Seattle became a café culture trend-setter back when Starbucks first imported Italy’s approach to espresso in the 1980s, and today the Emerald City’s coolest coffeehouses continue to evince international influences. By serving traditional brews from Ethiopia (the birthplace of coffee), fun spins on Vietnamese-style iced coffee, eye-catching Filipino snacks, and more, these entrepreneurs are bringing both the cultures and the beans from their homelands to the Pacific Northwest’s coffee-loving crowds.
Hood Famous Café + Bar
This is the café that cheesecake built. Chera Amlag first baked her signature purple ube cheesecake—a favorite in her native Philippines—for a pop-up dinner, and the sweet treat proved so popular that she would go on to open this bakery and café in the Chinatown-International District. The coffee beans come from around Southeast Asia, including a featured roast from the Philippines, and many menu items have a Filipino twist, such as a calamansi espresso tonic and a fruit salad with nata de coco (coconut jelly).
Despite opening at the beginning of the pandemic, this Vietnamese-style coffeeshop in south Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood has already expanded to a second location, all the way across the city in Greenwood. At both shops, owners Chen Dien and Trang Cao offer up traditional cà phê sũ’a dá—iced coffee brewed with a metal filter called a phin and mixed with sweetened condensed milk—while also broadening out to creative concoctions that include bright green pandan flavoring, salted cheese foam, and rich coconut milk.
Solomon Dubie grew up watching his Ethiopian-American family roast coffee at home and brew it in a traditional pitcher called a jebena. He cofounded Café Avole to share the cultural rituals and flavors of the heritage beans. Earlier this year, he opened a sleek new shop in the Central District, a location that’s also culturally significant: The historically red-lined neighborhood was the original heart of Seattle’s Ethiopian community, and Avole is part of a renaissance of Black-owned businesses.
Co-owner David Orozco (the chef-owner of Asadero, the steak house next door) brings his favorite Mexican treats to this Ballard café: beautiful tres leches cakes, cold-pressed orange juice, and single-origin beans from a cooperative in Oaxaca. Many of the drinks are named for locations south of the border— Tulum, Condesa—and the mochas incorporate stone-ground Mexican chocolate. The brick-walled interior, meanwhile, is decorated with artwork that would make any visitor from CDMX feel at home.
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