A coffee enthusiast’s guide to awesome local espresso

Tacoma Washington is home to some of the best coffee in America. Because Starbucks was founded just a few miles away in Seattle, Tacoma has attracted a plethora of unique local coffee shops, each with their own character, specialty drink and atmosphere. Pierce County is also home to several different colleges including University of Puget Sound and University of Washington Tacoma, therefore there’s lots of students who want to find the best study spot our town can offer. So here’s a list of just a few of Tacoma’s best coffee shops to stop by on the way to class or lose an afternoon studying at.

Metro Coffee:

This little coffee house is nestled right in the middle of the University of Washington Tacoma campus and embodies Pierce County in many ways. Flyers and art are posted around the shop featuring environmentalist urgings, university happenings, local artists, and community members.

Metro Coffee is a prime place to study; however, if you’re planning on buckling down and studying the afternoon away, be forewarned you may get a tad familiar with your neighbor due to the limited indoor seating.

While this Tacoma treasure doesn’t serve my favorite daily caffeine infusion, a delicious raspberry Red Bull, I made my peace with their drink selections after trying one of Metro’s Lattes. Their espresso is perfectly timed and pulled making an impeccable espresso shot.

*My Favorite: Raspberry latte with coconut milk

Espresso Yourself:

A drive through that sells good local coffee — honestly what more could you ask for. Espresso Yourself, located in the middle of Fircrest, is staffed by local coffee talent.

In the summer, Espresso Yourself has a patio perfect for wasting an afternoon with old friends sipping iced Americanos. While you might have to wait till mid-July to see the sun in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t have to wait till summer to enjoy this local home away from home. Espresso Yourself has a cozy feel inside as well, featuring retro coffee memorabilia and a small shopping section where you can browse through jewelry and scarves while you wait for your coffee or sandwich.

While I would love to keep this prime study spot for myself, it’s truly too perfect not to share. It is a fair drive from the UW Tacoma campus, but the separation from school has a way of refocusing even the most futile of studying attempts.

*My Favorite: Sugar free raspberry Red Bull

Anthem:

Anthem has a cool laid back “you do you” kind of vibe. While Anthem is technically part of a chain, you couldn’t tell by just walking in because it isn’t overly commercialized or franchised. The Tacoma location preserves its own unique identity outside of the other Anthem coffee shops.

This is the type of place you could get inspired — with massive windows and students buzzing about, it’s easy to tune out life’s problems and key into whatever you’re doing at the moment. While it isn’t necessarily a cozy or secluded place, if you’re looking for a louder study spot right smack dab in the middle of other academics, Anthem is your place. This environment makes a perfect blend of local artisan and Starbucks atmosphere.

My Favorite: Vanilla mocha with half the chocolate

 

Pacific Coffee House:

This illusive coffee house is a great spot for a quick cup of coffee before heading downtown to school or work. Pacific Coffee House is on the ground floor of an office building filled with bustling business people and work meetings, which gives it a bit of a “get in, get out” vibe. But the vibe is more of a hectic and busy feeling rather than an unwelcoming feeling.

When visiting Pacific Coffee, it is obvious from the second you step foot in the door that it is not what we would call a “college hangout”. Be prepared to feel slightly underdressed but completely welcomed by the cheery staff.

Their grilled cheese with pesto alone would keep me coming back, but add a steaming cup of cocoa or coffee and it’s hard to stay away. Pacific Coffee’s great food and happy staff are enough to put anyone at ease during even the most frantic day of school or work.

My Favorite: Grilled cheese with pesto and a mocha with an extra shot

 

Valhalla Coffee:

Quite possibly the most known coffee shop on my list, Valhalla has quickly gained traction in Pierce County as Washingtonian approved coffee. It is quite an accomplishment for them to stand out so much when Tacoma has so many coffee gems to offer.

Valhalla is a super simple, no nonsense coffee house just a few blocks from Proctor District on Sixth Avenue. They have a super friendly staff that will answer all your coffee wonderings with a smile.

Valhalla even roasts their own beans and has a drink for almost everyone. It is likely the most authentic coffee shop in Western Washington.

My Favorite: Get anything, you’ll be impressed

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Behind the mic: Comedy careers and starting out

When you think of comedy in the Pacific Northwest, Tacoma Comedy Club is probably what comes to mind. Located downtown near the Theater District, Tacoma Comedy Club hosts some of the best comedians on the West Coast — from big names like Pablo Francisco and Greg Fitzsimmons to comedians just starting out on “New Talent Tuesday.”

I got to sit down with none other than Andrew Rivers, a comedian from right here in Washington. Rivers has been around the comedy circuit for some time now, but says he is still relatively new to the career.

He, like many others, ended up on a new career path after the 2008 recession. Rivers was given the advice by his father to “do anything because that will turn into something.” So, he bravely got up on stage and launched his comedy career. Rivers said that when he does this he feels like he belongs, “because comedy is just like a bunch of misfits.” This is something that a lot of comedians seem to relate to.

Rivers drew inspiration from comedians like Mike Birbiglia and Chris Titus. These comedians and many others talk about very personal problems and real world issues in a way that can reach many different people, making them think with how laughably true it is. Rivers acknowledges that he is not changing the world with what he does, but believes that this doesn’t matter because at the end of the day, “the goal is to brighten someone’s day.”

Comedy seems to be one of the hardest jobs to truly succeed in. Many of the comedians seen on Netflix and Comedy Central had to work at their craft for years to get to the level of success that they have now. Louis CK, for example, has been doing stand-up since 1985. Kevin Hart, a comedian that’s exceedingly popular with the younger generation, has been active in comedy for 15 years and has recently reached a level of fame unknown by many others.

Most comedians start their profession by attending open mic nights and local showcases for amateur comedians, performing anywhere possible. After years of hard work, Rivers says that the objective is “to get people to see you on purpose.” In other words, being sought out by people is a major step in any comedian’s career.

Washington is home for Rivers, but he spends time in many other places as well. He says that every city and state is cool and different but, “it’s all about the friends you have in the city.”  This brings up an aspect of the job that most are unaware of — the constant travel that’s necessary for a fruitful comedy career. Rivers, for example, has been to 40 states and Canada, but says “the road becomes less lonely because [he] has like 15 friends in each city.” Comedians, like those in many other entertainment industries, should travel and perform as much as possible to build a brand for themselves.

But what about amateur comedians who keep a day job in addition to their comedy career? Evenings and weekends are usually how these aspiring comedians put themselves on the map. Local aspiring comedian Brad Carr says, “It’s about getting to know others and reaching out to audiences you’d never thought you’d reach, much less get applause from.” When asked about managing a comedy career with responsibilities of everyday life, Carr said, “Setting a few days a week to go to open mics and work on your stuff with other people that know the struggle” is most helpful.

Tacoma is a great place to try to launch a career in comedy. In addition to the Tacoma Comedy Club, there is an open mic night called Peeled Bananas that is hosted in the local B Sharp coffee house. The Comedy Underground and Bob’s Java Jive also have weekly comedy nights. Whether you’re a comedian just starting out or a comedy enthusiast, these are all great places to check out — or even get up on stage!