You know about the big-box coffee sellers and their ubiquitous stores all over the globe. You may even be sitting in one now, perusing OZY and sipping on a delightful cup of corporate brew. Which is great for what it is, but maybe you’re looking for great and unqualified. Well, we’ve got it: One of the the best coffee shops in the great Pacific Northwest is probably one that you’ve never even heard of before.
Huh, what, who?
Started in 1995 in a small neighborhood of downtown Seattle known to the locals as Queen Anne, Caffé Vita’s reputation grew. So did their dedicated and tailor-made customer base, who resisted the purported best – or at least the most populous, Starbucks – in favor of what’s felt to be the best. “There was a guy on NPR talking about bananas,” said illustrator and coffee lunatic Jim Blanchard. “He said after tasting this certain type of banana he could eat no other. Ever. Again. Their coffee is like that.”The answer to all of the above: the Caffé Vita Roasting Company.
Today Caffé Vita operates nine cafes in the Pacific Northwest area, plus a rotisserie cafe in New York and a cafe in Los Angeles. Moreover, owner Mike McConnell was a pioneer of what’s known as the farm-direct movement of buying directly from the coffee growers themselves and promoting sustainable farming practices, as well as fair trade commerce with folks on farms in Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Panama and Sumatra. They roast all of their coffees on site and offer the customer the opportunity to learn about the coffee growing and roasting process, starting with the red coffee berry to the finished cup.
People in the know, know – and so do foodies and other epicures. Not just for the taste, or the eco-friendly, conscientiously minded business, but because the folks at Caffé Vita’s obsession for coffee is total: from the bean to the consumption of the end product and the environs it’s consumed in. Many businesses in the area stock their break rooms with Caffé Vita. With enticing original blends like Caffé Del Sol, Queen City and Caffé Luna, to name a few, you’ll undoubtedly fall in full-blown coffee love.
What kind of love? Try the newest, a Nicaraguan coffee from a farm called Santa Gema with a silky sweet body and a tart tangerine flavor. Or this coffee from the Congo that’s roasted just on the dark side of a medium roast with a full body and notes of cedar and molasses that finish with a ripe fruit or melon sensation.
For nonlocals, the coffee is available online, along with T-shirts, cups with saucers, even flip-flops. If you don’t live near one of their shops, you can still soak up their distinctly Northwest vibe. Last August, they launched “Steadfast,” a video series about local heroes like Edith Macefield, an 86-year-old woman who refuses, in a struggle against developers, to give up her house for $1 million.
Why you should care
If you drink coffee, you probably prefer to not drink slop. So, don’t drink slop.