Monday, September 21, 2009

Espresso, European Vintage and The Eco-Urban Landscape (or, Cup o' Joe Installment IV)

A quick history of my relationship with coffee, before diving into this week's Cup o' Joe:

I, like most people, was born into this world with a strong aversion to the stuff. Along with cell phones, all-nighters and mounds of student debt, coffee was something I managed to avoid altogether until I got to...(drum roll, please)! Oberlin, however, cannot fairly take all the heat. (Though Black River Cafe, which I still swear serves the best cup I've ever tasted, is perhaps at least partially to blame.)

My appreciation for coffee largely developed during my semester abroad in Amsterdam. I was living in a homestay with no internet - but plenty of friends and family back home with whom I wanted/needed to keep in touch for the five months I was in Europe. I began trekking to a little cafe with wi-fi called Bagel & Beans: just a hop and a skip away from my home, overlooking one of Amsterdam's loveliest canals, where I could sit with my laptop, watch the ships pass, write home and devour handfuls of complimentary espresso-infused dark chocolate nibs.


It was there that I discovered cappuccinos. It seems that something about that memory has inextricably linked coffee to city life for me. Granted, I am not a big-city person; I enjoy the urban landscape, but for me to feel at home in it, I need plenty of greenery and bodies of water to offset all the people and buildings. This week's Seattle coffeeshop of choice does a great job linking all those factors:

Espresso Vivace!

Vivace takes their coffee very seriously. And I quote (from the official website), After fifteen years of research on all aspects of espresso preparation, a specialized method and roasting process has been developed at Vivace in the singular pursuit of perfect espresso. Their motto, una bella tazza di caffe is Italian for "a beautiful cup of coffee" - which they certainly pull off:

Their downtown location has a distinctly European vintage vibe to it. Check out the evidence:

Bikes dangling from ceiling

Italian frescoes on the walls

Coffee-art built into the floors

Sepia-toned diagrams of espresso machines and the roasting process, and the occasional European-looking guy in a beret

They immediately won me over with a solid Radiohead-on-shuffle mix for the first two hours I spent there. (I spent an entire morning there doing tutoring prep.) Nothing like a little Karma Police to dial through those algebra equations! Furthermore, the wealth of natural light there is phenomenal. This is a point of impression, it seems, wherever I go; Seattle coffeeshops have clearly got the sun-maximization down pat.

Best of all, Vivace feels like an urban coffeeshop without...well...feeling like an urban coffeeshop. It's generally bustling; it's hip; it's full of all the espresso machine noises that are becoming such familiar music to my ears - the mechanical clacking, the whirring, the timers going off periodically, the buzz of conversation - but it's across the street from REI, which, notably, takes up an entire city block in Seattle - and the view from Vivace's windows is very non-urban: it's brilliantly verdant, lush and serene.

A big chunk of REI's block is its veritable forest in front - a dense, multi-tiered jungle with trails and a huge waterfall and a glimpse at one of the tallest free-standing rock climbing walls in the world. Although you can be a mile away, in a totally different neighborhood in Seattle, and still be able to catch a glimpse of the rock climbing wall, emblazoned with REI's logo:

The greenery, too, as you can see, is everywhere in this city. Which is why I love it. And why I loved Amsterdam. And coffee is tasty. Did I manage to tie all those ideas together the way I envisioned before I sat down to write this entry? I hope so. My mind's a bit fuzzy after a long week, but...Vivace gets an A+.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! This is a really off the wall and possibly strange question, but did you by any chance happen to nab a picture of the painting of the trees on the wall in Vivace? I'm on a search for a photo of it or the artist's name. They've taken down the painting and no one there seems to know.

    Please comment back if you have one. It'd make my year. :D