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pike place market

When You Can’t Buy Coffee

It was six o’clock on a Sunday morning and I raced out of bed to buy coffee.

I wanted to beat the others.

You see, I tried Saturday, but the line was WAY too long. It was down the street. In my opinion, no coffee is worth standing in that kind of line.

My strategy of going Sunday morning before everyone else hit the streets paid off. There’s was no line and I sipped my grande dry almond milk cappuccino in peace. Well, along with a pain au chocolat with crème d’amande from the very French bakery next door, Le Panier. I will dream of those for a long time.

Breakfast at Starbucks

I was in Seattle, drinking coffee made at the first ever Starbucks. Now, if I could just run into one of my favorite 90s grunge bands, my day would be made.

While my husband didn’t understand, I wanted to see if it tasted different. If it stood out. If it was anything special.

It was good. Okay, it was delicious. But, it was really the location and experience that made this a great cappuccino.

When I travel – I always have a list of things I want to see. For our trip to Seattle, I wanted to listen to the music of my high school/college years, see the Space Needle, shop Pike Place Market and have coffee in the first Starbucks. Okay, I see you rolling your eyes over there. I know, it’s just giving more money to this gigantic corporation — but, it’s also a piece of our pop culture. To me, it’s worth seeing.

Seattle Starbucks Coffee

In the news biz, coffee is a big deal. I worked on TV morning news shows for longer than I’d like to admit. You work so early in the morning (or late at night) that coffee is your fuel. The problem is, unless you brew it yourself, it’s REALLY hard to get good quality coffee before work. The coffee shops are all closed and McDonald’s, as good as this piece in Business Insider says it’s coffee is getting … doesn’t sell coffee that early in the morning. Seriously.

You’d think it would be no problem. Roll into a McDonald’s drive-thru around 2am on a Wednesday morning, grab a McCafe, don’t burn yourself, and head into work.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

I found that no matter how many drive-thrus I tried, it was downright impossible to buy coffee at McDonald’s at that time of the day. I tried several of them around Chicago, but would often get the same story: “This is when we clean our machines.”

So, yeah, no coffee at 2am as I headed into NBC or WGN … or any of the other stations in which I worked.

Seattle Starbucks Coffee
Peering past my coffee at the Pike Place Market street sign.

As morning producers, we all knew what time Starbucks opened in the morning. It was too late to launch us into our shifts – but it was just in time to get us through the second half of our hours spent turning out stories each morning.

There are TV news producers all over the country right now who know my order well. They were my interns at one point – and know that if they made the run, they got free “whatever you want” on my Starbucks gold card. Oh, and they also learned that in the United States, these kinds of stories are always a hit.

When we stayed late for trainings or station meetings – there were always boxes of coffee there too. By then, 9 hours into a shift… you’re pretty sick of coffee, and your stomach is a mess from all the acid… but you still drink.

Seattle to me will always be where Pearl Jam came from – but, after 20 years in the TV news business,  I wanted to pay homage to the first of the many Starbucks I’ve sat in, ran through, drove through, had meetings in, ate in, worked in… and also was introduced to many singer/songwriters in for the first time. It’s also the place that introduced me to Kind Bars. Yummm… often my breakfast and lunch for weeks. I eventually ended up buying them by the case from Amazon.

Starbucks is also reliable. No matter where you’re driving across the United States, you know what they’ll have when you stop there. You know the coffee will be good and there will be snacks. A variety of them. Have you had the new sous vide egg bites. Holy cow those are good. Thank you, Starbucks, for finally making something delicious that’s not wrapped in bread.

I don’t normally eat at chain restaurants, but as someone who fueled herself on coffee for her entire career – I was happy to be in Seattle to see where it all started.

PS: I’m looking forward to going back to Seattle this summer. The new Pike Place MarketFront expansion opens June 29. The expansion will return farmers and producers to the site. 30k square feet of open public space, a public plaza and viewing deck with expansive views of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier and Puget Sound!