My Seattle Coffee Tour
Tasting notes from a week of Mochas…
I love a good mocha latte.
I’ve been to most of the cafés in the North Dallas area (where I live). Fortunately, traveling for work and for my speaking adventures means I get the chance to try out new cafés, especially from coffee hubs such as San Francisco, Sydney, Rome, and… most recently, Seattle. I just might admit that I’ve booked hotels based on proximity to cafés I knew I wanted to visit.
It gets worse (or better) depending on your priorities. At only 14 years of age, my son Elijah already makes a better mocha than nearly every place I’ve visited. I taught him everything I knew, then his skills surpassed mine. “The student became the master” as they say. Naturally, he tends to ask probing questions about the quality and flavors of these mochas I’m trying. (And yes, we’re responsible parents — he’s only allowed to drink 1 cup of coffee per week!)
Earlier this year, in addition to texting photos of beautifully prepared lattes to Elijah and my wife, I started adding my personal tasting notes. These are my reflections, and weren’t really intended for anyone else to see — I have insecurities about being a coffee connoisseur (I mean, seriously, I don’t like my coffee black — I can’t have that developed a taste, can I?!).
Fast forward to February.
I was in Seattle for the Interaction19 conference, co-facilitating a workshop with Christina Wodtke. After inquiring about my assessment of her hotel’s café (Made Coffee), and the place around the corner (Anchorhead), She urged me to get over my insecurities and share these notes with the world. ‘They’re your experiences. Period. If even one other person finds value from (or enjoys) reading these, you should share these viewpoints with others.’ Or something along those lines.
So, with no more disclaimers, here are my tasting notes from a tour of Seattle coffee shops.
Anchorhead—Very smooth & well-blended, not overly strong, expertly foamed milk.
** Note, I have much more to say (below) about Anchorhead, from when I returned, a few days later.
Made Coffee—Strong, not bitter. Not overly sweet. A tad hot. Milk foam good, but not great — not the frothy foamy comfort of yesterday’s mocha. Overall, just good.
Elijah, who will later join me on this adventure, remarks “They have the cool lever machine” (He knows a thing or two about espresso machines, and keeps trying to convince me we need a $12,000 commercial machine at home. Not gonna happen, buddy. Sidenote: We have noticed a strong correlation between our favorite cafés and Synesso machines.)
Moore Coffee Seattle
Moore Coffee Seattle—Good cup. I noticed the chocolate syrup more than anything else. Tasted like a dark (almost but not bitter?) roast underneath. Enjoyable. And the latte art!
Victrola — Similar to yesterday’s, but a more well-blended chocolate flavor (choc. didn’t demand attention). Coffee was balanced — not too strong or mellow. But, same “thinner” milk action that makes for a less satisfying latte experience.
At this point, my favorite mocha has been from Anchorhead.
Monorail Espresso — milk was a tad foamy on top, with a thinner (but not bad) milk consistency as you begin taking sips. I noticed an initial dark chocolate/strong coffee flavor that quickly gave way to a something reminiscent of drinking chocolate. Overall, coffee blends well and plays a good supporting/backdrop role, adding an overall richness to this mocha. Somewhere between good and great, but not amazing.
Reflecting on the week, Anchorhead is the only place I’d return to, when faced with so many good coffee options in this city!
**At this point in my coffee adventures, I was joined by son Elijah, for a father-son weekend vacation**
QED — decent milk foam, but coffee was a tad too hot and the coffee flavors vacillated between bland and bitter. Very little chocolate flavor. Not a fan. Really friendly counter service, though.
On to Storyville!
Storyville — Mmm. Lives up to the hype. Well-blended flavors. Consistent micro foam (Elijah says “good consistent milk texture”). Slight berry flavor, but not in a strong, acidic or bitter way — more like a chocolate covered cherry). In a word: “Comforting”.
Perhaps a nutty, almond flavor at the end.
Top Pot — Really hot. Really sweet. Foamy on top. Upon several sips, rich chocolate flavors dominate — it’s more like a coffee flavored hot chocolate… not much micro-foam. And my tongue is nearly burnt. 😜 Sidenote: This place is known for their doughnuts.
“We interrupt this broadcast…”
At this point, my wife expressed concern. Something about our son and having 3 cups of coffee in a day…
…to which I responded: “We’re splitting these, so it’s more like one and a half coffees a day, and they’re all only 8oz.”
Fulcrum — Soft, frothy milk. In fact, I notice the milk flavors more than coffee or chocolate. Reminds me a bit of Anchorhead. Subtle coffee flavors started to come out with each sip, but we had to look for those notes. Overall it was far too mellow and mild-mannered.
Elijah adds: “ The mugs are really great!” He has a thing for handleless coffee mugs. Turns out they cost $25 each.
Intrigue Chocolates — This was a serendipitous (unplanned) stop — we were drawn in by the “chocolate tasting” sign. Very much a chocolatier. We noticed they also serve a “mocha”, though there’s a) no espresso shot involved (they use a cold brew), and b) milk foam comes from an immersion blender/frother. Delicious, of course, but more like a thin drinking chocolate. Including in our roundup, just because.
Zeitgeist — Thin milk (barely any foam). A bit too hot and… bitter. Slight caramel flavor. Not finishing this one.
Upon more sips, milk flavors dominate everything else.
Stumptown — Light, airy milk micro-foam. Good, rich, dark coffee flavor. Not very sweet, or more accurately a very subtle sweetness that only comes out after adjusting to the initial bold flavors. Chocolate flavor doesn’t stand out. Well blended, throughout. Reminds Elijah a bit of LDU coffee back in Dallas.
Intermission: Starbucks Roastery & Reserve
And now… we’re at the Starbucks Roastery & Reserve — it’s actually a really neat place to visit!
We didn’t bother with a mocha, but did enjoy a few things from the coffee bar. Elijah ordered a cold brew flight. I ordered an Espresso Martini.
Okay, back to our mission: Find the best mocha in Seattle!
Herkimer — Rich, dark roast. Milk foam slightly thinner than I prefer, but consistent texture throughout. Less sweet. Good. Reminded us both of Stumptown’s mocha.
Storyville (Round 2)
Back to Storyville. We each got our own mocha, today! Mine tastes a tad bolder than the other day. Since Elijah and I each had different baristas, we compare — his is a tad sweeter. I’m guessing they used less chocolate syrup today/in mine.
Anchorhead (Round 2)
And we (I) come full circle, back to…
Anchorhead — Really good. As before, really nice micro-foam. Not as mellow as I remembered, but not a dark roast either. “Brighter, with strong berry notes” says Elijah. He’s spot on.
Elijah adds, “Not super sweet, but more berry like and bright”. We’re fans.
We spoke with the barista — their chocolate may be where some of the berry flavors come from.
And that’s it.
Tasting notes from my/our trip to Seattle. There were a few places we weren’t able to get to (Espresso Vivace, Elm Coffee Roasters, Street Bean), but it’s good to leave something to look forward to the next time!