-Pot Doughnuts

Top Pot Doughnuts is the newest to the group, establishing itself in 2002 by brothers Mark and Michael Klebeck. The name Top Pot comes from the vintage neon-pink sign the brothers scored from a boarded up Chinese restaurant called "TopSpot." In transport, the "S" fell off the sign, hence Top Pot was born. The sign became a symbol of blending the old with new, representing a space where people can come enjoy a doughnut and coffee, not in a fast-food environment, but in a place committed to an old-school pace and feel. 


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