My war.

(Last of the Ethiopian Ardi mixed with the new Honduras Maximino Paz.)

In this episode of “Taking Friends to Coffee (So I Can Blog About It)” I walked to Catahoula Coffee Company in Richmond (from El Cerrito) with my friends Patrick, Rachel, and Lucy (the dog). I hate to admit this, but this was my first time going there and having their coffee. I know they are well respected, I know they’ve won awards, and I’ve had their espresso over at Patrick and Rachel’s, but I’ve never really checked them out. 

After our leisurely stroll through El Cerrito and Richmond, it seemed like Catahoula just appeared on a nondescript block on San Pablo. Patrick camped at a table outside with Lucy, so Rachel and I could order inside. I got the obvious and dependable black coffee. They don’t do pour overs, which wasn’t really a big deal since their brewed coffee tasted very fresh. It was a darker roast, with a very smooth body and not really acidic. It was also really hot, so I had to let it cool a bit. (I’m really against cauterizing my tongue on hot coffee. I like to taste things.) I got a hot coffee because they didn’t have iced coffee on hand, and I didn’t want an iced espresso drink.

Patrick ordered a double cappuccino (with regular milk) which is his usual go to drink. He enjoyed it, saying it was really good. Rachel got a hot chocolate (with nonfat milk) and was impressed at the presentation. “It’s like a sundae!” It really was. She also said it was good. I forgot to get Lucy a drink, but I wouldn’t want to imagine a world where she drinks coffee. 

I regret not buying a pound of beans because we were low and they had a number of different types for sale. They have a well deserved reputation for their beans and I’d like to start exploring them. Maybe next time?

We were going to hang out and drink there while Patrick drew a flier for me, but Rachel’s sister was going to be coming over shortly so we walked back. When the my coffee finally cooled to a good temperature for steady drinking, it was delicious. I wish all ready brewed coffee tasted so good.

Shop: Catahoula Coffee Company, Richmond, CA
Coffee: Brewewd, black
Companion: Friends, Patrick (double cappuccino) and Rachel (hot chocolate)

Recently my friend Larry made a semi-rare Bay Area appearance for a friend’s wedding, so I dragged him out for a short walk and a cup of coffee. We walked along the Ohlone Greenway in Berkeley over to Coffee Conscious on Gilman Street. Yup, that Gilman Street. Home of 924

Coffee Conscious is part of Josh Levine’s vegan donut empire, along with Pepples and the Donut Farm. Josh started roasting his own beans shortly after he opened Donut Farm, but I hadn’t really had it in a while. Back then it was not especially good, but drinkable. (Though really, anything is drinkable with a donut.) A few years later, and he’s got it down pretty well. 

The cafe is pretty sparse - a few tables outside, a few tables inside, everything to go. One wall has a bunch of reproductions of old punk fliers plastered to the wall, which really sets a vibe. All the pastries are vegan, but they do have real milk in addition to non-dairy. The coffee selection includes drip coffee ready to go, pour overs, and espresso drinks. 

Larry was overwhelmed by all of the options, so I told him to get a pour over of the Gilman Street blend. I knew that would be good for at least one story about the good old days. I got a pour over of the Yirgacheffe, which is closer to a medium roast. I will give them credit, their dark roasts are actually dark and their mediums aren’t that light. The coffee definitely has body. The Yirgacheffe had that easy drinking smoothness I really like in medium roasts. It’s not overly acidic and not really bitter. The kind of cup you could chug if you had to. 

Larry picked one of the two inside tables by the window and we sat and had one of the usual soul searching conversations coffee shops are perfect for. We touched upon life and death, love and pain, small town newspapers, records, and a bunch of other stuff. Conversations with Larry always go everywhere, which is why he’s one of my favourite people to get coffee with. 

After we finished our coffee, I picked up a pound of the Yirgacheffe and a Mexican hot chocolate donut for home. Then we walked back along the path, parting at North Berkeley BART. It was a nice afternoon with a definitely needed cup of coffee. 

Shop: Coffee Conscious, Berkeley, CA
Coffee: Pour over, Yirgacheffe
Companion: Friend, Larry

When I first moved to Berkeley, I wanted to get a job at Royal Coffee because the owner of the coffee shop I worked at in Carmichael was friends with the owner and it seemed a lot like home. That never happened because I got sucked into the campus job vortex, but I kept drinking their coffee. 

The coffee shop is now called Cole Coffee and it’s still pretty much the same - great, fresh roasted beans. If we can’t drink Boulevard Coffee, Cole is a pretty good second. One of the reasons we really like them is that their beans are good quality and their dark roasts are actually dark. Nothing irritates me quite like people who complain they don’t like dark roast coffee because the beans taste burnt, but really they’re just used to stale, burnt beans from some mass market roaster. (OK, a close second might be people who thing that all dark coffee needs to be roasted should be burnt and that anything else is just weak.)

This trend has only become more of a thing in recent years with third wave roasting, where there’s a new school of coffee snob that thinks roasting should be sparse and anything more than that is just criminal. And while I do like those roasters and coffee shops (as evident in this blog), sometimes you need a different kind of cup. 

Cole definitely fits that bill. The beans are high quality and roasted to a very rich flavor and fresh (despite lacking the “roasted on” date stamp). On a fine Saturday, my partner and I walked up there as the end of a long stroll through Berkeley. Usually we just get beans from the bean shop, but we decided to actually get a cup in the cafe. 

We both got pour overs of Kenya Peaberry. The cafe was really quite busy with a mix of families, cyclists making a pit stop, people working, and a guy sleeping in a chair in the window. We sat outside and talked about the Safeway construction, watch buses and thought about the world.

The cups of coffee were good, which was expected. A lighter roast, it was fairly acidic but not so much that it hurt going down. It was a bright taste. We liked it so much we bought a pound from the bean shop to take home. 

I don’t usually get a chance to get coffee made at Cole, but it’s a solid choice. Not super trendy but reliable and delicious. You can’t really ask for much more than that. 

Shop: Cole Coffee, Oakland, CA
Drink: Pour-over, Kenyan Peaberry
Companion: Partner, Joe

A couple of weeks ago I took the day off for a haircut and doctor appointment. I used the time to also meet my friend Josh for lunch and coffee. We ended up at the very local Local 123 in Berkeley.

He got a cappuccino and I got a pour over of their Honduras. They recently started roasting their own beans, switching from Sightglass. Their roasting is still very much that light light third wave vein, but good. (Though I’m really not keen on the light roast espresso blends, but that’s just me.) If you want a dependable, fresh cup of coffee or espresso drink where they clean the machines regularly, then Local 123 will fit the bill.  They also have food, which is definitely in the new artisinal/localvore vein, but none of it’s really vegan so I just ignore it. 

The cafe is also twee in that third wave way, but I like it. They open it up to let the lovely San Pablo Avenue air in, and they have a nice secluded garden patio in the back. They always have some featured artist on the walls, which adds a bit of character to the walls. 

Josh and I talked about pretty much everything. Soccer tactics, our friends’ upcoming wedding, politics, history, death, the amazing band Train and other 90s pop sensations. We talked so much that we had to get a second round. Josh opted for an iced tea this time, and I got the Kenyan pour over. Again, the drinks were great. I think I preferred the Honduras, but they were both really enjoyable cups of coffee. 

After we finished dissecting the World Cup, Josh went get ready for a futsal game and I got a library card. It was a good time and I would go back any time. Let me know if you want to get a cup!

Shop: Local 123, Berkeley, CA
Coffee: Pour-over, Honduras. Pour-over, Kenyan.
Companion: Friend, Josh. 

Emergency coffee from a friend while I was DJing.