"The first location is special and all, but it's the one-year-old Starbucks a few blocks away that really rocks."

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[Photographs: Erin Zimmer]

It might be as big of a tourist attraction as the Space Needle. Oooh, there she is. The very first Starbucks still sits at 1912 Pike Place on the main Pike Place Market block. But don't expect one of those big sprawling suburban locations with a living room vibe and couches galore. It's not big at all.

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Inside the very first Starbucks.

No seats in fact, just a utilitarian counterspace where you can stand and sip, except you might elbow others snapping photos or shopping for collector's mugs. While some people act like they're inside an ancient temple, others are just picking up a latte, then zip out.

There's not much to see inside, just a few framed mementos and the same ol' menu—but maybe that's the most important part. This started as a non-chain coffee shop in 1971 and here's the rustic wood and original Medusa lady logo to remind you. The first location is special and all, but it's the one-year-old Starbucks a few blocks away (on 1st Avenue and Pike Street) that really rocks.

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The much newer one around the corner.

Unlike the original, this one is much roomier (big enough for a long communal table) and offers drinks "to stay" (in big ceramic mugs). It's also the first Starbucks registered to be LEED-certified, which means the cabinets and ceilings are made from fallen trees and other repurposed materials. As Allison Hemler noted when she visited last year, this is the prototype for future new-agey Starbucks locations.

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The staff is also freakishly friendly. (At the original, they're definitely nice, but less giddy and chatty.) They ask your name like any other barista is probably trained to do, but these guys also want to know how you are today. And is this your first time in Seattle? Oh you haven't tried the Clover brews before?!

The Clover—probably the most important part of this location. Like an old pal, the barista promised to know just what small-batch coffee I'd like—the Sun-Dried Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia, on my visit.

Watching the Clover in Action

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Sure enough, it was one of the best darn cups of coffee I've ever had. One whiff and chocolate-covered-cherry-scented air starts racing through your head.

Then a sip. Wow. So that's why people have been yapping about this Clover machine. Though it takes a few extra minutes to wait for your cup, the flavor is from another dimension.

How does the Clover work? The stainless steel filter lowers the small-batch coffee into the brew chamber, then they add the hot water from the attached spout. The coffee brews, then gets pulled through a 70-micron filter. Then up pops the grounds and down they go. Some detaching and pouring happens, and voila.

No Offense, Original Starbucks

You should keep on keeping on, but the newer location, which opened in March of 2009, has more pizazz. And seating. And ceramic mugs. And A CLOVER.

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