Tag Archives: Blue Bottle

Find Your Coffee

At cafehound.com, we endeavor to locate the best coffee in the world. Over the last eight years we’ve happily watched as globally, the options available to the public have exponentially increased and the public’s general awareness of specialty coffee has deepened. Although we still believe that tracking down the best coffee in the world is central to our mission, we recently decided to dip our toes into the area of recommending specific coffee(s) to coffee lovers based on a mixture of qualitative and empirical analysis.

espresso_2017

In two posts (1 and 2) from 2015, we took verbal reviews of specialty coffees from the site coffeereview.com,  and we employed various clustering algorithms to discover groupings of coffee (based on words used to describe them and other factors). This served as our initial foray into using Data Science on expert coffee reviews to improve our understanding of specialty coffee.

Over the past month, we’ve set out to improve upon that original work in order to empower java lovers to discover the perfect brew. Our years of cupping coffee and talking with experts have shown that – after a certain point – what constitutes a “good cup of coffee” is subjective and specific to the palette of the beholder.

With that in mind, cafehound.com chose to use a large, multiyear list of coffee reviews from Kenneth David’s coffeereview.com site to explore the relationship between the descriptions used to rate coffee aroma, flavor, aftertaste, body, acidity and finish. We hypothesized that there are distinct groupings of coffee based on their roast profile, body, and flavors that are relevant to informing consumer preferences in the overall marketplace. To clarify, a market segmentation based on a representative sample of surveyed consumer preferences may be more useful to marketing professionals, but that is outside of the scope of this post. Instead, we’re using the structure inferred from math and reviews of specific coffees to estimate categories of the potential “coffee experience.” These categories may provide coffee consumers with guideposts for exploring new specialty coffees.

Our results led to six broad categories of coffee that we’ve ordered from lightest to darkest roast (based on average Agtron ratings). Agtron ratings are a numerical representation of the consistency of the roast color (lower numbers indicate a darker roast <45, higher numbers indicate a lighter roast 50+). More than the roast determines the flavor profile and overall body of the coffee, which is why some of these segments may appear similar.

Initially, we bring this content to you via occasionally updated web pages. Depending on demand, we may scale our service to provide daily or weekly recommendation updates.

For now, follow the link below to Find Your Coffee.

cafehoundlogos01

For code share:

Shiny Segmentation and Prediction

Advertisements

Data Science: Exploring CoffeeReview.com Top Coffees (Cntd.)

In the last post we began exploring the relationship between the language describing coffee (“cupping notes”) and price/brand/roaster. Our objective is to provide coffee consumers with a general understanding of particular groupings of coffee they can choose based on flavor profiles and mouthfeel characteristics. An example of the type of properties coffee professionals use to describe their craft is illustrated in the below flavor wheel from Counter Culture:

CC_FlavorWheel

After evaluating the segments that our initial k-means clustering (with a k of 5) produced, I was unsatisfied with the results. My decision to haphazardly throw the price variable (unscaled) into the model was wrong-headed and drove the algorithm to essentially classify segment membership solely based upon that. In some cases such an exercise may be useful, but for our objective of discerning whether specific language could be used to segment particular specialty coffees, this segmentation wasn’t going to do it for us.

Also, this initial segmentation helped me narrow my “business objective”. Now I wanted to segment by flavor profile, something that might actually help inform a potential consumer’s purchasing decisions.

In order to develop the cupping note variables that would inform our segmentation, I explored the text data from Kenneth Davids’ site and selected the most common and/or most distinguishing words to test. The list of words is below.

wordlist

A quick look at these led me to believe that certain words might not yield significant information gain in the algorithm due to lack of variance. Mouthfeel, sweet and acidity were present in 96%, 80% and 90% of reviews respectively. Their power as differentiating variables would be constrained by their existence in nearly all observations (with the possible exception of acidity).

However, in my initial quick cluster using SPSS, I included the three variables mentioned above and I still liked the results enough to move forward.

Segment 1: 16.9% of reviews

Segment 1: 16.9% of reviews

This segment was the most expensive (average $42.31 USD per pound) and highest rated (94.6). The segment was the highest indexed on floral, honey, complex, silk, delicate, intense, and peach cupping notes. It also indexed highly on nib, lemon and acidity. The most common producer countries in this mix were geisha panama and Colombia, Ethiopian, Kenyan and El Salvadoran coffees.

List of Segment One Coffees 

Seg1_L1 Seg1_L2

Segment 2: 27.8% of reviews

Segment 2: 27.8% of reviews

This segment was the least expensive (average $26.72 USD per pound) and moderately rated (94.45) while coming from the most diverse sampling of producer countries. It indexed highest on rich, deep, resonant and pungent cupping notes. Whereas the other segments did not include any coffees from Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico or Papa New Guinea, this segment did.

List of Segment Two Coffees 

Seg2_L1Seg2_L2Seg2_L3

Segment 3: 13.9% of reviews

Segment 3: 13.9% of reviews

This segment was middle of the road in terms of cost and ratings (average $37.09 USD per pound and rated 94.52 on average). It indexed highest as juicy, tart, acidity, nib, bright, sweet, and was also well above average in complexity and floral notes. The range of producing countries varied quite a bit in this segment, with several bourbon varietals from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Hawaii – still other Geishas from Panama, Colombia and Guatemala – several Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffees and a few honey processed coffees from El Salvador (Pacamara) and Hawaii (Maragogype ($75/lb)).

List of Segment Three Coffees 

Seg3_L1 Seg3_L2

Segment 4: 20.3% of reviews

Segment 4: 20.3% of reviews

This segment was the least expensive ($28.46 USD per pound) and lowest rated (94.33) – all things relative to a very highly rated group of coffees. It indexed highest for fruit, sweet, lemon and light while also coming in pretty strong in the tart department as well. This segment is composed of a mixture of coffees from Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Indonesia and Honduras. A few peaberry coffees are included, the red caturra from Rusty’s Hawaiian, a few stray Geisha coffees, and a decently heavy sampling of Sumatra, Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, and various Kenyan single-origins. For the value, this is a very attractive and diverse segment of coffees. See our site visit to Rusty’s in Hawai’i in 2011.

List of Segment Four Coffees 

Seg4_L1 Seg4_L2

Cupping With Miguel At Lorie's Home

Cupping With Miguel At Lorie’s Home

Segment 5: 21.1% of reviews

Segment 5: 21.1% of reviews

Segment five is highly rated (94.58) and quite expensive ($37.73 USD per pound on average). This segment indexes the highest for tart, rich, acidity, syrup, pungent, and mouthfeel, while also scoring highly for honey and bright notes. Panama, Colombia, Hawaii and Ethiopia are the most heavily represented producer countries in this grouping. This segment is probably the most populated by Geishas followed by exotic Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees.

List of Segment Five Coffees 

Seg5_L1Seg5_L2

 

 

For more information on the roasters evaluated in this data from the coffeereview.com website, see the links and data below:

ML_1ML_2ML_3ML_4

And I’ll leave you with a bit of a refresher on the Cup of Excellence Scoring Categories for thinking about and communicating coffee quality/taste.

Cup of Excellence® Scoring Categories

DEFECTS

Phenolic, rio, riado automatic disqualification Ferment
Oniony, sweaty

CLEAN CUP
+ purity | free from measurable faults | clarity – dirty | earthy | moldy | off-fruity

SWEETNESS (prevalence of…)
+ ripeness | sweet
– green | undeveloped | closed | tart

ACIDITY
+ lively | refined | firm | soft | having spine | crisp | structure | racy – sharp | hard | thin | dull | acetic | sour | flabby | biting

MOUTHFEEL (texture, viscosity, sediment, weight, astringency)
+ buttery | creamy | round | smooth | cradling | rich | velvety | tightly knit – astringent | rough | watery | thin | light | gritty

FLAVOR (nose + taste)
+ character | intensity | distinctiveness | pleasure | simple-complex | depth

(possible notations: nutty, chocolate, berry, fruit, caramel, floral, beefy, spicy, honey, smokey…)

– insipid | potato | peas | grassy | woody | bitter-salty-sour | gamey | baggy

AFTERTASTE
+ sweet | cleanly disappearing | pleasantly lingering
– bitter | harsh | astringent | cloying | dirty | unpleasant | metallic

BALANCE
+ harmony | equilibrium | stable-consistent (from hot to cold) | structure | tuning | acidity-body – hollow | excessive | aggressive | inconsistent change in character

OVERALL (not a correction!)
+ complexity | dimension | uniformity | richness | (transformation from hot to cold…) – simplistic | boring | do not like!

Ano Novo Blend & Universal Education

Ano Novo Blend: Give the Gift that Keeps on Giving

The first custom Cafe Hound blend of 2010 is already receiving raving reviews from its first consumers!  As we continue to sell out our limited stock we are closely approaching our goal of having enough money to send a charitable donation to the Barefoot Foundation (Pies Descalzos) down in Colombia.  Below are some success stories from the English version of their website.

All content from the Barefoot Foundation website is the property of the Barefoot Foundation.

Source: http://www.barefootfoundation.com/index_en.php

Success Stories

The stories from the communities we serve inspire us to continue working for those who need us most. These comments from our students and their families describe the changes in their communities. For each success story, there are thousands more children who we hope to serve soon.

Ferley’s Story

Ferley didn’t think he’d ever get to go to school. His thin frame is shrunken by congenital rickets, making him look closer to six than to his eleven years. His mother Clarisa said, “I was afraid that if I let him go to school, the other kids would call him names and make fun of him, and that he would be a burden on the teachers.” Clarisa Rentería and her five children are refugees who fled the violence of Colombia’s civil conflict, eventually settling in Quibdó, a western Colombian city. She explains, “I arrived here in 1999. It was heartbreaking to lose it all and be left with nothing.” The family struggled to survive and could not afford a wheelchair for Ferley. Without a wheelchair, Ferley could not get around the rocky streets.

However, Ferley didn’t want to stay confined to the house. He begged to go to school and longingly studied his siblings’ homework. Pies Descalzos visited Ferley’s house and talked to his mother, convincing her that her son would be well taken care of. When Clarisa saw the desire and determination in her son’s eyes, she agreed. Pies Descalzos bought Ferley a wheelchair and he enrolled in the Pies Descalzos School.

Four years later, Ferley is a happy, popular student who always has a smile on his face. He and his best friend Bryan are inseparable and they dream of continuing their studies. “I like to go to school because I learn a lot and because I like to share with my friends.” Ferley loves math, social science, reading and dreams of becoming a professional singer of Vallenato, a Colombian folk music style.


Ferley with Shakira

To teacher Absalón Asprilla Gómez, Ferley is a special student. “When I face something difficult, I don’t complain, instead, I think about his situation. He is one of the best students in the school, with a permanent smile, despite it all. For me, this is very meaningful. It has helped me grow a lot as a person.”

Pies Descalzos hasn’t just changed Ferley’s life; it has changed his whole family. Clarisa earns extra money for her family by preparing breakfast and lunch for the Pies Descalzos Foundation school as part of the “If I eat better, I will learn more” program. “We prepare lunch for the students and we help with the breakfast, so that they have food and they can study with full stomachs,” says Clarisa proudly. The meals they prepare are supervised by a nutritionist and made possible through Pies Descalzos and the Instituto Colombian Bienestar Familiar. This program helps make sure that the malnutrition that affected Ferley doesn’t affect other children.

The Barefoot Foundation helps hundreds of families like Clarisa and Ferley’s. The Pies Descalzos schools are open to everyone and serve as a center for community development. Parents, neighbors and grandparents learn sewing, artisan skills and literacy while teens engage in micro-businesses, sports leagues, and leadership development activities. This neighborhood is changing and growing thanks to the community, and the Barefoot Foundation and the Pies Descalzos Foundation.

The Story of El Minuto de Dios School, Altos de Cazucá

Elementary school teacher Consuelo Pachón barely recognizes her school, El Minuto de Dios, anymore. She teaches in Soacha an area south of Bogotá that was once a booming mining town. Today, its hills have been stripped of their natural resources, the mines left behind environmental damage and the jobs disappeared. The vacuum left by the mines has been filled with desperately poor people and internal refugees from Colombia’s civil conflict. Thousands flood in each year with nothing but their lives. Fifty-three percent are younger than 14 years old and many children have missed years of school while fleeing.

Before Pies Descalzos Foundation, El Minuto de Dios was in shambles. “At the start it was very hard. The school room walls were made of spare wood, the same kind they use to make fruit crates. The stairs were carved out of mud and, whenever it rained, the children slipped and fell. There weren’t bathrooms, just a latrine. “But now, the conditions have changed tremendously” she commented, raising her eyes to the ceiling in thanks.

The Pies Descalzos Foundation rebuilt the school; they installed sturdy buildings, libraries, computer rooms and safe bathrooms. Pies Descalzos, in alliance with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the government, and Secretary of Education of Soacha, the Minuto de Dios University and the Educational Alliance, support two schools in Altos de Cazucá. In each, they provide nutritious meals, extra programs for troubled kids, recreational and leadership programs, while supporting parent cooperative that help families leave poverty. The community and the children have a safe, supported place to develop. As Ana, one of the school’s parents said “they now have the possibility to imagine a tomorrow filled with human and professional possibilities in this society.”

Jhonathan’s story

Jhonathan wants to clean up Altos de Cazucá. The 17 year old environmental biology major at Jorge Tadeo Lozano University knows only too well the pollution that plagues this poor area south of Bogotá. He moved to Altos de Cazucá as a baby with his mother and siblings. The family struggled to eke out a living, but his mother wanted more for her children so she enrolled them in the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Institute, one of the Pies Descalzos schools.

“The Foundation radically changed my life,” says Jhonathan.  “It taught me to relate to other people and that material things aren’t the only things that count. It helped me realize what my life’s project should be.”  With Pies Descalzos’ support, Jhonathan scored among the highest students in the country on the high school exit exams. He and other top Pies Descalzos students received university scholarships from Pies Descalzos to pursue their dreams.

“The University is an enormous responsibility, not only for myself and my family, but to help the rest of my community,” says Jhonathan. He and another student, Maicol, are using their education to create a recycling business that will provide much needed jobs and help clean up the local environment. Jhonathan also returns to his old neighborhood to tutor kids in school and help them imagine their true potential. “We use games to make learning fun and to expand their interest in school” says Jhonathan.

He loves learning and is eager to continue studying. He would like to pursue a master’s degree in systems engineering and learn French and Portuguese. But, no matter how far he goes, he will never forget the Pies Descalzos Foundation, the Barefoot Foundation and the lessons they taught him about service and believing in his own potential.

Give the Gift that Keeps on Giving and contact Cafe Hound today at maher@cafehound.com or krislert@cafehound.com OR give directly to the Barefoot Foundation by following this link.  Thank you for your time and for relationship with Cafe Hound.  Happy 2010!

Cafe Hounding: Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery – San Francisco

270 Seventh Street
San Francisco, CA
sightglasscoffee.com

P1000765

Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery has already garnered a lot of attention even though they just opened the kiosk three months ago and the “real” coffee bar and roastery are still under construction. It is located in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood on 7th Street at Falsom– a short walk from BART Civic Center station.

I visited Sightglass in the morning of a weekday. At first, I was a bit disappointed that the cafe seemed to be closed and there was construction inside the building. A second later, I smelt strong coffee aroma coming from inside so I kept walking down to what was once a driveway to a warehouse. Finally, I spotted the coffee kiosk inside the garage gate.

Sightglass is owned and run by the two brothers who are also the roasters, and apparently the contractors and constructors, of this coffee bar. They were originally from the Pacific Northwest so coffee is in their blood. They helped start Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission, and before that worked at Blue Bottle (which we reviewed here). People from Blue Bottle also help the brothers set up their new cafe. Jared also worked together with Eileen Hassi, the owner of Ritual Coffee, back while they both were in Seattle. All of these confirmed what Eileen told me during an interview with her that the gourmet coffee industry in San Francisco had a healthy “friendly competition.”

P1000764

I enjoyed my latte while watching Justin and Jared working and supervising the construction of their new coffee bar. Right now they use coffee beans from Verve Coffee Roaster in Santa Cruz, CA, but plan to roast their own beans in a month. (I already spotted a Probat roaster there.) With their past roasting experience at Blue Bottle  among other places, the quality of the beans they will offer is likely guaranteed.

I had a conversation with Justin who shared with me their vision. According to him, the building was a paint warehouse so it has gigantic size as compared to the usual neighborhood coffee houses. The ceiling is high and the place is very airy. They will have a mezzanine that people can sit and enjoy their drink. The coffee bar will be in the back while the roasting area will be in the front. They plan to have seating area around the roaster as well. They hope that the construction should be done in a few months. And I am looking forward to going check out the place and tasting their own roasted coffee soon.

Cafe Hounding: Local 123 – Berkeley, CA

2049 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA
www.local123cafe.com

P1000757

Local 123 is a new cafe in Berkeley, CA. Even though it has been open for just five months, this coffee house has attracted great reviews. I visited Local 123 during the day on Saturday. The location is a bit far from the campus so either you have to walk quite far or you can take a bus to University and San Pablo.

Picture 1

Local 123 uses coffee beans from Flying Goat Coffee in Healdsburg (near Santa Rosa), CA. The beans are generally medium mild roasted. For espresso drinks, the default beans are Flying Goat’s espresso blend No. 9, but they are also available with single origins upon request. When I visited the cafe, the featured single origin was Costa Rica Puente Tarrazu. For drip coffee, Local 123 offers several single origin beans for you to choose. Then they freshly grind your beans and make your drip coffee cup-by-cup. I find this attention to quality as a big plus. I ordered latte as usual. My drink was prepared by Frieda, who was also a co-owner of Local 123 along with her sister-in-law. The latte was beautiful. It was mild and taste great. Frieda was friendly and attentive to the coffee she brewed.

Picture 2

Local 123 has minimal decoration with some artworks on the wall. The cafe is clean. It seems to be famous for people who come with their laptops or books and spend time working while enjoying their drinks. The cafe offers free wifi throughout but also has the “wifi-free” area that encourages conversations among customers. There is also outdoor seating area in the back. They also have selected homemade pastry, sandwiches, and salad available. And they make jams from locally-grown fruits. The only problem that some customers may have is that this cafe takes cash only and do not accept credit cards. There is an ATM machine nearby however.

P1000763

Overall, Local 123 is also a lovely neighborhood cafe that not only provides good coffee but also pays a lot of attention to sustainability and local community. (Big kudos on that!) As some of the reviews on the internet proclaim, if you are in Berkeley and don’t want to travel to San Francisco to get Blue Bottle coffee, Local 123 is the place that you will unlikely to get disappointed. So far, I do agree with them.

Buzz: Otherside of the ’15th Avenue Coffee and Tea’ Coin

Just because I think both the detractors (read: haters) and the supporters of the newish Starbucks move to test the higher end specialty coffee waters have made some very salient points with regard to the changing dynamics of the specialty coffee industry.

  • Starbucks MUST be respected for its sheer ability to throw money and professional marketing at any scheme that they arrange.
  • The hipster coffee house vibe — that many of the places that are charging $20 a pound for fresh roasted coffee from reputable outfits like Blue Bottle, Ritual, Novo, Intelligentsia and Counter Culture — does not appear to be something that the Starbucks corporate people will ever be able to roll-out on a large scale.
  • What it does appear Starbucks’ wants is to leverage its sheer advantage in liquidity (read: lots of $$$) and marketing to increase their share of a market that is a sub-sector of their core industry.  As a major buyer of green coffee all over the world it seems logical that they would leverage the best of their strategic relationships to promote higher premiums, no?  It makes perfect business sense and the following article gives a more balanced look at the non-hater side of the the 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea story.

Source: Tamp Tamp Blog

Coffee Menu Sandwich sign

We finally made it to see the new 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea (”Inspired by Starbucks” as it says on the door) on Capitol Hill in Seattle. After all the specialty coffee hubbub, pressand dramaover what this means, and after reading the considerably dramatic yelp reviews, we had to see it for ourselves. It puts an interesting question out there – can Starbucks make a better Starbucks?

In New York, when we first heard about it, we were skeptical. When we think of Starbucks, we picture the lines of caffeine deprived junkies queued up by the dozen, packed into a place pumping out big milky drinks by the gallon, with rarely a smile on any face – customer or barista. Like most situations in New York, the stakes are higher, and the throngs battle it out to make it out with their drink. Does it taste like coffee? Perhaps, but what’s most important is that you made it out with something hot and you’re still alive.

Starbucks Coffee

This is the line at the original Starbucks retail location at Pike Place Market, downtown Seattle. This location used to be a fine purveyor of coffee beans only; now it looks a lot like an everyday Manhattan retail location (read: packed and stressful).

Starbucks’ reputation in New York is bad. And for people who’ve only known that big, corporate, bad-tasting, fast food retail-y experience, I don’t blame them. But as a Seattleite that grew up alongside the explosive growth of the company, I always speak positively of my very first experiences getting lattes at (where else?) Starbucks. And it was good. Our whole industry, and certainly my company, would be much less significant (even nonexistent) if Starbucks hadn’t tapped the consumer demand and opened the floodgates.

But still, there’s no denying that Starbucks lately has fallen on hard times. The coffee just hasn’t been that good, the shops are kind of dumpy, all Starbucks’ seem to have an unpleasant smell (what is the deal with that smell?). I hadn’t had coffee from Starbucks (with the exception of a Clover coffee last year) in several years. Why bother, when there are independent places, with great coffee, and great service (you can visit our tour if you need tips) right around the corners from many a Starbucks in NYC?

On the other hand, there are a lot of independent cafes that rest happily with the knowledge that they’re not Starbucks. But are they good? Well, no, not really. The coffee is ok, maybe some of the baristas are nice, and the atmosphere is decent. By and large, these cafes provide a sub-par experience. As consultants, we run into this mentality all the time, and are constantly checking that clients begin providing a much higher standard of service, and of course, most importantly, are providing the best possible product. There is simply no way that being “not Starbucks” is anything more than a lie owner/managers use to tell themselves they are doing a good job in their cafes. Most very high end cafes think of Starbucks as completely irrelevant – and while I think there are some great aspects of Starbucks (they’ve got independents trounced when it comes to retail and merchandising, for example, and it’s worth watching them for that), I generally tend to agree with the high end independents.

So when we walked into 15th Avenue Coffee on Capitol Hill, steps away from Victrola, we were keeping all of our standards as high as we do at any shop we visit. What’s the atmosphere like? Are we greeted right away? Are the chairs comfortable and are there multiple types of seating? Can we see this space being multi-functional, serving a lot of customers from various backgrounds? And of course, how is the product?

Macchiato refurbished Linea

We were greeted cordially and were provided with some suggestions about what to try. I had a macchiato, and Neil got a Costa Rican coffee. We were served in porcelain cups. The latte art on my coffee was lovely. And most importantly, the coffee tasted pretty good. Maybe not the most unbelievable, delicious coffee in the world, but certainly pleasant and drinkable, and considerably better than many independent cafes in Seattle. I’m fairly certain that most coffee consumers wouldn’t see a discernible difference when picking between 15th Ave and Victrola in terms of cup quality. In New York, this shop could make a killing.

From the back

Does that mean that Victrola needs to look out? It’s doubtful. Victrola has a strong customer base and has been making great coffee for years. In fact, my theory is that Starbucks moved to that location to test the waters in a very tough location for them, just steps away from a high-end independent. In this spot Starbucks is definitely going to see if it’s possible for them to reclaim their glory as a high-end, products focused business. I think that for quality focused independents, this new incarnation will only increase awareness and bring in more customers, especially if they launch cafes in cafe-deprived areas.

Patio

What about other, smaller, less quality-focused cafes? Should they be concerned? Absolutely — if you’re using Starbucks as your measuring stick. Those cafes are in trouble anyway, they just haven’t seen someone come along to challenge them yet. But look out, everybody. Here comes a company that means business and wants to reclaim what it has lost.

Cafe Hounding: Blue Bottle Coffee – Mint Plaza, San Francisco

Blue Bottle Coffee Co. – Mint Plaza, San Francisco
66 Mint St. (corner of Jessie), San Francisco, CA, 94103
bluebottlecoffee.net

Picture 1

Blue Bottle Coffee is a household name for coffee geeks living or visiting San Francisco.  San Francisco Chronicle featured an interview with James Freeman about a month ago. I have been frequented this cafe, both getting a latte at the cafe or buying their beans to bring back to my home in San Diego. The flagship Blue Bottle is at the Mint Plaza, not too far from Civic Center and Union Square. However, it is not located on the main streets so this place is ideal if you want a quick escape from the hectic people traffic on Market and Powell.

Picture 2

The cafe is easy to spot if you know exactly where it is. Otherwise, try to locate a cute “blue bottle” logo on the wall of the building behind the Mint Building. Once you enter the cafe, you will find yourself in a craftsman-decorated 17ft-ceiling room with modern, industrial redecoration. Looking around, you will see glassware of Blue Bottle’s Kyoto-style coffee maker and other coffee-related appliances on cafe’s long countertop. It really makes you feel like being in a chemistry lab rather than a cafe, which is very cool.

I usually visit Blue Bottle in the afternoon of weekdays, and always find the cafe packed with customers. Sometimes, the line even goes beyond the entrance. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to answer your questions (including those related to the chemical reactions that might be happening in one of those glass beakers!). Since the cafe was very busy during the last time of my visit, I did not have a chance to talk to the barista although my latte was very good as expected. (Last month, my cappuccino was prepared by Sally, who had worked with Blue Bottle for 8 months. The drink was great, too.) Blue Bottle uses their 17ft Ceiling Blend for their espresso drinks. It mimics the Italian espresso blend but substituted robusta with high-quality organic arabica, resulting in a very smooth coffee with nice aroma. Blue Bottle also uses organic milk for their latte and cappuccino. If you are an ice-coffee guy, try Blue Bottle’s Kyoto or New Orleans ice coffee. (The Kyoto-style coffee takes over a day to prepare, slowly brewing drop by drop at room temperature.)

Picture 3

In terms of its ambience, the cafe is good for those who want a short break with a cup of coffee. The high ceiling makes the cafe airy, open, and relax. People also meet here for some quick informal business discussions. Although the cafe seems to be crowded and people have to wait for their drinks at times, I never have problem finding a seat in this cafe. There might be just around 20-30 seats in total, all with communal high bars rather than individual tables. Customers tend not to sit for a long time. One of the reason is that this cafe is not laptop-friendly (no electrical plugs and no wireless internet). However, I concur that this is a good policy after all, given the size of the cafe and the number of customers it serves. This is the place that you can come to enjoy your drink, relax, and leave your work behind– at least for a short moment.

–Kris Hound