Celebrating 42 Caffeinated Years of Seattle’s Best Coffee

Seattle, circa 1970, was a hotbed of the coffee revolution. Some of the best known names in the business got their start here, including Starbucks and, you guessed it, Seattle’s Best Coffee. First, to get the elephant out of the room: Yes, Starbucks has since acquired Seattle’s Best Coffee. But SBC still has its own uniquely cool place in the history of American coffeehouses.

The Original Seattle's Best Coffee

The Original Seattle’s Best Coffee – Vashon Island

It all started in 1970, when brothers Jim and Dave Stewart opened up shop on Seattle’s famed waterfront. Selling ice cream and house-roasted coffee, the spot was then called Stewart Brothers Wet Whisker. The team began to dabble in espresso-based drinks in 1982, and saw their coffee business really begin to boom. They changed the cafe name to Stewart Brothers Coffee to reflect the changing times, and expanded across the Pacific Northwest, as far as Steamboat Springs, Colorado. They also opened up a prominent spot at Seattle’s historic Pike’s Place Market, which was considered one of the busiest coffee shops in the world by the early 90s.

As business grew, so did the Stewart Brothers’ reputation for making a great cuppa joe, earning it recognition as Seattle’s Best Coffee in a local competition in the mid-90s—a name, of course, which stuck.

SBC changed even more drastically in the early 2000s—most notably when Starbucks bought it. That extra corporate strength gave the brand the muscle it needed to move into even more markets, as its products hit chain grocery shelves and Borders opened up SBC cafes in 400 of its stores nationwide.

Yes, things have changed a lot since 1970. But for those hankering for a look-see at the the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, where the Stewart brothers first set up shop, it’s open for business. Though it’s not affiliated with SBC, the quaint spot still takes its coffee-making skills very seriously and makes for a nice little backdrop for studying our country’s ever-evolving obsession with coffee.