Beyond Starbucks: How to Embrace the Coffee Culture in Washington State

person performing coffee art

Every region in the United States we have lived in seems to have a drink of choice. For Charleston it was the sweet tea. I remember taking a trip to Florida and my husband would ask at every restaurant “Do you have sweet tea?” We would get responses like “We have tea and sugar; you can put sugar in it.” or “We have Nestea.” Hardly the same thing. Finally, one waiter just responded “No.” We laughed and expressed gratitude that at least he knew he didn’t have sweet tea.

During our six-year tour in Groton, Connecticut we drank a lot of Dunkin’ Donuts. On my many drives up I-395 I would look at the advertisements for Dunkin’ Donuts at every single exit. I worked at a Dunkin’ Donuts as a teenager. I knew, or at least thought I knew, how to brew a cup of coffee. Let me tell you friends, New England and their Dunkin’ Donuts has nothing on the coffee culture of the Pacific Northwest.

On our very first day in Washington, after a 10-day cross-country road trip, my husband and I decided we were going to take the ferry to Seattle. We were much too tired and had no idea what we were looking for. The only thing we did that day, at 8am, was visit the very first Starbucks near Pike Place Market.

There was next to no line and I was hungry, so we figured why not? My husband had no idea of the significance of what we were doing and I had no idea how bizarre a 10 minute line at the Flagship Starbucks store was. We left hungry (The flagship store does not serve food. A wise choice considering the massive line that usually accompanies this store.) and went back across the water for a much-needed rest.

Over the past two years or so I have learned much about coffee in Kitsap County:

There is good coffee everywhere.

Photo courtesy of Pegasus Coffee, Bainbridge Island

From cute cafés to coffee stands in the middle of nowhere, you never have to succumb to gas station coffee while you are in Kitsap County. With so many establishments it is important to be able to brew a good cup. Anyone brewing poor coffee will quickly go out of business. Regardless of where you choose, you are almost certain to find something of quality.

The “best” coffee will depend on your preferences.

Photo courtesy of All Star Espresso, Silverdale

Do you want a cafe where you can sit down? Or are you more interested in on the go? Do you like sweet and trendy or traditional? With so many options you’re sure to find something just right for you.

One of my first ventures away from Starbucks in Washington was to All Star Espresso in Silverdale on a friend’s recommendation.  It is extremely popular, often having a long line. Their year-round holiday blends such as Cadbury Creme Egg and Pumpkin Spice are a lot of fun. For my tastes, the Cadbury was very sweet, but I can understand why so many people like them.

Most coffee shops have a “niche” to make them stand out.

Photo courtesy of Hot Shots Java, Poulsbo

As stated above All Star Espresso has year-round holiday drinks. On the drive to Olympic National Park there is a cute stand called Bean Me Up. Its Star Trek themed with drinks titled “The Vulcan Night Cap” and “Black Hole.”

Taking my own advice, I recently skipped the Starbucks line and ventured into Hot Shots Java in downtown Poulsbo for my cup of coffee. I was tickled when they placed a chocolate covered coffee bean on my cup and handed me a biodegradable stirrer that was an uncooked linguine noodle.

Don’t be afraid to try new drinks (or to ask questions).

Photo courtesy of Commuter Comforts, Bainbridge Island

I encountered my first problem ordering at the coffee stand, Commuter Comforts outside the Bainbridge Island ferry. I decided to play it safe and order a cappuccino. I knew that much, latte has more milk than I want so that means I want a cappuccino. The Barista asked me if I wanted it wet or dry. I looked at her and simply said “I don’t know what you’re asking me.” She explained graciously that dry is more foam, less milk and wet is the opposite. Now I know.

Coffee shops in Washington are like mom-and-pop restaurants anywhere else. There are so many to explore and get to know. I know I intend to take full advantage while I am here.

What is your favorite coffee place in Washington? What makes it your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Beyond Starbucks: How to Embrace the Coffee Culture in Washington State

  1. If you venture to the Seattle side near woodland park zoo check out cafe ladro. There are a few locations so might be closer to the ferry. The espresso is SO good and the syrups they use are delicious! There’s also a small coffee shop in the downtown Seattle ferry terminal that makes such good London fogs if you like tea as opposed to coffee. And if you go to commuter comforts look for the sliced coconut bread (not sure if they still sell it). I used to stop practically every morning on my work commute for that bread.

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