So I had to go to San Francisco for work the other day.
My schedule worked out so that the best option for flying in would put me into the city a couple hours early - giving me time to visit Ritual.
I've been to Ritual a few times in the past - but mostly early on, soon after they'd opened. I figured this would be a more realistic way to check out how they're doing.
A little backstory... Ritual Coffee opened earlier this year in the Mission. Ironically, they opened a short walk from my old apartment in SF. To think that a really good coffee bar opened in my neighborhood after I left... damn. Ironic and annoying given how bad the coffee was back when I was living there. In any event, Ritual is using Stumptown coffee and is really committed to doing a great job with it. Duane has worked extensively with the folks at Ritual, and Stephen has done a ton of training with them.
In any event, I showed up right around 9am on a weekday. It was hopping. Line to the door, 5 people behind the bar. Cranking... Stepped up, said hi to Gabe and Jeremy who were working the machine and ordered an espresso.
It was a really, really good shot of Hairbender. Heavy and dense and coating without being stewed. Nice fruit, preserved aromatics... great balance. Nice chocolate, some sweetness and a lovely cinnamon/spice note.
While I drank it I watched the action behind the bar. These guys have got it dialed. The line was to the door the whole time and they're were just rolling. In the time I watched, I saw Gabe taste at least 4 shots to make sure all was going right. The care and attention being put into the coffee was impressive. The guy making press pot coffees was keeping everything clean - Jeremy had the milk flow perfect... it was impressive to see.
Then Jeremy gave me a cappuccino. Really lovely rosette. Nice espresso. To be honest, it was closer to a short latte than a capp (8oz cup, latte style milk) but it was a really, really good short latte.
Both drinks were as good as the good drinks I'd get at a Stumptown cafe. This made me feel really proud of the folks at Ritual. It's so cool to see.
In addition, the old Stumptown 5k Probat is now in residence there. It's not set up yet - but it was still really cool to see it there. Nice little memory. Plus... it means they really are going to start roasting. Love it.
The only negative about the whole experience (and this is something that others have commented on) is that the place is really over-run by laptop users. This makes the place seem kind of cold and kind of unwelcoming. There was even a laptop user working away at the counter. Actually... the seating was a challenge given how many people were taking up tables with their laptops and paperwork. I know this is not something that is easy to address and I feel a great deal of sympathy for the folks at Ritual - but it is a problem.
Otherwise... a great place. Seriously. I hope folks in SF realize how lucky they are to have a place like Ritual -- a place owned and run by people who really care about great coffee and creating a great coffee bar, and a place staffed by people who are passionate about their jobs and the products. Nice.