Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SF: Espresso Adventure

On my travels around the world, there are many cities where cafe culture is ingrained into society, and some where it virtually does not exist. Luckily on a recent trip to San Fransicso and the Bay Area, there was going to be an Espresso Adventure in the works. The West coast is way ahead of the game!

Rules of the Game:
1) Visit 3 locations and must-see land-marks in SF.
2) Try to maximize tourist time while keeping local.
3) Enjoy a double Espresso at each location.

Prior to the Espresso Adventure: SF Edition, preliminary research was done thru Coffee Ratings an extense website showcasing ratings of the top cafes, organized by area.
Using the landmarks around SF, it made it simplier to discover cafes based on proximity.

Hollow Cafe
Address: 1435 Irving Street @ 16th Avenue
Neighbourhood: Golden Gate Park
Beans: Sweet Tooth - Ritual Coffee

Why this location?
It was one of the highest rating cafe closest to Golden Gate Park, where we'd be venturing to the De Young Museum, and we needed to start our day off right.

Verdict: One of the sweetest single-origin espresso, I've ever tasted. Hints of manadrain, lime, and coconut. With a pleasureable cocoa finish. Unlike any Coloumbian bean I've ever tasted before.

Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
Address: 315 Linden Street
Neighbourhood: Hayes Valley
Beans: Own Blend - Hayes Valley

Why this location?
Rated the top location in the SF Area, it would have been a shame to skip out. We arrived from Golden Gate Park and made a pit stop thru Hayes Valley - choosing the Kiosk location. After shopping at a couple of boutiques one of the sales rep told us that Blue Bottle would be closed, due to recent construction in the alleyway.... We had to check it out in person... even if it was closed
Verdict: Lucky day! It pretty much looked like they were operating out of someones garage. Not only is the location quite hidden, but it's mainly a take-out location, with espresso the only thing available to stand-in. A More chocolately version of smooth espresso, the small hints of smoke and balanced acid. Couldn't compare other locations, only the Ritual beans

 Swan - Oyster Bar
Address: 1435 Irving Street @ 16th Avenue
Neighbourhood: Nob Hill
Beans: Not quite -- but 3 different fresh oysters!
Why this location?
HELLO! How can you leave SF without doing Oysters... not wanting to go to the touristy Pier 39, Decided this would be a great pit stop on the trolley ride heading over to Chinatown and Lombard Street. Who knew SF was sooo HILLY......

Lombard Street - Must visit while in SF, Trolleys - plants, cars with video cameras!

Epicenter Cafe
Address: 764 Harrison Street
Neighbourhood: SOMA

Why this location?
Having a ride on Trolleys is fun, but we still needed to fit in SFMoMA, no trip without SFMoMA would be complete. After Market Street going retail shopping, our stomachs were hungry, and we need a boost.

Verdict: Decent shot of espresso, with chocolate being prodominant. Hints of cherry pulp, but overall similar to 49th Epic. Overall it was Balanced.

Ritual Coffee Roasters
Address: 1026 Valencia Street (Between 21st and 22nd)
Neighbourhood: SOMA
Beans: Sweet Tooth, and Double Rainbow (seasonal) 

Why this location?
Having capped off SF Espresso Adventure with the minimum requirement, I couldn't get my mind off of the shot produced at Hollow. There was only one way to find out -- head over to Mission on Bus 16. Solo trek over, to find out that Cafe are open beyond 7pm!!! How refreshing, but it didn't help that bike shops were closed... oh well!
Literally amazed by the selection of beans that they had for sale.
 Since I had already tried the Sweet Tooth, I opted for the seasonal Espresso -- Double Rainbow

Verdict: Seasonal Blend of Guatemala, Costa Rican, and Kenyan. possess a beautifully balanced sweetness and brightness, while adding a full, lush body. Tasted silky while maintaining a sweetness with layered fruit and complexity as the shot was consumed. Also transforming once it hit my mouth.

Another Successful Espresso Adventure! It would have been a WAY better Tourist day had the 5 Train come to take me up to Coit Tower... unfortunately tonight wasn't happening as waiting for an hour was beyond the MAX I'd wait for the TTC. I should have just walked the 2km. But how would I get back over to Berkeley....

NEXT TIME: Four Barrel, Coffee Bar, and Frog Hollow Farm.

What do you think of my Espresso Adventure? Add comments below. Additions, Avoidences, Substitutions... what's your best espresso place that you visited in SF.


  1. some of the best shots of spro I have ever had in SFO are at farm:table, plus amazing breakfasts. Menu updated daily on Twitter. They serve their own blend of Verve (Santa Cruz, CA) and on SUndays, it's the Sermon blend.





    SIghtglass Coffee is great, now roasting their own, rather than using Verve. However, as far as I know the cafe is still not open. I was at the temporary 'kiosk' in Sept 09 and figured by my return in July '10 it would be complete. It was still under construction, although the Probat was in operation and the space looks exciting!!!



    You mentioned Four Barrel. Great space, favorite cafe in the city for design, but shots and coffee bit variable...




    Never been to Hayes Valley Blue Bottle, but the Mint location and Ferry Terminal are worth checking out. Ferry Bldg is crazy busy...



    Finally found a decent cafe in North Beach, unless you really like the old school Italian cafes. Cafe Capriccio serving Ecco.


    Of course, if you're going back and going to be hanging out of the Mission, you definitely need to go to Tartine Bakery (for lemon tart or bread pudding) and Bi-Rite Creamery for salted caramel icecream and Delfina Pizzeria...





  2. Thanks for the recommendations espressosnob!

    I did end up going to Tartine, but only for food as it was verging on 6pm. Didn't mention my burrito finds in Mission, as well as a phelotra of colourful photos I captured.

    Must try farm:table, and Sightglass.....

    hmmmm, I guess I should get on that Air Canada Seat Sale or Virigin Air $330 to SF....
    (Until next time)