Driven to Espresso: Drive-through Coffee Stands in the Northwest

If you think coffee culture is cool, you have come to the right place. I have loads of information and opinions to share about espresso in the Pacific Northwest, especially the drive-through phenomenon.

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Location: Edmonds, WA, United States

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Other bloggers who blogify on drive-through espresso stands

I enjoy knowing that the subject of my documentation is of interest to many people. Here are some comments I've extracted from other bloggers:

"I returned to this lonely stand in the middle of the vast empty parking lot in search of that elusive coffee I’ve craved since leaving the Northwest. I told the Barista I’ve been looking for a good espresso since leaving Washington State, only to find out the owners were from Seattle."-- ESPRESSOOBSESSION

"Every once in a great while, I buy coffee at a little drive-through espresso stand. It's between home and daycare, so when Beloved is out of town I figure I deserve some good coffee even though it's too expensive to buy every day." -- MAYHEMANDMAGIC

"I miss so much about it. I miss grabbing a latte in the morning without having to fight traffic, find a parking spot, dash through the weather - Easterners just haven't figured out the drive-through espresso stand concept yet." -- BHANGGELI

"It’s worth noting that somewhere around Eureka, California, we’d started noticing drive-through espresso kiosks. I had been forewarned about their ubiquity by my wife, a former resident of Seattle, who has long characterized their absence from the Louisville urban scene as a sure sign of decadence and decay." -- PORTABLECURMUDGEON

Friday, June 16, 2006

What is a drive-through espresso stand?

As a primer on the subject of drive-through espresso stands, let us consider a very typical stand.
They are constructed on a small lot, sometimes exclusively, sometimes sharing the lot of a gas station, convenience store, auto repair shop, or just about any type of business. Whether or not they share their lot with another business, they are small buildings. Afterall, they are usually only making coffee in there. They have a catchy little name such as Jittery Java, Cool Beans, or Joe on the Go. They have one or two windows with large sills that support a tip jar and perhaps a display case with muffins or scones. Inside you will see one or two smiling baristas who spend their day making double-talls and nonfat-mocha-no-whips. More often that not, the baristas are attractive young ladies--I haven't figured out why.
There are many variations on all this, of course, which more or less explains the fascination I have. They are all quite unique!

I do photograph other things

Besides espresso stands, I also shoot a variety of other subjects. Currently I am interested in nature photography with an interpretive approach. Besides that, I am also always on the lookout for interesting images of fences. I shoot almost exclusively in black-and-white film.

Welcome to Fast Lane

When you think of Seattle, you probably think of rain. And espresso?
I sometimes wonder if coffee's importance to Seattle sprang from the abundance of rain here. Rainy weather just has that effect on people. Could Starbucks have become the success they are today, if they had founded their business in, say, Phoenix?
We'll never know, but in any case, no one can deny that espresso is popular in Seattle today. Very popular. According to, the word "espresso" is contained in 165 business names in Seattle. In Phoenix it is contained in only 4. In New York, only 39.
I have loads of information to pass along about espresso and Seattle -- or more precisely the Northwest, because naturally the culture of caffeine has grown well beyond the cafes of coffee's capital city. Over several years I have taken an interest in one particular aspect of the culture of coffee in the Northwest: the drive-through espresso stand.
If you don't live here, you truly can't imagine what I mean when I say they are everywhere. They really are everywhere!
I hope you will enjoy coming here to learn what I discover about the espresso businesses of the Northwest, and to see a few samples of the images in my documentation project.
(photo copyright 2006 Ray Weisgerber)