It has been a while since I last updated #coffeeloveproject blog. Over the last 6 months, I moved from NYC to LA, a place that I never thought I would have called home, but serendipity in life cannot be planned. :)
During the first half of 2014, I continued visiting & re-visiting coffee shops, meeting baristas & caffeine - addicted. I explored coffee in LA, re-visited my fav spots in SF and NY, and tasted some quality coffee in Switzerland and Shanghai. So it’s time to have a run-down ~
Both Santa Monica & Venice have some nice coffee shops. Main Street & Abbot Kinney remind me a bit of Brooklyn, NY. Of course, there is only one NYC - the density of coffee shops in LA is not comparable to NYC, but I’ve managed to have a few nice #cortado and got inspired to grow my own succulents arrangements after spotting them in coffee shops. Besides checking out coffee shops in West LA, I also trekked to Downtown LA to visit Handsome Roasters. I have yet to pay a visit to Silver Lake’s coffee scene.
As I scrolled through my instagram photos, the photo with Nicely at Menotti’s surfaced. It was when Menottis first opened in Oct 2013. Now, the startup i work for is across the street from Venice’s new coffee phenomenon.
~~~ Santa Monica ~~~
1. Demitasse, on 3rd & Wilshire
I asked for my favorite chocolate bar (MastBrothers from Brooklyn), but the barista recommended me to try out Dick Taylor with black fig - it became my top 3 fav chocolates so far. The cover itself is worth collecting (added to my chocolate board)
The highlight of my Demitasse experience was getting Bobby’s signature drink on 4/2/2014 - banana with pecan with a shot of espresso & macchiato on the side. The sweetness of bananas balance with the bitterness of espresso.
Bobby’s Signature Drink
2. Primo Passo, Montana & 7th
Demitasse and Primo Passo are my colleagues’ favorite coffee bars in Santa Monica. Primo Passo has an unforgettable light pink wall with Stumptown coffee & MastBrother chocolate.
3. The Refinery, hidden gem on Santa Monica & 5th
It’s easy to think that on Santa Monica Blvd and around 3rd Street Promonade area, you can only find Starbucks and Peet’s coffee, but this nicely decorated, succulent-filled coffee shop serves Ritual coffee from SF.
I love their high table with steel surface & thoughtful plant arrangements. The overall ambience is dark but the direct sunlight makes all the difference.
4. Funnel Mill Rare Coffee & Tea on Broadway & 5th
This Japanese style coffee and tea lounge sets itself apart from the other coffee bars in Santa Monica. A sense of zen and the plum colored furniture bring tranquility. The pourover and siphon coffee here are quite expensive. It also serves world’s most expensive coffee - Kopi Luwak.
Main Street - it reminds me of East Village. Alongside Main Street, ethnic restaurants, bars, boutiques, yoga studio one next another. Just like East Village, where every block you can find a vegan restaurant , Main Street has copious number of raw food joints.
5. Urth Cafe - LA’s well known cafe chain
Before moving to LA, Ally told me about Urth Cafe and its green tea latte. I am a matcha addict (judging from my recent purchase from green tea kitkat to matcha icecream). Not only Urth Cafe has healthy food, its pig shaped latte art made an impression on me :)
6. Aussie Pie Kitchen - Sam & Dave are from Sydney and just opened Aussie Pie Kitchen.
Flatwhite & Kale/Feta Cheese Roll
7. Espresso Cielo, Main & Marine Street
Cielo means sky in Spanish and i am in love with the the sky blue colored espresso cups on Main & Marine, the junction of Santa Monica and Venice. I can stand with one foot in SaMo and the other in Venice. 49 Parallel coffee is served here with tasty almond croissant.
Other coffee shops on the Main street include Gunpowder Tea Latte ( similar to Yerba Matte) , Dogtown Coffee etc.
Venice Beach - gentrification at its height where homeless and hipsters “mingle” on the beach
In April, my company moved from Santa Monica house to Venice Beach. Thus, my coffee radar moved south 5 miles.
Abbot Kinney - boutiques, restaurants, art gallery & coffee shops
Street Art on Abbot Kinney
1. Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney
Walking into Intelligentsia, I cannot but help notice of their open-roof waiting area that leads up to the central order counter, the plentiful standing area for coffee chats, as well as the industrial ambience with the circular coffee counter. When I first visited LA, i grabbed coffee here with our engineer Paul.
#DailyCortado going strong
2. Menottis’ - Windward Circle’s new favorite
— Square (@Square)January 23, 2014
(Square retweeted my photo :) )
Check out Nicely’s special drink with melting cookie.
Menottis thoughtful design - the turquoise customer-made La Marzocco espresso machine echoes the shape of white tiles, and Square registrar. Four barrels are placed outside the coffee shop, resonating with the 4B coffee that Menottis carry. Hot Cake bakery goods can be spotted here as well.
3. Tom’s Flagship store now serves coffee with a cause
I love their outdoor patio and the hanging-out space for an afternoon casual meeting along with a cup of coffee.
Downtown LA - Handsome Brothers
Driving through Downtown LA to Handsome Brothers, there was little happening in the neighborhoods. I wasn’t sure if I would find anything interesting, however when the car arrived at the corner, I looked through the glass door and felt assured. the famous handsome brothers roaster~
There are still a lot to explore for coffee in LA area. Here is my start!
ICYMI: Besides drinking daily cup of joe, I also get to read barista confessions from Whisper users (like the one below)
Photographer friend Yao Wen came to NYC and we went around East Williamsburg and some of my favorite spots in East Village.
1. Blue Bird Coffee on 1st Street and 1st Ave
Biscuit Sandwich and Soy Flat White.
2. Bowery Coffee on Houston & Bowery
Ran into coffee enthusiast from SF who is working on an iPhone app with coffee info around America - Mappuccino
3. Gasoline Alley Coffee - 331 Lafayette St
4. Variety Cafe - 368 Graham Ave
5. Beaner Bar - 447 Graham Ave
Davet stamps on the Coffee Love Project board
6. Tar Pit - 135 Woodpoint Rd, Brooklyn
Among the three, Chloe takes the best photos and Hazel is a vegan cook in the training. Chenyu loves both foto & food and connects the dots. Besides sharing common interests, they are all serious instagram users who use hashtags and geotags (in a disciplined fashion). They never met until …
the week of Christmas, the trio magically met up in Chenyu’s East Village apartment and enjoyed conversations about healthy living.
& tasted vegan dessert, and coffee.
The story begins with Instagram tags -
(1) Hashtag (#dailycortado #coffeeloveproject)
(2) Geotag (Beyond Sushi)
Since fall 2012, Chenyu started to travel around different neighborhoods in NYC and make a visual collage of all the coffee shops she has visited. In June 2013, Chenyu started #CoffeeLoveProject (Instagram photos tagged coffeeloveproject) . As a firm believer in hashtag one click view of a theme/ project, Chenyu experiments combining offline exploration with online sharing and connecting with fellow coffee lovers. Now, people in Asia (Malaysia) and SF are tagging #coffeeloveproject every week.
#CoffeeLoveProject board photo by Chloe
Chenyu has been following rad coffee Instagramers , including @aguynamedpatrick (aguynamedpatrick on Instagram) who started a movement of people tagging #dailycortado, not only in America, but all over the world.
2.1 Chloe and Chenyu
One night before sleeping, Chenyu looked through #dailycortado on IG and clicked into a photo of El Rey Coffee (in LES) that she just visited on Sunday. Impressed by the photo, Chenyu clicked into the profile of the photographer @klokloyt, who seems to be making stops at all of Chenyu’s coffee favorites.
Seeing that Chloe also types Chinese, Chenyu was excited to encounter another coffee fan with China origin, and left Chloe a comment about El Rey. They exchanged Wechat contact.
Chenyu and Chloe found themselves both stay up quite late and (sometimes) browsing IG (Instagram) photos. They decided to meet up at I Am Coffee on Friday 12/28/2013, a week before Chenyu leaves NYC.
Original plan fell through as I Am Coffee was not open due to holidays. two Cs simultaneously came up with an alternative Hi-Collar, a Japanese coffee shop on 10th street.
at Sustainable NYC)
Chloe visited Chenyu’s apartment and they took Polaroid photos as its relevance to Instagram.
El Rey, Hi-Collar, polaroid photos, and the stories behind now become part of Coffee Love Project board, as shown below.
-2.2 Chenyu and Hazel
You may call it fate - the same night Chenyu wrote to Chloe; Hazel wrote to Chenyu after geo-exploring photos taken at Beyond Sushi. (Message below)
Chenyu and Hazel, with introduction from a mutual friend who connected them on Chinese social network WeChat, met up on Christmas day.
Chenyu explores vegetarian/ vegan place in NYC and makes collages, but she always admires those who can make plant-based food so tasty. In fact, it was mind blowing to meet a fellow girl from China who is currently interning at vegan restaurant kitchen and bakes vegan dessert.
Food connects people - Hazel’s WeChat Moment after the meetup
Hazel and Chenyu both have a lot on their mind and they have similar love for blogging and social media. They exchanged notes and shared their “stress ” of always have more than they can do. hazel recommended a book “The Power Of Less" by Leo Babauta of "Zen Habits".
Then, Hazel and Chenyu made kale chips based on a recipe from
Chenyu’s foodie and cook roommate Kati.
V for Veggies and Peace
Perhaps one day, you will see a vegetarian restaurant/ cafe opened by Hazel and Chenyu - One chef, one marketer.
On Facebook, Hazel shared her newly baked pumpkin oatmeal vegan cookie & Chenyu drooled in front of her Macbook, left a comment about how appetizing the recipe looks. Hazel said she would send some over.
Thank you Instagram & Wechat.
One day, I hope to open a coffee shop in China that brings hand-crafted cup of Joe with good-sourced beans and a social space for people to meet and connect.
Yes - China is still a tea nation, but China also has 1.3 billion people. It is not so much about converting everyone, but rather to cultivate a coffee culture that people want. Like how the young crowd crave for Blue Bottle or Sightglass, do they really go purely for their coffee? I doubt it. I find it may be the brand and vibe that is associated with Blue Bottle.
Here is my thesis:
Coffee culture (let alone appreciation for artisan hand-crafted coffee) is not big in China now, but in order to create the demand, we first need to educate Overseas Chinese.
When a critical mass of mobile Chinese start to appreciate artisan coffee, they will bring the demand back to China.
In Oct, I was contacted by a documentary crew from China about CoffeeLoveProject. Paul of Wayside Cafe kindly offered to host our crawl.
Miguel demonstrated Kalita, Bee House and Chemex for the group, many of us are coffee newbies and the learning was quite interesting for all.
52g Chemex 650ml 3.5 min
32g Beehouse 415g water 3-4min
The group felt more knowledgable and comfortable to order coffee drinks when presented with a variety of coffee options in a cafe. I think that is the first step! Thanks Wayside’s Paul and Miguel.
In fall 2013，CoffeeLoveProject organized 2 #CoffeeLoveCrawls at Wayside Cafe in East Village. :)
Friendly barista Miguel from @waysidenyc gave a pour-over demo & education (chemex vs beehouse) to #coffeelovecrawl participants. Follow @pourover_rios on Instagram
1. Caffe Luxxe - fav local roaster in Santa Monica 10/26
1.1 Santa Monica & Venice vs. analogies in NYC
My airbnb host Jeri, a filmmaker, walked me to Caffe Luxxe with her dog Butter. When i started telling Jeri about my coffee project, she pointed me to her personal fav Groundworks in Venice Beach - a palce where artists and homelss can mingle together - an area going through much gentrification (Fun Fact: SnapChat HQ is here). I love anologies to neighborhoods that im familiar with. Jeri made a comparison of “Santa Monica (her neighborhood) is like UES & Venice like the Villages. Montana Ave is like Madison Ave” (Although not all my LA friends who lived in NYC agree.
Ally compared Abbot Kinney (in Venice) & downtown Santa Monica to St. Marks (the street I live on now) /East Village/Bali.
"Santa Monica - the People’s Republic of Santa Monica
Venice - the County of Venice ” I still yet to experience to tell.
What do you think?
1.2 Dots connect - living up the tip from Michael in SF
(SF Blue Bottle Mint Plaza on 9/7/2013)
I want to tell you how life is full of surprises. 1 month ago, in Blue Bottle Mint Plaza, I met Michael and his family, who recommended me to check out “Caffe Luxxe” if I ever visit Santa Monica near LA. Never did I imagine, 1 month later, I find myself in Santa Monica and got to visit Caffe Luxxe and met the nice baristas Mario, Shirley, Eric and Eduardo.
1.3 Caffe Luxxe - Locally RoAsted Coffee (artistic county)
Walking into Caffe Luxxe, I loved the grey color, clean design, 9 grid artworks, and coffee device & locally prodcued food displays on the shelves. All the baristas wear dark color shirt.
I had a soy latte nicely made by Eric and their beans are locally roasted in South Bay. What captured my eyes was a pink cover premium chocolate bar (see in this photo), the Zebra print tshirt (reminded me of The ninja turtle art at Ma’velous), and the tree trunk prints stacked boxes
The owner is Argentinian and thus serves special South American short bread - Alfajores / “a perfect compliment to coffee and tea or on its own. Due to my lack of sweet tooth, I skipped.
This sign “Locally roAsted Coffee” play with the words LA and I thought it was extremely smart.
Mario wrote down coffee places to visit in LA for me - including the newly opened Menottis coffee at Winward Circle, Venice Beach. Great food places like Gjelina’s / G.T.A. , tasting kitchen and Superba Venice beach wines. Mario also made me his specialty soy cortado. I was touched by his friendliness.
with the whole crew
2. Menotti’s in Venice beach - my favorite cup of almond latte by Nicely
Sunday morning, I Ubered to 85 Winward Ave and found Menotti’s (See a write up here, excerpt below).
”Menotti’s Coffee Stop, the caffeinated section of a two-part concept that will eventually have a secret bar called Menotti’s Saloon, started serving Venice yesterday morning. Founded by Louie and Annette Ryan and run by Christopher “nicely” Abel Alameda (Intelligentsia, Handsome Coffee), Menotti’s features a polished espresso and drip coffee program based on San Francisco’s fantastic roaster Four Barrel Coffee. Using a bright turquoise La Marzocco machine to pull shots, the coffee bar has the simple formula of great brew and vinyl-based tunes to with the spare walls and weathered accents. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
The first thing I spotted was the enamel green (the review calls it turquoise) La Morzoco Espresso machine, a girl wearing yellow sweater, and a nice looking guy with a grey apron.
After seeing my coffee board, Nicely’s eyes were “shining” and said “this is so rad “. We took photos together and I ordered an almond latte- loved that 4B is now found in LA.
(Note: Later I learned that Nicely not only has been involved with Espresso Vivace in Seattle, Handsome Roasters & Intelligentsia, he is also a Coffee Fest Barista World Champion)
I hadn’t been a fan of almond milk latte till I tried Nicely’s - it’s more about who makes it. This positive experience changed my view on almond milk latte.
4B coffee beans, perfect almond latte art and squareblog registrar.
I asked Alanna to take a photo with their yellow sign based on color matching :)
Outside Menotti’s is the mural “Venice”, I asked street locals to take a photo for me and the guys were so warm that they said “trust me. I know the best composition.”
Since I’m already in the “Mission district ” of LA, I thought I’d explore local food gems. Walking along Westminster Ave, I got to Zelda’s deli that I scouted on Yelp recommendation. It was worth the visit, I had the electric sandwich and observed mini-donuts making in action.
3. Groundwork - nostalgia street corner playing guitar
4. Intelligentsia Coffee - large round counter, flannel shirt, and industrial minimalist design
After visiting Intelligentsia in Chicago and NYC, I looked forward to Intelligentsia in Venice Beach. It is a popular spot - the queue lined up to outside. The round counter and multiple espresso machines indicate large quantity going through. I went with colleague Paul who lives nearby.
5. Sweet Rose Creamery: getting Caffe Luxxe flavored ice cream
6. CafeDemitasse: salted-rosemary maple latte is indeed a special drink not to miss
I feel so blessed working on #coffeeloveproject - constantly touched by the baristas & coffee enthusiasts I have met. SF is a welcoming city— Chenyu Z (@chenyuz)
Author’s note: this is a much belated post on my exploration in the Mission area in SF. I did a coffee “marathon” in the Mission on Sunday Sept 8th and thanks to Instagram and notes I took - I recorded most of the memory.
Note: I am not an expert on coffee tasting, this blog is mostly about stories at coffee shops, interactions with locals & baristas, and my new learnings at each place ;)
After studying coffee maps, google map and tips from SF locals on day 1, I had a general sense of places to check out: Ritual, fourbarrel, dandelion chocolate, Stanza Coffee,Phil’s coffee , birite creamery, Humphry Slocombe, grand coffee etc, I thought if I let the locals help me refine the itinerary, it would make the project more interacting and “live like a local”.
After lunch at Kat’s at Lower Pac Heights, I shared a Uber and got dropped off on 14th and Valencia St to visit fourbarrel coffee.
1. Fourbarrel(4B) - unexpected encounter of the original 4B spot
Ive been a big fan of the Mill and watched interviews of Jeremy Tooker, thus was excited to visit fourbarrel. After walking into fourbarrel, to my left was a filter coffee bar and in the back, roasting is happening on site. They say fourbarrel is hipster - I did sense that, strongly. Besides that, the word popping up in my mind was “grey” and wild (impression i got from the animal heads & interwined rope) . On the wall are animal heads above shelves of coffee.
As a latte goer, the non-dairy choice in SF is almond milk (Califina)- so I substituted my usual soy with an almond latte.
One thing that captured my attention is the special grey ceramic cups - not to my surprise, when I flipped the cup, it has FBAD engraved. It’s a special edition ceramic cup made for fourbarrel.
I asked coffee drinkers in 4B, “Where is your fav coffee?” “4B”
4B got some serious fans here :)
As I headed out, I noticed the bike rack under the sun.
At the cross roads, a chalkboard “Hot Coffee in a Sweet Alley - Caledonia Coffee Cafe Colletive” captured my attention. ” hmm it’s not on my research.”
The adventurous part of me decided to go and it was worth it.
I went into Caledonia Alley and saw a door, two bikes hanging and 3 men working.
After a short conversation, I learned that this is the back of 4B; whats more, this is the original spot of 4B, where it started in 2008. I got my stamp at this special location. Unexpected discovery like this makes my heart warm and keeps me going :)
2. Stanza Coffee - friendliest baristas who helped me design Mission coffee tour
As I kept walking on Valencia, Stanza Coffee’s high decorative wooden door and artwork on the sidewall came to my eyesight. Compared to the hip looking fourbarrel and blue bottle, this pace feels exotic and humble. (although its worth to point out the mustache shape in Stanza logo ).
I entered, and light from the backyard shine into the room. On the left are tables with long back chairs and people reading books. On the right, drip coffee equioments are displayed.
After being caffeinated at 4B, I got a herbal tea made by Dimitrius. I showed them CoffeeLoveProject and Leyna gave me suggestions to check out Craftsman & Wolves, Arizmendi and I ran a few items on my to-do list and got her feedback.
Combining online research and local know-how, I wrote down the rest of my Mission itinerary.
As I was talking to Leyna, a Stanza frequent Ed asked me about this project and he said, “Come to meet my wife Rebecca. we are eating next door.” I went and took a photo with the couple in a local bistro and
Ed said “my son works nearby, i texted him to have you visit him.” Here comes a surprise addition to my trip was to visit Morgan (Ed’s son) at Mission Workshop and learned about Bicycle Coffee from Oakland, delivered by bikes.
3. Mission Cheese & Dandelion Chocolate next door on Valencia
One thing I love about Instagram is the human connection it enables - as I become friends with baristas all over the world from this hash tag projects. I’m having coffee advisors in my pocket 24/7. Yesterday, I got a tip from @bassamkasir (who made me a nice soy latte at PennyLane coffee near the UN HQ ) to check out Mission Cheese while in town. So I did. The cheese platter with wine looks awesome & the coffee served here is Thanksgiving Coffee Company.
Mast brothers in NYC is absolutely my favorite chocolate factory to visit and I love how they only use 2 ingredients (cacao beans & cane sugar). I was excited to find a SF equivalent that collaborates with 4B - Dandelion Chocolate. After walking into the chocolate factory, I immersed myself in the smell of cacao beans and the delight of looking through all types of cacao beans and final products.
I bought their Venezuela chocolate bar and added to my chocolate collage.
4. Tartine Bakery and Bi-rite Creamery
Besides exploring coffee shops, I’m also a big fan of exploring ice cream and dessert shops that carry coffee flavor, such as bi-rite creamery. The line was incredibly long and I went in to take photos and observe. Excited to see the Ritual coffee toffee flavor ice cream but couldn’t wait for the line. It is almost amazing to see the die-hard fans who are willing to wait for hours for a local experience, most ideally with friends.
Tartine Bakery is on Google Map and I could not miss it . I walked under the sun and passed Mission Dolores Park. Again, long line but I went in to ask a local what to get here “country bread”save for later.
A guy with skateboard came to me and said he is a producer from LA and wanted to chat. I got scared and started walking away. Then I realized The Mission is not Williamsburg.
5. Along Valencia - Craftsman & Wolves + Arizmendi
I loved the sleek decor at Craftsmen & Wolves and the good looking cakes along with Sightglass Coffee.
i see here as a grest girlfriiends catching up, but at Arizmendi , a co-op up on 24th and Mission, I felt more at home. A savory treat here is the olive round - small portion and satisfactory.
A guy in maroon hair put down his book and asked me about this project. He said he is from Cambridge and have gone to places on my board. He said keep up the good work.
6.Grand Coffee - Jeremy Tooker’s personal to-go spot
Time flies fast and the clock was ticking to 5pm. I passed by Ritual Coffee and said hi to Lilly as promised but had to rush to Grand Coffee on 22nd and Mission. walked up to 24th and it appears more and more dangerous and somewhat uncomfortable as I the street number goes up. grand coffee was closing and the place seems tiny, but also made me more curious about what the coffee experience would feel like.
7.Philz coffee - little great mint leaf
I stumbled upon the famous Phiz Coffee on 24th & Folsom as I came back from Grand coffee.
Locals say that Phil used to hang out here and it creates a community around a coffee shop. Here I met an engineer who builds bridges and he has travelled to China. As it s getting dark, he recommended me not to walk around by myself.
(Look at Nick’s smile - won’t your day be better when such a nice barista make you a hand-crafted coffee?)
8. Humphry Scolombe - bluebottle Vietnamese coffee flavor
I rushed to Humphry Scolombe on 24th & Harrison and the Andy wharhol Campbell soup inspired menu made me smile. Instead of the famed “secret breakfast”, I got the “bluebottle coffee” ice cream. Soon, a homeless lady came to me and I Ubered back to Ritual in the dark.
9. Ritual Coffee - Scott & Sal (how dots connect in my project)
It was 830pm. I promised Lilly (in the lower photo below) I would visit Ritual. So I did.
Big space, warm baristas and art works hanging. I explained CoffeeLoveProject to Scott and he said - I worked at Nine Street Espresso for 5 years in NYC. Wow - that’s cool! What’s more - his colleague Sal (in the upper photo below) who I met at Hayes Valley pop-up used to work at Diesel Cafe up in Porter Square at Cambridge! :)
i took some post cards on coffee brewing method and sat down to work on my collage board.
Then magic happened. I heard a familiar voice and a few words came to me. I looked up and isn’t that Keith and Mike - my FB interviewers that I never met in person. I waited till they were leaving to say hi. My mind tells me that’s serendipity.
This concluded my Mission Coffee Exploration - full of interesting encounters and surprises. It has been 11 weeks since my trip, I’m glad that I took notes on Instagram and am able to kee track of these stories as they have become part of my journey.
SF I will be back :)
(#CoffeeLOVEProject in SF Day 1 in photos)
I did homework before heading to SF - and “Blue Bottle" "Ritual Coffee Roaster" "Four Barrel" "Sightglass" were some major names on my to-do list. From my serendipitous encounter with Jaime of Barismo in Boston, I learned about the much-anticipated upcoming opening of Linea Cafe & Jaime’s "coffee hero" Andrew Barnett. From my own research, I took note of the names of 3rd wave coffee masters James Freeman (BlueBottle),Eileen Hassi (Ritual), and Jeremy Tooker (Fourbarrel). I also marked the Mission as an area to dedicate a day to explore, which will be my 2nd blog post.
Day 1 - Explore the “Big 4”
Day 2 - the Mission coffee/cafes
When I make collage, I often have a corner dedicated for a brand and every place in that city that carries that brand’s coffee or have ice cream flavor related to the coffee. Therefore, think about my coffee board as a visual collection of everything “Blue Bottle” “Ritual” “Sightglass” and “Fourbarrel” that I could get to in 2-3 days.
My first realization of what good coffee means was exactly a year ago in SF when Matt brought me to "The Mill" stand (still under construction) and I had my first four barrel coffee & josey baker bread in a chill September morning under the sun. The reminiscence of that experience has accompanied me throughout the last year, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to re-visit SF and see the now fully furnished The Mill on Divisadero. I feel very sentimental on the plane ride as I flip through photos from a year ago.
To me, the Mill is a milestone in my coffee education & exploration - an experience that helped me to appreciate artisan coffee and everything around it. It helped originate #CoffeeLoveProject.
So the SF Coffee journey starts - are you ready?
1. Ferry Building Farmers Market - Blue Bottle & Frog Hollow Farm Cafe
1.1 Blue Bottle @Ferry Building
I arrived Saturday morning 1am and met with one of my best friends in college Steve and his buddy Bryan. 1 year ago, we were all training in NYC and this photo in front of Blue Bottle is a celebration of friendship.
Blue Bottle is no stranger to me as it has perhaps equal presence in NYC, where I live. I have dedicated a blog post about Blue Bottle NYC in my previous posts. In SF, I have only seen the long lines outside SFMOMA roof, and as a Piet Mondrian fan, have always wanted to try the Mondrian cake. See a video of how to make it: https://vimeo.com/63949405
We caught Blue Bottle getting some press in action on a Saturday morning.
It took us a while to find each other as “Blue Bottle” is not enough - as there is a kiosk and 2 carts in the Ferry Building alone. We also spotted Sightglass cart in the market (under the basking sun)
1.2 Three Food Markets Nerds in their heavenly land
Steve and Bryan are both into agriculture and food industry and if you know me, I can spend hours in food markets. Therefore, it was perfect for us to reunite in Ferry Building Farmers Market. I was enlightened by all kinds of artisan food vendors and good-looking fruits.
During our food exploration, I happily played the role as “paparazzi” documenting Steve talking to “the honey guy”, “the ice cream girl “and “the meat guy” for his market research.
At Cremeux ex machina (California style gelato), we got 70% Venezuelan Chocolate & milk/honey flavors. I love the purple cow logo (you can see it on the right of the photo below)
As a chocolate fan,I could not help but stop at Buyers’ Best Friend to check out all types of artisan chocolate. Instantly, my to-do list expanded #Dandelion #CharlesChocolate # Schoggi etc.
These G.L. Alfieris almond crunches cannot be missed.
1.3 Frog Hollow Farm Cafe - learning to appreciate local food & people who make it possible
As I don’t have a sweet tooth, I asked for a savory choice among all the beautifully-shaped baked goods and was recommended to try the mushroom & leek empanada. No regret!
I learned that Frog Hollow Farm is located 2 hours away from SF and every morning, fresh ingredients are delivered to the city and baked on site which opens at 7am Mon-Sat - I cannot help but comment that “Wow that must be so early”. The girl at the counter nodded her head. "This is very admirable " - I told myself.
Below are the beautiful and appetizing pastry that I took photo of.
As the clock is ticking, I hopped on a Bart in the direction of Civic Center to make to the 2nd stop - 66 Mint Plaza.
2. Blue Bottle Mint Plaza - John’s Siphon-brew, Xavier’s mustache, and Josh’s coffee water-color on canvass
2.1 A Blue Bottle Fan from NYC —> SF
I am a blue bottle fan (since 2011) and working on #CoffeeLoveProject has only strengthened itself. It is like the first debit card that you opened in college, and you often feel loyal to it. The same is the relationship between blue bottle and me, except there is more love and emotion attached. See my Blue Bottle NYC post here.
My first cup of coffee outside big chain names was at blue bottle. I cherish that experience and thus #bluebottle to me signifies the beginning of learning and exploring coffee as a whole.
Flash back in 2011, I was first introduced to Blue Bottle in its newly opened Chelsea location, where I witnessed Siphon brew coffee for the first time with Yashih & Angela.
This trip to SF, Angela is my kind host. Therefore, I thought this is a meaningful location for Angela and I to meet up and have a siphon-brewed drink. In some way, I look for full circles in life and coffee brings it for me and my friends. I also believe that circles happen for a reason.
Last but not least, Dr. Levine (a fellow coffee lover that I met in Cambridge/Boston) highly recommended the Mint Plaza location as it is the only Blue Bottle in SF that makes siphon brewed coffee.)
I got to Blue Bottle Mint Plaza and met up with Laurie, who has graciously given me advice throughout last year. When we got to Blue Bottle, the line was all the way to outside of the door. We waited a bit to order.
2.2 A Delightful hour at Blue Bottle Mint Plaza - meeting Emma,Josh, John, Xavier & Michael etc
I brought my collage board to Joshua, who was very attentive and after I explained my project, gave me Ethiopia SCFCU Peaberry siphon brew on-house. Josh is also an artist - I later spotted him painting on canvass with coffee, but he wiped it faster than my camera could capture.
All the baristas I met at Blue Bottle are extremely friendly and were interested in my project.
Xavier has a cool mustache that many guests could not resist peeking. He is happy to have a new Asian friend. (V)
John is the siphon-brew master and I took many photos of him making the perfect brew.
Emma makes nice #Latteart. Emma is from DC and said if I go to DC for coffee, she will write me good recommendations.
2.3 Coffee LOVE Project = Connecting with coffee lovers & make people smile
When Laurie left, I started to make my blue bottle collage, which caught the attention of Michael’s family.
Michael and his wife asked me “are you travelling to Santa Monica?” You habe to go to “Luxe”.
Then the conversation evolved - I got a list of recommendations that were not previously on my list "Front Cafe" "Trieste Cafe" etc. I love inputs from locals to help me shape itinerary and to not miss local’s favorites. Michael’s son is a bit shy at first, but once we started chatting, he revealed that “Coffee has been a passion of mine for a while.” I started to realize how much more courageous this project had made me. I have now been “trained” to start a conversation with any stranger.
Angela and I were ready to leave and I went to say bye to the baristas who made my day. When I walked out of the door, Angela grabbed me with much excitement and said “Did you hear what John said?”
"No. why?" I wondered.
"He smiled and said nice meeting you. You made someone who never smiles SMILE." Angela’s voice raised.
I smiled too - maybe even wider than John’s. I feel blessed that my project may touch others’ lives. I can only feel grateful.
3. Sightglass - where coffee meets style
Here I am - with my coffee board unfolded holding a SightGlass cup on the 2nd floor of 270 7th SightGlass SOMA location. I am in love with all the shapes in this venue.
On the table are apple cider, almond milk latte, pistachio croissant (delicious) and mason jar.
While at Mint Plaza Blue Bottle, Michael’s wife urged me to check out Sightglass next as it is located conveniently in SOMA (10-15min walking from Mint Plaza) and putting in her own words “I wish I could live in that building”.
3.1. Shape is hip and a pioneer in making coffee shop stylish
SightGlass is perhaps the most “stylish” coffee shop. Not surprisingly, the interior design was astonishing and I loved the various shapes - I call them the bee hives, the circles and the spine.
“Breath-taking" was what on my mind when I stepped into @sightglass - high ceiling, spacious, cool interior design and vibe, 3 floors, wood + steel, roasting on site with mini-plant containers in display. I learned that Jack of Twitter and Square is an investor, and looking around Sightglass, I seem to spot Jack’s influence.
Round table counter with 2-3 premium coffee machines (i.e. La Strada), a pour-over station, and espresso machines equipped on 2nd floor coffee bar along with a private event space. No wonder Michael’s wife dreams to live here.
These organic ciders in a mason jar tastes heavenly, especially in a hot afternoon.
Then the highlight was getting the barista girl to stamp on my board - love her smile and stylish glass.
It was no exaggeration that SightGlass might be the most stylish coffee shop I’ve visited. While looking through my photos, I found Goyard inspiration in the interior design - and even the purse porch (see the coffee sack) These serendipitous discoveries make this project more fun ;)
3.2 2nd Floor encounters - meeting Shanti from NYC
Angela and I shared an Almond Milk Latte - apparently #AlmondMilk is the “thing” in SF now and that I can hardly find my favorite #SoyLatte around. @Califia is the hip brand for almond milk.
Angela and I observed coffee-goers around us and debated on which person to ask to take a photo for us. I thought the girl reading quietly on our left is perfect, while Angela thought the girl on her phone to the right of us is less likely to feel disturbed. Then there was a guy by himself whose eyes were on the coffee board, as well as an old couple.
Finally, we went with Angela’s option and went up to the Indian girl. It turns out that Angela is correct. We quickly be-friended the girl and she was extremely interested in coffee and shared many fond coffee memories with us. Moreover, she is also a transplant from the East Coast (NYC), like Angela. Therefore, the strangers now are friends. Again and again during this project, I feel the power of passion connecting people and coffee shops are perfect location as a natural enzyme, or facilitator. Shanti discussed our afternoon itinerary and gave us ideas of checking out Hayes Valley.
Like any place, there is always some regret that makes the place a must go-back. I missed the newly designed of cups, see photo below ( Credit: SightGlass instagram) But on the brighter side, I got another reason to pay SightGlass another visit. (In my 2nd post about cafes in the Mission, I also stopped by Craftman & Wolves, which serve Sightglass coffee and have a similar stylish vibe)
On route to Ritual on Octavia in Hayes Valley, we passed by Ma’velous, but it was closed by 3pm on Saturday. WIll have to come back.
4. Ritual Coffee Roasters - Octavia kiosk and specialty coffee that you can find in Beijing
During my research of coffee in China, I came across Fisheye Cafe , which started to carry Ritual Coffee. Therefore, I have been excited to check out Ritual. When I examined their logo, its red color & star reminded me of Chinese flag. I guess its logo already would be easier to get popularity in China.
Angela and I walked around Hayes Valley and got to a Ritual kiosk. I was still looking for a “store” - so I asked “I am looking for the Ritual on Octavia”. Here it is - the baristas smiled.
Oh - here it is. I collected Ritual Coffee bags and stickers and started to make collage under the sun. I was told that I got luck with a sunny weekend to visit SF.
After putting on Ritual corner, my SF board becomes more complete.
Then I went back to Lily and Sal and showed them the collage. They like the mug shaped coffee mug and the bottom layer of “COME HAVE COFFEE WITH US”.
Barista Lily put her to-go place “Ma’velous" on my board, which I stopped by earlier but have to go back. Lily and Sal recommended me to check out the Valencia storefront since I was looking for a “real” Ritual. I ended up going (look for my post on the Mission) .
Below I posed a photo with Lily who has a thumb up “LIKE” sign. I love the arrangement of recurring triangular shaped red lamps, which contrast nicely with the curve of Ritual logo.
After Ritual, I took a short walk to Christopher Elbow artisan chocolate, originally from Kansas, while Angela, Sussie and Alex went to get Smitten nitrogen ice cream, which was recommended by Shanti earlier.
At Christopher Elbow, I tasted the Ghana chocolate (where I spent a summer) and made a collage of a chocolate Cafe bar made with blue bottle coffee across the corner.
A few doors down from Christopher Elbow is Chantel Guillon, a year ago, I stumbled upon here and noted the huge wedding cake made of macrons. A year later, I am back and spotted H.Bloom delivery. So here I tried to take a photo of now and then.
4. Revisit The Mill on Divisadero - where good memories only get better
As mentioned earlier, to me, visiting the Mill has its own significance. Before coming to SF, I read a Sprudge post on the fully furnished The Mill and recall the “shack”- like space a year ago. Flash back to Sept 2012, I can vividly recall the chilly September morning with a warm cup of @fourbarrel coffee and a piece of Josey bread, soaking up the sun on a bench nearby. This is the magic of good coffee - even when the space was under construction. It feels like my visits along with many other coffee lovers’ added to what is now a beautiful space.
So I am back - with a cold brew, a 70% Venezuelan Dandelion chocolate, and Angela got her loaf of bread from Joesey baker. I loved the bright space and the shelves on the wall. It reminds me of one of my fav spots - Toby’s Estate and the vintage shelves.
Spotted Angela asking about the Josey Baker Bread - i must take up responsibility of finishing most of that loaf Angela bought over the next few days. I am a huge sesame fan & this bread was perfectly baked.
For my next post, it has more details on a visit to Fourbarrel on Valencia, but here it is my fourbarrel corner collage.
the last stop of the day was Cafe YakiniQ in Japantown. Angela’s friend Susie loves this place which offers the special sweet potato latte. as a Matcha fan, I got my green tea short bread.I like that Asian desserts have less sugar.
I feel so blessed working on #coffeeloveproject - constantly touched by the baristas & coffee enthusiasts I have met. SF is a welcoming city.
Tomorrow is a new day of exploration - a tentative itinerary is forming in my mind. Walking along Valencia and asking locals for recommendations. Today was long but so exciting - it is like a dream come true to get to visit these coffee shops that I have not visited before. I cannot feel more happy that the people I met today really made my day brighter.
Thank you everyone and welcome your feedback! More to come!
This post is about @Barismo Coffee Roaster and the serendipitous meeting with Jaime, the owner at @Dwelltime. (Still draft, need to refine).
Barismo delivers locally by bikes.
From their website:http://barismo.com/
Barismo is a local coffee roaster that has dedicated years to sourcing the freshest quality coffee. We work tirelessly to foster transparent and sustainable direct trade relationships with the top growers, exporters, and importers in the world.
Some of our 2013 Direct Relationship partners include: Hacienda Santa Rosa Alfaro, Bella Vista Mill and El Bosque, Jaime Menedez of Miralvalle, Beneficio Don Mayo, Jardin De Aromas, Monte Brisas, El Meridiano, Matambo, Gildardo Gutierrez.
Simon’s - Porter’s Square
Cutting barismo flyer into a coffee mug.
Voltage Art and Coffee - meeting Lucy & Lee
Owner Lucy helped me to figure out the afternoon itinerary - 1369 Coffee House then Dwelltime
Lee stamping on the board
In 1369 Coffee House, a coffee lover recommended me to check out Toscanini’s icecream, which serves Barismo coffee and has been in Cambridge since 1981. Ricantore icecream i had at Algier’s is owned by Toscanini’s brother. The coffee lover saw my Chicago board and said “Oh! I was just in Chicago!”
I loved the light and plugs.
Dwelltime - 364 Broadway
Meeting Jaime & having a half hour lesson on Coffee (will fill in more detail, now rough notes)
Dwelltime has a round counter with clear signs of “Order here” “Pick up here”. Equipped with a Strada espresso machine, I immediately feel that this coffee shop is well organized. I got a a Soy Cortado of Costa Rica beans.
Jamie was a manager at Simon’s (Simon Yu), which got big in 2006. Simon has a 1940s old school style, not as hip. When talking about coffee in Asia, Jaime mentioned that he learned how to roast from Simon Hsieh from TW.
I also learned about “direct trade” and how each roaster may mean differently when they label “direct trade” - the importance of being transparent in pricing, you can see the different prices of coffee depending on the bean source.
Jamie taught me to look for coffee shops with high volume (for example, culture espresso on 38th & 6th ave in Manhattan, 2 espresso machines & that’s how busy they get.) Another successful example Jaime likes is Cafe grumpy - “They did it right” Now Cafe Grumpy roasts in Green Point Brooklyn. I just visited their new store in Fashion District.
Jaime likes to form relationship with coffee shops and pointed out that places where they rotate guest roasters often require higher Maintainance.