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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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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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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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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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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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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