This industrial art space café opened in late 2009 and is easy to miss — despite its size and being across the street from AT&T Park. There are a few French café tables among the front patio and also inside, but inside it is primarily a large art space with white walls and a number of pieces of various media, including lawn chairs on a real patch of lawn.
At the center of the airy space is a coffee bar that doesn’t mess with food items: the focus here is on the coffee. They use a two-group Laranzato ME-2, which is the only one we’ve seen outside of the Big Island of Hawaii. There are also a number of plastic Clever drippers from Sweet Maria’s and a number of Pelligrino bottles lining the long serving countertops.
The SF Weekly highlighted the introduction of these Clever drippers earlier this month — as they now are available for retail coffee use in SF beyond Four Barrel Coffee. The SFoodie crew at SF Weekly were also quick to anoint them as a “Third Wave coffee shop” in the article’s first sentence, but that (meaningless) claim rings hollow when paper cups are the only option available. To us, this is akin to comparing a restaurant to a James Beard Award winner while it only serves on paper plates.
But let’s forget the coffee toy du jour for a moment: of course, our reviews focus on the espresso.
They proudly feature coffee from Equator Coffees & Teas, which we’ve long been ambivalent about — particularly in a retail environment. Equator receives tremendous accolades as a roaster, but virtually all of the cafés they supply produce decent but ultimately forgettable results. Here they used Equator’s Arabian Mocha Java blend for espresso, but they also featured an organic Brazil Chapada Diamantina, a Colombia La Josefina, and a Costa Rica Montes de Oro (for the Clever drippers).
They pull espresso as sizable shots served in larger, drip-coffee-sized paper cups (unfortunately). It has a healthy looking, mottled, medium brown crema of average thickness and a flavor of a light tobacco smokiness. There are some herbal notes and pleasant spices in the mix, but the shot has a somewhat narrow flavor profile.
The crowds are light and the art space makes for an interesting place to linger over a coffee. And the coffee itself is pretty good — just again not the place to showcase Equator beans. But then that isn’t surprising for Equator coffee in a retail environment.
Read the review of Sohberts.
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