Earlier this month, I made a long-overdue trip to visit one of my best friends in Berkeley. I had traveled there several years back, but that was well before my constantly-caffeinated days. I researched. I strategized. I asked for recommendations. What I learned was that the coffee scene in the Bay Area has a lot to offer, and there’s no way you can tackle it all in one visit. However, you can’t say I didn’t try…
This was my first stop for coffee once landing in the Bay Area. Located in Berkeley, Artis provides a friendly open space with large windows and sleek furniture. I brought a book to read with me but was easily distracted by the live brew bar where you can sit up close and become engaged in the process as well as the roasting beans in the background. They had many pour-over options, so I asked the barista what he recommended that wasn’t an Ethiopian (warning: this trip is very pour-over-heavy). He suggested the Brazilian, and it did not disappoint, setting the bar high for the rest of my visit. If you can’t make it out to the Bay Area, don’t worry – Artis also has a location in Bangkok!
Another Berkeley cafe, I stopped in for coffee and a bagel before making my way to the city. I ordered the howling wolf, aka nitro cold brew, and despite one man inquiring why I was drinking beer at 10am (cue outward awkward laugh and inner eye roll), it was delicious. The place, which includes a back patio, was bustling with people studying, catching up, or just grabbing a cup of coffee before heading to work for the day. A panini shop, Cafe Crosta, had also opened in their space just days prior to my visit. Supposedly they will begin focusing on the food so that Highwire can go back to focusing more on their coffee.
This was the one place that people consistently told me I had to visit while in San Fransisco. I was thinking about ordering a latte, but when I noticed the slow bar, I quickly changed my mind. There were six options available for pour-overs – three from Ethiopia – and these options rotate weekly. I chose *surprise* one of the Ethiopians and chatted with my barista about their beans and the somewhat isolated slow bar. “It’s like they’re Africa, and I’m Madagascar,” nodding his head first in the general direction of the other coffee station and then back to me. He offered me a small chocolate cookie from a local bakery while I waited and admired the art on the walls, a new installation called “Let My People Lego” by Elbe Spurling. I enjoyed my drink perched in the window while people watching and day dreaming about what West Coast life would look like for me.
Ritual has several locations in San Fransisco, but the one I visited in Hayes Valley was not what I was expecting. It was the tiniest shop just popped up in the middle of a square. The structure of the place (I think it might have been a shipping container?) as well as their use of this bold bright red color drew me in, and I sat outside watching people go in and out while a man played guitar nearby. It seemed that the majority of people popped in for a quick espresso, though a few ended up hanging around for a while. I quickly realized why people might call this the “hipster” location, though no one seemed “too cool for school” (do people still say that?). After a little while I ordered a cold brew to accompany me as I walked to my next location.
Sightglass has three locations (one more coming soon) of which to choose from, and I went with the flagship location in the SOMA District. It was huge with seating downstairs and upstairs, and a giant roaster in the midst of it all. I placed an order for a Kenyan pour-over and was directed towards the young man who would be preparing my drink. I appreciated watching my drink crafted from start to finish and enjoyed how the baristas took each order one at a time, though there were plenty of friendly baristas so no one had to wait long. Something I unfortunately learned after my visit is that they have an affogato bar upstairs! How freaking cool is that?! Obviously my research wasn’t as thorough as I thought, but more obviously, I must go back.
So this cafe was the one I was most excited about, and for a completely geeky reason: one of the owners of this shop is the person who coined the term “third wave” coffee. Located in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, the cafe was smaller than I expected but with fun pineapple wallpaper and several areas for seating. The friend I was visiting tagged along for this venture following a walking tour of the Castro. He has only recently become a coffee drinker, and he always orders a vanilla latte; however, Wreckingball didn’t offer any flavors, so he went with a little simple syrup…and he said it was the best latte he’s ever had! There were two pour-over options (I know, so many pour-overs! I’m sorry!), and of course I went with the fruity Ethiopian. As my drink was being prepared, the barista humored me by walking my friend through the whole process, from the proportions to the bloom. I think my friend also humored me by acting interested. However, I was too busy coffee fangirling to really care.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit all the shops on my list, like female-owned Scarlet City in Oakland or the famous Blue Bottle (my logic for this was that we will soon have one in Georgetown, though I know it won’t be the same as going to the original). I tried stopping by Verve Coffee Roasters, but they happened to be closed the afternoon I made it out there, giving me a good excuse to go back soon.
I left my heart in San Fransisco, along with a long list of coffee shops to visit on my next trip! Any recommendations?
P.S.- On a non-coffee-related note, macaroni & cheese might be my favorite food, and there is a restaurant in Oakland called Homeroom that’s all about the mac & cheese that you must visit if you’re anything like me! You’ll thank me later 😉