Winter Warm-Up: Coffee Tasting in Seattle

Find the best brew for your palate at Seattle's top coffee shops.

Swirl, smell, sip. It’s a familiar routine for those who enjoy wine tasting. But what about smell, break, slurp?

Enter coffee tasting, also called coffee cupping. It’s the process coffee professionals use to evaluate their coffee. The aroma of dry, ground beans is noted, and after heated water is added to brew the coffee, a crust forms. The aroma is noted again when tasters carefully break the crust. Finally, they slurp coffee from a tasting spoon. Just like wine tasting, smell is important, as is letting the liquid hit every part of the tongue.

It’s no surprise coffee tasting is becoming more popular in Seattle. We like our coffee, and insist on quality right from the start. There are a lot of places around town that have tastings if you’d like to learn what the buzz is about.

Victrola Coffee Roasters in Seattle
Visit Victrola Coffee Roasters for a delicious cup o' joe and you might just catch them during their free cupping! (©Melissa Shaw Photography)

Victrola Coffee Roasters has been brewing up drinks since 2000, and roasting their own coffee since 2003. They have three locations around town, but head to their E. Pike St. Roastery and Café for a free cupping every Wednesday at 11 am.

Just up the street from Pike Place Market, Seattle Coffee Works has everything a coffee lover could need. Their express bar has all the usual espresso drinks and regular coffee, but head to the slow bar to taste not only different coffee, but also other extraction methods. They have six different brewing methods and a rotating selection of three single origins of coffee.

Seattle's Café Fonté
Café Fonté offers coffee tastings on the fourth Thursday every month. (Courtesy Café Fonté)

Café Fonté recently unveiled their coffee of the month program. Stop by on the fourth Thursday of the month at 5:30 pm to taste their monthly selection and learn a little more about coffee. If you can’t make it during a tasting, purchase a bag of the month’s beans or stop by for a Flight of Origin, which is their three-press sampler featuring coffee from around the globe.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed but still want to try a variety of coffee, check out a coffee tour. Seattle by Foot offers their Seattle Coffee Crawl daily. In 2.5 hours, the walking tour provides six samples from a variety of blends, roasts and brews at beloved coffee houses in just under 2 miles. Road Dog Tours also has a daily coffee tour, where they will drive you to five spots—including some with baked goods—to try a cup o’ joe.

Espresso Vivace
Espresso Vivace (©Nicole Halbert)

Caffeinated Hot Spots

Espresso Vivace

The flagship café in Capitol Hill is more than just a quiet coffee shop. The beans are taste tested weekly on Fridays at 8:30 am—just sign up ahead of time at the café. 


This Portland-based company has had its Seattle roasting operation in Capitol Hill since 2007. The café has public coffee tastings at 3 pm daily. 

Slate Coffee Roasters

Visit this relative newcomer to the scene at the Ballard coffee bar. It has a minimal menu, with basic hand-brewed coffee and espresso—as well as tasting flights.

Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Company

Since 1995, Caffé Vita has been roasting coffee in Seattle. The six Seattle cafes (plus three others in the Pacific Northwest) serve the delicious coffee—and the Capitol Hill roasterie holds a complimentary monthly Public Brewing School class, where guests learn about a variety of brewing methods and talk all things coffee.

Cherry Street Coffee House

A local favorite, Cherry Street's nine cafes in Pioneer Square, Downtown, Belltown and Capitol Hill serve specialty coffee, espresso, breakfast pastries and quiche, and homemade sandwiches, soups and salads for lunch. Cherry Street is also home to the 2014 United States Barista Champion, Laila Ghambari.