Seattle has been on my go to list since before I started travelling internationally. Yet even after eight previous visits to the USA I had still not made it to the Pacific Northwest. So after attending TBEX in Vancouver, I finally got the chance to visit.
It’s not that Seattle has any sites in particular that I wanted to see, and it’s certainly not famous for its fair weather. What made me curious about Seattle is the music, business and coffee culture.
In the early nineties most of the music I was listening to was from Seattle. The Grunge scene (AKA the Seattle Sound) featured Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and the Screaming Trees, to name but a few. These bands were heavily rotated on my CD player at the time (what is CD? I hear the kiddies ask). “What are they putting in the water in Seattle?” That was a common question asked in the music media of the day. I wanted to find out for myself, but the party was over by the time I had first arrived in the US.
Seattle companies have featured prominently in my working life. My experience of working overseas is bookended by Seattle companies. My first job in London was packing boxes at Amazon.com. Then in Dublin I worked for Microsoft (from Redmond, close enough), which turned out to be my last full time job working for someone else.
Good Weather For Cafes
One thing I noticed about Seattleites is they are very apologetic about the weather to visitors. If you listen to a local you would think it is a rain swept city every day of the year. I arrived on a clear sunny afternoon, which apparently gave me a false impression of the city climate. For the next three days it was business as usual – grey skies and drizzle. I was happy to have some cool grey days for a while though. I have been in the tropics most of the year, so any chance to wear clothes without sweating was a welcome change.
Does this weather incubate a good coffee culture? There are some parallels between Seattle and Melbourne’s weather, which is also mad about coffee. I love a good cafe, so naturally I have been curious about Seattle’s cafe culture. Now while we are talking about coffee and Seattle, we can’t get around not talking about Starbucks, which was founded in Seattle. If you have had the standard Starbucks brew in the USA, it is usually the Pike Place blend. Pike Place is the the home of the oldest Starbucks (the second Starbucks store, as the first one moved). Even though there was a long list of other cafes that needed to be tried out, it seemed fitting to at least have a Pike Place blend at Pike Place.
[Starbucks Original Logo]
The Pike Place store has the original brown and white Mermaid logo in homage of the original store, featuring a much racier version of the mermaid than you see today. Ahh the 70’s. Too bad Starbucks didn’t revise this logo with the logo upgrade.
If you really wanted to complete the Seattle Starbucks pilgrimage, you could visit the world headquarters. While I was in Seattle my laptop power supply died, so I had to find a electronics store fast. I ended up at an office supplies store in the redeveloped docks area (SoDo). Next door happened to be the Starbucks world headquarters. Nothing to see here, unless you are visiting every Starbucks in the world.
[Starbucks Center – The Starbucks world headquarters]
Beyond Starbucks, I found a few cafes that served real coffee in a cozy environment. In the Capitol Hill neighborhood I stumbled upon Stumptown. They serve coffee sourced from individial farms. They are part of what is called the third wave coffee movement. What I didn’t know at the time is that this cafe is part of a chain. Perhaps the coolest cafe chain on the planet. Stumptown have branches in Seattle, Portland (their home base), and New York.
Closer to where I was staying I found Zeitgeist Cafe.
Finding a good cafe near my place of abode tends to make me lazy. I stopped looking for more cafes after I found Zeitgeist. I’m okay with that, as it feels like I will be back in Seattle again. Next time I visit I’m hoping I will be a guest of another business giant of Seattle to see their aircraft factory (hint hint Boeing, my contact details are can be found from the top Nav Bar).