there are so many good things about San Francisco.
sadly, coffee is not one of them.
honestly, i don't understand why it is so damn hard to get a decent shot of espresso in San Francisco! think about it... a culture of taste and experience, a great demographic, dense population, a history of coffee appreciation, a food culture, good environmental factors and one of the main coffee import ports right across the Bay. and yet the coffee just sucks.
there is one near exception... in the Ferry Building there is a cafe/bakery run by Frog Hollow Fruit (growers of the famous Frog Hollow Peaches). it's hidden back in a corner of the building. and someone there is trying.
their staff is trained (to a certain degree). they seem interested in producing decent coffee. they don't do blended drinks, don't brew big pots of drip. they're using Blue Bottle coffees and running an FB70.
i've had probably a half-dozen to a dozen espresso drinks from them so far. the espresso seems to be a purely latin blend, perhaps with a very very clean Indonesian as accent. it's a clean cup, but a bit light in the body and a bit flat in profile. the flatness may well be due to the prep, not the bean. i think they're running their machine a bit too cold. none the less, it's far and away the best espresso in the city. on the other hand... their milk ranges from barely acceptable to generic US coffee bar crap. most of the time, if you order a cappuccino, they'll do that awful egg white froth on top. and, oddly, they only have the small ceramic cups, so if you want a cappuccino or a latte it's in paper (and they don't pre-heat the cups).
still, when it comes right down to it, this is the only option if you want a decent espresso. and, perhaps with time, they may well get it more dialed.
while in SF i ran into Duane from Stumptown. it's a small world indeed! by pure chance, we were both at Toronado tasting beers one afternoon.
it was both a pleasure and an honor to spend some time talking with him. really incredibly energizing and motivating.
it's so cool to run into someone who is as passionate and knowledgable about coffee as he is. and to think that he's a coffee business owner... it made me realize not only just how lucky the employees at Stumptown are - but also how critical such attributes are in an owner. i started thinking about the really good coffee businesses - the ones i really admire. and i realized that every single one of them, without exception, is owned by someone who has that passion, that committment - and that knowledge. i think it's possible to do a great coffee business without such an owner, but it is incredibly difficult. i think it's also possible to have a bad coffee business with such an owner. but the simple fact remains that the best way to develop a great coffee business is to start with an owner like Duane.
i'm envious of the baristi there.
and i learned a huge amount in that brief period of time. to a large degree, what i learned was about how little i know. but, for me, that sort of experience is motivational. i want to get there - i want to gain that sort of expertise.
it was all very cool.