San Francisco’s coffee scene may not have the notoriety of Seattle’s or Portland’s. But you know Bay Area hipsters aren’t going to take a back seat to those wet coasters to the north. So there’s a solid lineup of third-wave roasters and coffeehouses, concentrated in the increasingly gentrified Mission district.
One thing I don’t think much about at a coffee shop is the mug the java is served in. But at Blue Bottle Coffee‘s Heath location, it’s an essential part of the experience. The reason is the mugs they use are from the attached Heath Ceramics (established in 1948), which produces high-end pottery, fired low and slow, in an airy old building topped by two high chimneys.
The mug that my nice drip coffee is served in is classically simple but elegant. Its silky, slightly pebbled surface is something I just want to cradle warmly in my hands as the morning slips away.
When I ask about the potential for pilfering, someone replies: “The type of people who come here wouldn’t walk off with these mugs.” I mean, you can just wander over to the Heath store and buy your own.
Blue Bottle Coffee
2900 18 Street (four other San Francisco locations)
Monday to Saturday 7 am-6 pm, Sunday 8 am-6 pm
The barista at Four Barrel (“slow coffee”) is doing some lovely foam art on the capos and lattes. “What does ‘barista milk’ mean?” I ask, referring to the name on the plastic milk bottles. “I don’t know. Marketing? Maybe it produces a better texture.”
Whatever, it helps bring in the young, laid-back crowd, who in mid-afternoon are filling the little wooden tables that line one long wall. The place is a pleasant, slightly dim place to hang out, with old wood floor planks on the ceiling all the way back to the industrial-sized roasting equipment. Oh, the espressos and single-origin pour-overs are pretty sweet, too.
Four Barrel Coffee
375 Valencia Street (two other San Francisco locations)
Daily 7 am-8 pm
It’s easy to make a wry observation about how Ritual Coffee Roaster’s clever logo—which bears an uncanny resemblance to the old Soviet hammer and sickle—is appropriate for a young class of cafe dwellers chained to their industrial machines. In this case, the bondage is to another logo: the glowing Apple on a long row of Mac Airs.
Indeed, other than some hip-hop background music, there is precious little conversation going on, just the quiet sound of sipping and clicking. Don’t these people talk to each other?
By the way, Ritual makes some nice single-origin espressos and pour overs. Expect to pay $3 to $5 depending on the style and bean you choose.
Ritual Coffee Roasters
1026 Valencia Street (and two other San Francisco locations)
Monday to Thursday 6 am-8 pm, Friday 6 am-10 pm, Saturday 7 am-10 pm, Sunday 7 am-8 pm
Overshadowed by these S.F. heavyweights, Linea Caffe is a year-old coffeehouse that’s got a few things going for it. It has a nice little, open-air corner space. On a warm day, it’s a fine place to enjoy a sidewalk coffee of their own roast, served in an elegant Heath ceramic mug.
Where Linea really distinguishes itself is the food menu, specifically the list of waffles produced in a tiny kitchen. There’s a classic Belgian waffle with mead, a pastrami and potato or an egg “sandwich” with marmalade butter. If you really want to go crazy, just add some fresh figs to the mix.
3417 18 Street
Weekdays 7 am-3 pm, weekends 8 am-4 pm