Seattle, San Francisco. These two jewels of U.S Pacific Coast have much in common: a reputation as the coffee lover’s Nirvana. So who is the real pro?
Though the cities’ caffeine societies are distinct, their pasts are intertwined. San Francisco has a tradition of good coffee that goes back at least as far as the 1899 opening of Freed, Teller & Freed, the oldest specialty bean roaster west of New York.
Peet was Dutchman Alfred Peet’s modest little roastery, opened in 1966 on Walnut and Vine in Berkeley, that became the real epicenter of the gourmet coffee boom that has engulfed the Bay Area, Seattle, and, mercifully, many former Maxwell House strongholds beyond.
It may be purely coincidental that many of San Francisco’s independent coffeehouses have a similarly well-worn, unhi-tech atmosphere. But it is no accident that the first Starbucks, located at 1912 Pike Place in Seattle (the very first was actually half a block north, in a building that has since been torn down), looks and feels an awful lot like the first Peet’s.
Starbucks founders Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker spent the 1970 Christmas season at Peet’s learning from the master before starting their own coffee bean business in Seattle in 1971. They used Peet’s beans for the first 21 months.
Seattle’s coffee scene used to be as dreary as its weather. By 1984, , Baldwin and Bowker bought Peet’s, and in 1987, they sold Starbucks to a group led by Howard Schultz, the company’s former marketing director. Since then, Bowker has moved on and Baldwin has grown Peet’s into a 60-store company that still maintains uncompromising bean selection and roasting standards.