At the center of a big, round table sits a lazy susan bearing tiny, elegant white dishes. Each holds a mound of intriguing dried leaves that look as though they’ve been emptied from an alchemist’s vial. Over the course of the evening, everyone around the table will watch, smell, and taste as the power of those leaves is awakened through hot water and the deep knowledge shared by Roberta, Experience Tea’s owner. A certified tea specialist, she leads classes on a vast range of tea topics, exploring everything from health benefits to proper steeping techniques to the etiquette of Chinese tea ceremonies or British-tea hot tubs. Within a warmly lit storefront lined by painted brick walls and a veritable library of tea varieties, students can also learn how to create their own signature brew in blending workshops. Even customers who stop in for a pouch of loose-leaf are likely to end up indulging in a rich sensory experience as Roberta offers them a sample and shares tasting notes.
Although it can't grant the power of flight or x-ray vision, açaí is still considered something of a super food. The fruit comes directly from the Brazilian rainforest and delivers loads of antioxidants, healthy omegas, and fiber to anyone who consumes it or sticks it into their ears. At Kitanda, açaí is just one of the many organic ingredients featured in a menu of healthy eats. The family-owned shop specializes in a wide range Brazilian snacks and drinks, including gluten-free breads and gourmet coffee brewed from 100-percent Brazilian beans.
Conceived in 2010 as a way to expose vibrant grassroots coffee culture to more people, Northwest Coffee Festival gathers local roasters, artisan chocolatiers, and other comestible makers for a weekend of food, drink, and demonstrations. During the two-day event, the pristinely appointed showrooms of the Seattle Design Center fill with the aroma of hot coffee, stirred by moving crowds who wander from booth to booth to witness artisans' brewing demonstrations or sample treats. In addition to coffee, the festival features beer, wine, and a holiday gift show where patrons can pick up the ideal trinket to stuff a stocking or booby-trap a sock.
Local artwork adorns the walls within Java Zombie, a Kirkland café with an ambience as cozy and comforting as a pantsuit sewn from deconstructed teddy bears. Baristas here brew Vivace espresso, steam milk for lattes, and top rich hot chocolate with dollops of whipped cream.
In the morning, patrons can sink teeth into breakfast sandwiches and burritos. Later in the day, the focus turns to gourmet sandwiches made with Boar's Head meats and artisanal breads from The Essential Baking Company. The menu also includes vegetarian and vegan options and gluten-free pastries from Stone Layne. Free WiFi signals drift through the air, and bands play live music during special events.