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Photo credit: Michael Sarko

Seattle has no shortage of coffee houses and everyone has their personal favorite. Some folks like laid-back java spots that are designed to be everyone’s living room away from home, others prefer posh coffee bars or European-style cafes. While the coffee trend has been one of Seattle’s trademarks for a long time, a lot of these vendor varieties are relatively new additions. For a taste of the town’s authentic cafe experience, look no further than the shop with Punchinello on the sign because the locals love Caffe Vita.

This iconic cafe has been serving Seattleites coffee, tea and locally-sourced baked goods since 1995. Mike McConnell opened the original location in Lower Queen Anne and has since expanded to five other venues in the Puget Sound region. There’s one in Olympia and four others around Seattle, including Fremont, Pioneer Square, Seward Park and the iconic, two-story Capitol Hill cafe on Pike Street.

Their coffee is, like the place itself, simple, casual and unpretentious. While complex European roasts and intense Ethiopian blends are in fashion right now, Vita’s coffee can best be described as Cafe Americano done right. The roasts are gentle and not overly acidic, nor do they have enough power to inspire caffeine jitters. Caffe Vita makes mellow coffee for mellow people, the kind who like to relax with friends in spartan surroundings on a rainy day. The expanding list of house blends at Caffe Vita reflect a lot of other local flavors, most notably in the smooth, sweet Theo Blend a la Seattle’s favorite artisan confectioner Theo Chocolate. It’s a new favorite for the autumn and winter months.

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Photo credit: Michael Sarko

But what really makes Caffe Vita beloved by locals is the welcoming atmosphere of the cafes themselves. They’re neighborhood haunts and meeting places for friends, casual dates and writers’ groups. Though the company has branched out considerably since Mike McConnell first opened the doors in Queen Anne 15 years ago, Caffe Vita hasn’t lost its identity. Like an old friend who made it big but never forgot those humble, early years, Caffe Vita is still one of Seattle’s most revered local businesses.