September 2016

Monthly Archive

Trip Report: Wildcraft Espresso Bar (Castro)

Posted by on 05 Sep 2016 | Filed under: Barista, Café Society, Local Brew

Former lawyer (and Xoogler), Theresa Beaumont, returned to her former neighborhood and opened this small space in Dec 2015 at the base of the Bank of the West building — following a concession the bank made to the neighborhood to retain its lower level retail space. A lesbian of color setting up shop in a predominantly gay white male neighborhood? You know it. She aims to make your brief time here in the small space “the best 10 minutes” of your day, and would you believe they do a rather good job of that?

There are a couple of small sidewalk tables out front. Inside, there’s tall glass for making the small space seem as bright and open as reasonably possible. There’s one indoor metal café table with two chairs at the front window; any more and it would feel cramped.

Entrance to Wildcraft Espresso Bar in the Castro Inside Wildcraft Espresso Bar: menu and retail coffee for sale

White walls, a concrete backsplash, some roasted coffee on display for retail sale (Ritual Roasters and Calgary, Canada’s Phil Sebastian Roasters). With the small service space behind the counters, the menu is similarly focused: espresso, drip coffee, and pastries with the curious addition of bone broth and sheep’s milk.

The baristi here are friendly and engaging. And impressively so. I’ve formally reviewed a few thousand coffee shops around the world for over the past 13 years, and Jordan here was arguably the coolest barista I may have ever met.

Lone table seating inside Wildcraft Espresso Bar and the sidewalk seating beyondThey pulled shots of Ritual’s Last Exit seasonal espresso blend from a shiny three-group La Marzocco GB/5. It’s daringly one-sip short, but it’s a well-crafted shot at that: pungent, dynamic, and lively with a flavor of orange zest and a strong brightness without being overly fruity.

Ritual’s coffee didn’t afford much of a healthy crema on extraction — it was thinner and a pale yellow — but that didn’t detract much from the overall quality of the end product. Served on a decorative dish, in an organically spun ceramic demitasse, with a side of sparkling water and a twist of sugared orange peel.

Read the review of Wildcraft Espresso Bar in the Castro.

Jordan preps for the Wildcraft La Marzocco GB/5 The decorative Wildcraft Espresso Bar espresso


Trip Report: Equator Coffee & Teas (Tenderloin / Mid-Market)

Posted by on 01 Sep 2016 | Filed under: Café Society, Local Brew

Opening in April last year, this Mid-Market outlet of the slowly growing Equator chain espouses being a decidedly populist place for coffee. Like we never heard that before. But given its location and the surrounding environs, you can’t get too precious about your coffee when you do your business among more than a few addicts, panhandlers, and the chemically enhanced. “Mid-Market” being realtorspeak these days for parts of the Tenderloin.

Surrounded by the venerable Warfield Theater and near the landmark Crazy Horse flesh-o-teria, this gentrified space is bright and decorated with inclining angles and lots of exposed concrete — warmed up with leafy green stencils/murals. They display their roasted coffees and teas for retail sale on the rear, service wall.

Sidewalk seating in front of Equator Coffee & Teas, Mid-Market Service counter inside Equator Coffee & Teas, Mid-Market

Window counter seating inside Equator Coffee & Teas, Mid-MarketInside there’s a sort of cherry wood counter with four metal stools at the service bar plus two more similar benches at either side of the entrance for window counter seating. Just beyond that, there’s sidewalk seating beneath two parasols and benches sectioned off from the sometimes-sketchy but always entertaining sidewalk traffic. They offer beer and wine on tap, sandwiches and “boards” to eat, and of course coffee: as espresso and pour-overs.

Pulling shots from a white, two-group La Marzocco FB/70, their espresso comes with an even, medium-to-dark-brown crema. It’s a relatively deep, darker espresso of fuller volume for a doppio shot: four sips large at that. The flavor has some pepper, spices, a hint of molasses, but it is a bit limiting on brightness despite some slight cherry fruit. Served in white English ceramic cups with a decorative spoon and short glass of still water on the side.

Neighboring Warfiend and Crazy Horse Murals around the corner, behind the Warfield

It’s a good shot, but I expect more. Especially when comparing it with their Mill Valley surf shop location. A place with Equator’s award-winning coffee stature really ought to do better. It barely gives a Peet’s a run for the money.

Read the review of Equator Coffee & Teas in SF’s Tenderloin / Mid-Market area.

Equator Coffee & Teas' La Marzocco FB/70 The Equator Coffee & Teas espresso, Mid-Market