Brian's Coffee Spot

Devoted to Coffee

Bay Area & Atlanta, July/August 2022

Caltrain locomotive 923 at Menlo Park, pulling a southbound service from San Francisco to San JoseAfter a lean 2021, travelwise, 2022 has really taken off (pun intended) with work-related travel unexectedly returning. After my trip to Berlin in May, I was off again in July, heading first to the Bay Area in California (where I hadn’t been since the start of 2020) and then to Atlanta, Georgia, before heading home.

The first week of the trip was all about work, although I did manage to explore a little bit more of the penisula in the direction of San Jose, as well as managing a day-trip to San Francisco. The second week saw me out and about, exploring more of the peninsula, as well as the East Bay (Fremont, Oakland and Berekely). And, of course, there were more day-trips to San Francisco.

From there I flew to Atlanta, Georgia to visit Amanda, who was staying with her mother. This was a much more low-key part of the trip, although we did manage a few days out, as well as finding a gem of a coffee shop in Marietta. Then it was back to the UK, flying from Atlanta to Heathrow, my first time in British Airways new Club World suites.

The trip is covered in the Travel Spots below, while you can also read about the Coffee Spots I visited in San Francisco, the peninsula, and the East Bay, as well as the solitary Coffee Spot Amanda and I found in Marietta.


Header Image: looking across San Francisco Bay from the shore at San Mateo, with the tidal mud flats in the foreround, the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in the middle distance and the hills of the East Bay in the background.


Travel Spots

You can read about the trip in the following Travel Spot posts, although I’ve yet to write up my flights from San Francisco to Atlanta and my flight back to the UK..

Brian’s Travel Spot: San Jose in Club World

A nose-on view of my British Airways Boeing 787-9 on the stand, Gate 15, at San Jose, having flown me in style from London Heathrow.After two years with no face-to-face meetings for work, things have suddenly taken off. Following my trip to Berlin at the start of May, I was off again in July, this time to the Bay Area, where I had a week-long meeting, followed by a week of exploring. I then flew to Atlanta to spend a couple of weeks with Amanda, before flying home exactly a month after I left.

Flying into the Bay Area presents a range of options, with San Francisco and San Jose being the most convenient. I did a similar trip in January 2020, and, just as I did then, I decided to fly to San Jose with British Airways. Although San Francisco is slightly more convenient, with several flights a day, on both occasions it was considerably more expensive. This made San Jose, with its one flight a day, the logical choice and, just as I did in 2020, I decided to fly in World Traveller Plus (premium economy to you and me).

Although I’ve just returned from that trip, it’s only now that I’ve had the time to start writing up the Travel Spots, starting with this one about my flight to San Jose.

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Coffee Spots

You can read about the Coffee Spots that I visited during trips to San Francisco, the peninsula, and the East Bay, as well as the solitary Coffee Spot in Marietta.

The Coffee Spots are listed alphabetically for each city, while within the specific regions (peninsula and Easy Bay) they are grouped by city, ordered north to south.

San Francisco

Linea Coffee Roasting + Caffe

A lovely cortado in my HuskeeCup, which I enjoyed sitting in the sun outside Linea Coffee Roasting + Caffe in San Francisco.Linea has two locations, Linea Caffe, in San Francisco’s Mission District, and today’s Coffee Spot, its wonderful café/roastery on Mariposa Street in Potrero Hill. This opened in January 2020, just after my last visit to Linea Caffe and just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. Occupying Intelligentsia’s old San Francisco roastery, it’s a lovely spot, with the roastery at the back on the left and a spacious coffee bar/retail area at the front on the right.

For now, there’s no indoor seating (due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic), but there is a stepped terrace outside on Mariposa Street as it descends to pass under I-280 on its way to San Francisco Bay. Of course, with San Francisco’s climate, outdoor seating is all you really need, although this arrangement does mean that Linea is only has disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own (which attracts a 25% discount).

The real draw is the coffee, with a blend on espresso and a rotating single-origin on batch brew filter. There’s a much wider selection of beans to buy in retail bags, including multiple single-origins and a range of organic coffee. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes and pastries.

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Réveille Coffee Co.

A cappuccino, made with the seasonal Paradise Espresso at Réveille Coffee Co. and served in my HuskeeCup.Réveille is a Bay Area café/roaster with five locations across San Francisco and another in Berkeley. I’m indebted to my friends Angela and Karen, who independently pointed me in the direction of Réveille. The subject of today’s Coffee Spot is Réveille Coffee Co. (the other locations go by the name Réveille Café) on Columbus Avenue in North Beach, an area with a rich (Italian) coffee culture, but one where speciality coffee is a bit thin on the ground, making Réveille a welcome addition.

Réveille occupies a wedge-shaped building on the corner where Kearny Street intersects Columbus Avenue at 45°, which is as much of a draw as the coffee. A bright, high-ceilinged space, the seating lines the windows down either side of the island counter, along with tables outside on the sloping Columbus Avenue/Kearny Street.

All the coffee is roasted on a Probat that sits in the middle of Réveille Café in Mission Bay. The standard espresso-based menu uses the seasonal Paradise Espresso and decaf, with a seasonal single-origin batch-brew filter. However, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own. A kitchen at the back provides brunch, with a selection of cakes and pastries throughout the day.

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Scullery

A classic espresso, made with Saint Frank Coffee's Little Brother blend and served at Scullery in San Francisco in a classic, bright yelllow cup.No trip to the Bay Area would be complete without a visit to San Francisco, so, with a day to spare before my meeting started on Tuesday, I hopped on the Caltrain, heading north to the city, where my first stop was Scullery, recommended by my friend Karen. In British English, a scullery is a small kitchen, a fitting name given Scullery’s size, although the actual kitchen area, behind the counter, is probably twice as big as the space allowed for customers.

Lack of size is no limit to Scullery’s ambition though. A multi-roaster, drawing from a range of local roasteries (“friends of ours” according to the manager), the concise espresso-based menu is joined by batch brew filter, several signature drinks, tea (including PG Tips) and a selection of toast-based items. These include plain toast, classic avocado toast and, in a nod to the country of my birth, Welsh Rarebit.

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Sightglass Coffee, Divisadero

The circular Sightglass logo, with the word "Sight" on top, "Glass" at the bottom and a horitonal lightning bolt separating the two.The original Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery on Folsom Street was a highlight of my first Coffee Spot visit to San Francisco in 2017. Back then, Sightglass just had one other coffee shop (on 20th Street in The Mission), but it’s since expanded with a shop in Los Angeles and another in San Francisco, in The Haight, on the corner of Divisadero and Page Street. This opened not long after my 2017 visit, but somehow the news had passed me by, so it was completely by chance that I spotted it on the other side of Divisadero while wandering in the neighbourhood.

A large coffee shop, although not as large as the original coffee bar & roastery (which is huge), there’s plenty of seating in the spacious interior, while you can also sit outside on one of four benches which protrude, step-like, from the left-hand side of the shop as it climbs up Page Street. The coffee features Sightglass’s ubiquitous Owl’s Howl blend plus decaf on espresso, while if you want filter, there’s a single option on batch brew along with two on pour-over through the V60. There’s also a selection of cakes and a concise lunch menu.

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Spro – Mission Bay/SOMA

Detail from the A-board outside the Spro Coffee Lab trailer in Spark Social SFI was tipped off about Spro Coffee Lab by the baristas at Devout Coffee, visiting Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop the following day. In typical Coffee Spot fashion, this was Spro’s second location, its first being a trailer in San Francisco’s Mission Bay/SOMA neighbourhood. Fortunately, this is close to Caltrain’s San Francisco terminus on 4th and King Street, my gateway for my various day trips to the city, so the very next day, I headed for the original Spro.

Spro is part of Spark Social SF, a large outdoor food truck park, beer & sangria garden and event space. Impressively, given that it’s literally a trailer, serving from a window at one end, the menu is identical to Spro’s Mission Dolores/Castro coffee shop. The coffee’s from Black & White Coffee Roasters, its Classic espresso and decaf on espresso, joined by a blend and two single-origins on pour-over through the V60, along with mocktails and other drinks. There’s also the full range of salads, open-face toasts, soup and sandwiches, plus the dedicated pastries and desserts menu.

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Spro – Mission Dolores/Castro

My espresso, a washed Colombian from Black & White Coffee Roasters, served in an interesting cup at Spro Coffee Lab in San Francisco, along with three blueberries as palate cleansers.Spro Coffee Lab was recommended by the baristas at Devout Coffee in Fremont, who marked it out as doing some of the best espresso in San Francisco. Spro began as a trailer in Spark Social SF, which is still going strong, followed by a bricks-and-mortar store in Mission Dolores/Castro, where I headed on the day following my visit to Devout. Occupying a bright corner with plenty of windows, there are five tables outside on the pavement and a similar amount of seating in the minimalist interior.

According to its website, Spro Coffee Lab serves “specialty craft coffee, experimental mocktails, inventive eats and artisanal goods using advanced techniques in culinary food science”, which is as good a description as any. There’s a selection of salads, open-face toasts, soup and sandwiches, while if you want something sweeter, another menu, just as extensive as the savoury one, is dedicated to pastries and desserts. There’s even a (smaller) menu for dogs!

When it comes to coffee, Spro currently uses Black & White Coffee Roasters from North Carolina, with its current Classic espresso, plus decaf, on a concise menu, while there’s a blend and two single-origins on pour-over, plus the aforementioned mocktails and other drinks.

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The Coffee Movement

Detail from the A-board of The Coffee Movement, serving coffee everyday from 7am to 4pmThis time last week I was in San Francisco, where the highlight of my day, coffee-wise at least, was The Coffee Movement, a recommendation from a barista at Saint Frank Coffee in Menlo Park. The Coffee Movement is in Chinatown, on Washington Street, roughly halfway up the hill. It opened in September 2019, so has spent most of its life operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, whose effects are still being felt. This includes no indoor seating and a queuing system to limit the number of customers in the shop. Instead, seating is provided outside, either at a bench in front of the window or standing at the back of a converted VW van.

However, the real draw is the coffee. The Coffee Movement is another multi-roaster, with the coffee changing every week, drawn from around the USA and beyond. There are three choices at any one time, available through an extremely concise espresso-based menu, along with filter (hot or cold). There’s a range of signature and seasonal drinks, although best of all is the tasting flight, where you can try all three coffees (filter) or one coffee as espresso, piccolo and filter. There’s also a small selection of pastries if you’re hungry.

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Peninsula

Coffeebar, Redwood City

The circular sign from outside Coffeebar, a stylised lion's head with flowing mane, the words "Coffeebar" at the top and "Redwood City" at the bottom, flanked by the letters NV (Nevada, left) and CA (California, right)Coffeebar is an interesting coffee shop/roastery chain spread across a diverse set of locations in California (four) and Nevada (Reno). Founded in 2010 in Truckee, California (which I passed through on the California Zephyr in 2019), the original coffee shop is still there, where it’s been joined by a bakery, although the roastery is now in Reno (which l also passed through on the California Zephyr). From that eastern base, Coffeebar spread to the Bay Area with two locations on the peninsula, Menlo Park, which arrived in 2018, and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, Redwood City Coffeebar, which opened in September 2019.

Located on Broadway, a short walk from the Caltrain/bus station, it’s a lovely spot in an old, high-ceilinged building providing plenty of space, with as much seating outside under the shade of mature trees lining the pedestrianised street. Coffeebar offers the Zephyr blend and Prima Donna decaf on espresso, while there are two blends on batch brew, the dark roast Giuseppe and a rotating lighter roast (Trailhead during my visit), plus three single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave/Modbar. There’s also tea, beer, wine and, if you’re hungry, breakfast, lunch and a range of cakes and pastries.

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Saint Frank Coffee, Menlo Park

A cappuccino, made with Saint Frank Coffee's Little Brother house blend, served in a proper cup with some lovely latte art.I came to know Saint Frank Coffee, roaster and purveyor of very fine coffee, from its long-time home on Polk Street in Russian Hill. This was my last stop on my last day in San Francisco when I visited in 2017, at the end of The Grand Adventure. It therefore seems fitting that my first stop on my current trip was also Saint Frank Coffee, albeit out in Menlo Park.

These days there are four Saint Franks, including the original, a long-standing coffee shop on the Facebook campus (not open to the public), a pop-up bakery/coffee shop, also on Polk Street in San Francisco, and this one, which opened in 2019. Across the road from the Caltrain station, it’s the sort of coffee shop that could only really work in a place with the Bay Area’s climate, since the only seating is outside on the large, shady terrace.

When it comes to coffee, which is all roasted in-house, there’s the seasonal house blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, plus two choices on batch brew filter, with a third on iced filter. Finally, there are four options, including a decaf, on pour-over, plus a small range of pastries if you’re hungry.

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Voyager Craft Coffee, Santa Clara University

One of Voyager Craft Coffee's signature desintation drinks, the Santiago, served in a large, purple cup with a small latte art heart.Located on The Alameda, just east of the beautiful Santa Clara University campus, this is one of two new (to me) locations for Voyager Craft Coffee since I last visited San Jose/Santa Clara in early 2020 (the other is in Cupertino). It opened not long after that trip, in April 2020, which means that its entire existence has been during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a convenient 20-minute walk south of Santa Clara station on the Caltrain line between San Jose and San Francisco, my main axis for exploring the peninsular. However, Santa Clara is also served by the Amtrak’s Capital Corridor and the ACE commuter service, connecting it with the East Bay and beyond.

Voyager is on the corner with Chapman Court, occupying a simple, rectangular space with the narrow side facing The Alameda. There’s plenty of seating inside, while outside, in the shade of three large trees along Chapma Court, you’ll find lots more tables. There’s the usual Voyager offering, with the house blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, joined by pour-over, batch brew and a range of travel/destination-themed signature drinks, everything roasted in-house. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of toast-based items, granola and a range of cakes.

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East Bay

CoRo Coffee Room

My espresso, the Baroida Estate, a naturally-processed coffee from Papua New Guinea, roasted and served by CoRo in its Coffee Room in Berkeley. The handleless ceramic cup is bespoke to CoRo, while the coffee is presented on a small, wooden tray with a glass of water on the side.Today’s Coffee Spot saw me venture to Berkeley for the first time (unless you count passing through on the California Zephyr enroute to Chicago in 2019) to visit the CoRo Coffee Room. Indeed, I had come to Berkeley specifically for the Coffee Room, following a recommendation by Linea Coffee Roasters on the previous day. Located in southwest Berkeley, down the hill from the famous college, the Coffee Room is near the Amtrak station, which was convenient for me since I came by train from San Jose.

I was unaware of CoRo (Bay Area CoRoasters) before my visit. Since 2016 it’s provided a shared roasting space for over 40 roasters, while the Coffee Room, which showcases the roastery’s output, opened in 2018. Occupying the front of the warehouse-like production area, it’s a wonderfully open space, with amazing high ceilings and a great view of the roasters through a window at the back. You can buy coffee from any of CoRo’s roasters, while there’s a choice of coffee to drink, including a blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, two options on batch brew filter, another on pour-over plus there’s cold brew. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a section of cakes and pastries.

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The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room

A cup of the light-roast batch brew option, the Kenya Mumwe Mahiga Double Fermented Double Washed, served in a white mug with the Crown Coffee logo on the side.The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room (The Crown for short), was the one consistent recommendation that I received for coffee in Oakland. I missed out in January 2020, my only previous visit to Oakland, since that was on a Sunday, when The Crown used to be closed. This time I was determined to catch it, popping over to Berkeley and Oakland on my last day in the Bay Area.

The Crown, which opened in mid-2019, is an off-shoot of Oakland green coffee importer, Royal Coffee. The Coffee Spot usually deals with coffee shops, plus the occasional roaster via the Meet the Roaster feature, so green coffee importers rarely feature, although if more of them did what Royal Coffee has done with The Crown, that would quickly change!

Although The Crown is a coffee bar, it’s a whole lot more than that, existing to showcase Royal Coffee’s excellent range of beans. While you can just have a cup of coffee, you’ll miss out if you dodn’t take the opportunity to explore some of The Crown’s amazing coffee, with frequently changing options on espresso, pour-over, batch brew and cold brew. There are also a small number of cakes/pastries if you’re hungry.

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Devout Coffee, Niles

My espresso, a single-origin from East Timor, roasted by Devout Coffee and served at the coffee shop in Niles, along with a glass of water, presented on a square, metal tray, with a spoon laid diagonally between espresso and glass.Devout Coffee has been on my list for a while. A favourite of my friend Karen, who lives (by US standards) nearby, I first visited in January 2020. I would have written it up then, but a combination of factors (including it being a very busy Sunday morning) prevented me. 2½ years were to pass before my return to the Bay Area, where a day-trip to Niles, the northernmost district of the city of Fremont, was a priority.

Devout Coffee celebrates its 10th anniversary at the end of August, marking when it started roasting, although the coffee shop in Niles didn’t open until 2014. For many years, the roaster was in a small area in the back of the shop, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it moved next door, the original 5 kg Probat recently joined by a refurbished 30 kg Trabattoni. Since March 2021, there’s been a second Devout, a coffee trailer in Lake Chabot Public Market in Castro Valley.

There are multiple choices pour-over, with a single-origin espresso, plus batch and cold brew, along with retail bags of beans and a selection of cakes/pastries. You can sit inside, but the best experience is outside in the large patio area.

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Marietta

Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe

Detail from the door of Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe in Marietta: "Tuesday" is written in script, with the church across the road as a backdrop.Having come from the relative coffee-rich Bay Area, with several day-trips to San Francisco and one to Oakland under my belt, I flew to Georgia at the end of July with no great expectations when it came to coffee. However, last weekend, Amanda took me over to Marietta, where we found an absolute gem in Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe, located just north of Marietta Square on Church Street.

A relative newcomer, Tuesday opened in October 2021, providing top-notch coffee (roasted by West Atlanta’s Bellwood Coffee) from a standard espresso-based menu, along with batch brew filter. There’s also a selection of other drinks, plus a range of cakes from the bakery next door, all of which makes up the coffee part of Tuesday Coffee + Shoppe.

The shop is represented by an interesting range of bespoke products displayed on the left-hand side of the neat little space. Due to Tuesday’s size, indoor seating is limited to a four-person bar, while there are two benches and four two-person tables outside on the quiet street, with plenty of shade from a combination of trees and parasols. Note that Tuesday only has takeaway cups at the moment, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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