The Seattle Weekly

Visit for coffee on Mondays, at The Seattle Weekly.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fremont Coffee Company (Fremont)

As cities go, Seattle can be a little tough on those of us who drive these funny things called cars. I'm pretty sure this is part of a long-term scheme for turning us into a bikes-only city, but car drivers in Seattle spend approximately half their time fighting traffic between districts, and the other half driving around and around neighborhood blocks looking for parking. Searching out one parallel parking space on a street where half the cars have luxury parked and are taking up 1.5 spaces can drive a person to insanity. But every so often, when you've finally found a place far enough off the beaten path that you'll have to walk several blocks to your destination, traveling by way of the sketchiest street in the neighborhood and wondering if it might have made more sense to walk in the first place... every so often, it pays off.

Every so often, your walk takes you past a place like Theo Chocolate, on the corner of 34th and Phinney in Fremont, where chocolate samples abound and brilliantly flavored confections are arranged in a case as lovingly as if they were fine jewelry. Theo Chocolates' was one of the first local chocolates I discovered when I moved here, and I have yet to be disappointed with it. It's not coffee, but let me say: you should visit the factory. Even if you have before. Their line of specialty chocolates changes seasonally. It's worth checking up periodically on what they're sharing with the world.

But on to the coffee.

I spent my day yesterday on the porch of Fremont's historic Denny House, enjoying a perfect combination of sun and shade (ie, enough to stay warm, but not so much I couldn't see my computer screen) at the Fremont Coffee Company. I'm not sure that "Seattle's historic Denny House" is historic for any reason other than being old and needing new paint, but it's a fun location for a coffee shop as the original floor plan is still basically intact. This means there isn't any central indoor location to congregate, but are instead multiple smaller rooms with tables and chairs, cutting down on the age-old dilemma of "student cramming for finals" being trapped next to "three women who haven't seen each other in years and sound a little like a chicken coop as each tries to fit a word in edgewise about her husband and kids."
Fremont Coffee Company: 459 North 36th Street

This location wins, by far, the award for "most comfortable seating." The large wicker chairs and old, worn cushions evoke memories of summers spent in the South, and people flooding to their porches as soon as the sun disappeared, sweet tea in hand. It's homey, familiar, and relaxing. Excellent for sitting. Perhaps not as excellent for studying, but if you're going to sit somewhere for 5 hours trying to track down one source (some source, any source) for a paper you're writing, you may as well sit somewhere nice. Problematically, Fremont Coffee's WiFi requires a password, and the login is only valid for one time, one computer, and one 4-hour period, after which it expires. Not all bad, I guess, if you've been sitting for 4 hours and are forced to get up and walk to the front desk for a new password. But incredibly frustrating when you're 3/4 of the way through downloading a page through Google translator. So keep it in mind, watch the clock, and be prepared when you visit.

The Ethiopian Harrar, which they were brewing when I arrived, is actually really well summed up by FCC's description of it as "a distinctive nose of blueberry and raspberry, which gives way to a spicy, oaky body." The barista thought they were brewing Sumatra, so my first taste of the sample was a bit of a shock treatment. I can tell you with certainty that Ethiopian Harrar tastes nothing like a Sumatran coffee, and can also candidly tell you from my moment of surprise that it does have hints of raspberry. The Espresso, however, does not taste like nectarine. It's good, and I found some distinct citrus notes as my Americano drifted toward cold, but for the most part, I was aware of heavier "tobacco" and "black pepper" flavors (to continue borrowing terms from their labels.)

All in all: Fremont Coffee Company roasts locally, supports fair trade coffee producers internationally, uses solar energy, has comfy chairs, offers about an equal amount of outdoor and indoor seating, and features cheerful, friendly, accommodating baristas. And it's within easy walking distance of a number of great Fremont locations. Like Theo Chocolate.

Check out Coffee Tao, FCC Roastmaster Aric Annear's entertaining blog, and drop by for a visit on your way to buy truffles.

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