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Seattle's Coffee Culture
Seattle may forever be known as the birthplace of Starbucks, but to really understand the coffee culture—and to get a great cup of coffee—visit one of the numerous independent shops and local mini-chains, several of which roast their own beans on-site. A Seattleite's relationship with coffee ranges from grabbing the daily quick fix in the morning to spending half the day at a local shop where every barista knows their name (and coffee order), reading, chatting with friends, or tapping away on a laptop. Many coffee shops pull double duty as art galleries, and some of them even pull double duty as good art galleries. Occasionally, shops feature hard-to-get coffees at special "cupping" events, which take on the structure and feel of wine tastings.
These days, there are more independent roasters and shops than ever. Like its sister city, Portland, Seattle is a hotspot for entrepreneurial spirit—it's this energy, mixed with a passion for local and organic ingredients, that has raised the bar on everything artisan.
Seattle's independent coffee shops rule the roast here. Their ardent commitment to creating premium artisanal blends from small batches of beans is what truly defines the scene. The moment you take your first sip of an expertly executed cappuccino at a coffeehouse such as Caffé Vita or Espresso Vivace you realize that the drink is never an afterthought here. Perfectly roasted beans ground to specification and pulled into espresso shots using dual-boiler machines and velvety steamed milk are de rigueur. In most restaurants, your coffee is likely to be a personal French press filled with a brew roasted just a few blocks away.
Latte art is a given in Seattle. Designs vary by barista, but the most common flourish is the rosetta, which resembles a delicate fern. Here's how it's done: 1. THE BASE. A latte consists of a shot (or two) of espresso and hot, frothy milk. 2. THE POUR. First the shot is poured. The milk pitcher gets a few gentle swirls and taps (to burst the largest bubbles), then the milk is poured at a steady pace into the center of the tilted cup. 3. THE SHAKE. When the cup's about three-quarters full, the milk is streamed with tiny side-to-side strokes up and down the cup's center line. The "leaves" will start to fan out. 4. THE TOP. When the cup's almost full, the milk is drawn towards the bottom. With the last stroke the "stem" is drawn through the center of the leaves.
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