Without a doubt the best cafes in Seattle smack you with a sense of community. Yes, the quality of coffee is important. The grub is too. But the minute a café owner thinks that the only thing his or her business has to provide is Grade AA coffee to be successful, is when his business moves to shaky ground.Java Bean in Ballard is a café that gets this concept. They understand that great coffee is only a part of the customer’s experience. The fact is that most customers, when given a choice between mediocre and superior coffee at two different cafes next to each other, will generally walk into the one they feel most welcomed. Just like anything else many of our purchasing decisions are based on emotions, and getting our espressos and lattes is no different.
Seattle has such a, er, robust coffee culture because most Seattleites understand and utilize the fact that coffee has the unique ability to bring people together. Coffee and cafes have the power to facilitate community, and once we have a sense of community – everyone’s quality of life gets better.
From knitting and gaming clubs in Ballard, to film and history clubs on Capitol Hill, to Creativity and Web Design groups in Ravenna and Downtown, coffee brings people together very much like Tea drinking does, except without the fanfare. I have been to countless cities in America and abroad that haven’t quite figured this out.
Ballard’s Java Bean does a fine job of welcoming in working moms, retirees, freelancers, writers, community locals and their families to their intimate café on 24th Avenue.
In a recent visit there I shared a seat near a front window next to Wayne, a familiar local at Java Bean who came in this morning for his coffee and muffin. Led by similar passions, it turns out that our lives had crossed sometime before. Into his late 80’s, Wayne is long retired but still on a mission to educate young people about the horrors and injustice of war. He isn't interested in speaking to large crowds at his age, but his passion to abolish war is still burning. Letter writing campaigns to the U.N. and American politicians and speaking one-on-one to people in coffee shops, was now his cup of tea. Between the two of us, our conversation lasted over three cups of coffee.
Java Bean has a friendly, warm vibe. The café itself was comfortable, open, and lively with the sound of patrons and laughing baristas, who were just as well giving smiles away with their coffee. It has the ambiance of a small ski lodge, which is sometimes fitting for Seattle’s cold and drizzly days. It is a great Seattle coffee shop that focuses their service on community, something I love and something this neighborhood both deserves and appreciates.
Java Bean reminded me of the Balti proverb used by Greg Mortenson for the title of his-now-controversial book, Three Cups of Tea: “The first time you share tea you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family.” And Java Bean in Ballard certainly makes you feel like family.
See Map Below for exact location of Java Bean: