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.
Each morning starting at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends, City Espresso's baristas begin brewing batches of premium coffee and concocting specialty drinks. They also serve up breakfast items, giving patrons fuel to power through the day.
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.
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.
The well-traveled pastry chef at Royale Cafe & Bakery's daily, scratch-made selection of pastries fits neatly beneath a small glass counter. The presentation, though, incorporates culinary techniques learned from across the globe via seven years of training and travel. The chef rises early each morning to bake everything from savory soufflé to mini chocolate cheesecake tarts and nutella-filled croissants. These treats come alongside homemade soups, hot paninis, and gourmet salads. Baristas also prepare artful espresso drinks to accompany them, such as mochas and lattes topped with foamy images of flowers, leaves, and hot milk in coffee.
At locations dotted all over the Pacific Northwest, Black Rock Coffee Bar’s baristas dazzle patrons' taste buds with their simple and elaborate coffee creations. Served in ink-black cups emblazoned with their understated lowercase logo and red stars, their hot drinks range from brewed coffee to chai-tea lattes to flavored mochas. The baristas infuse the mochas with extras—including white chocolate and caramel to create the caramel blondie and hazelnut to concoct the blackout mocha, which, unfortunately, will not make you black out for the entire workday. On the chilly side of the menu, their blended drinks include shake-like delights made sweeter with Oreos, mint chips, and chai, as well as smoothies and icy coffee granitas.