I recently had a 48-hour layover in San Francisco on my way back from French Polynesia. It was a great way to buffer the brutal temperature difference between Bora Bora and Montreal although I never need an excuse to visit San Francisco. I love the city’s architecture, its quirkiness and its delicious food scene. I had way too many restaurants on my list as usual and managed to visit a few, which I will write about soon. I also managed to visit many coffeeshops. As pretty as French Polynesia is, one doesn’t go there for the coffee so I was really looking forward to some great brews.
This was my first stop in San Francisco after a red-eye flights from Tahiti. Inspired by Paris’ Bibliothèque Mazarine, Mazarine Coffee is a gorgeous space serving great drinks and light fare such as avocado and egg toasts, pastries, salads and sandwiches. A long marble-topped bar flanks one side of the room while the other is furnished with a long banquette and tables and chairs. The back wall of the bar is covered in a funky ceramic tile pattern that is the perfect background for your Instagram posts. Check their website for updates on the daily espresso and pour over offerings but I can guarantee that whatever it is, it will be good.
Ritual Coffee was among the pioneer wave of independent coffee shops to open in the United States. Established in San Francisco since 2005, Ritual now counts five locations around the city and one in Napa Valley. I visited the Haight shop at the end of a very long day. Located between The Panhandle and Buena Vista Park, this Ritual is the perfect pit stop to replenish on the go or to linger and mingle with the locals in the light-filled space. The daily bean menu for the different brews are displayed in store.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Four Barrel on Valencia Street was the incredible space, especially the high cathedral ceiling with its original wood beams. The large space is sparsely furnished with dark wood tables and vintage school stools. The central coffee bar creates a barrier between the public space in the front and the roasting facility in the back. Grab your coffee ans sit at the bar facing the roaster to admire the craftsmanship that goes into each cup.
Located in the Mission District, Linea is a tiny coffee shop and roaster. Voted as one of the best coffee shops in the United States by Thrillist and Food & Wine, Linea sources and roasts exceptional beans in small batches. The shop is tiny with almost no seating but there are a few colourful tables outside where one can sit and sample a great cup of coffee.
Blue Bottle Coffee is one of the most important coffee retailers and roasters in North America. It’s been around since the early 2000s, which makes it one of the pioneers of third wave coffee. They now have shops in several cities around the U.S. and Asia. I visited their main shop in San Francisco’s Ferry Building and tasted one of their single-origin espressi. They have another “secret” coffee bar in the Ferry Building Arcade that offers single origin coffee flights, which is a great way to sample their single-origin beans. Please note that although Blue Bottle started as an independent shop, Nestlé has recently acquired a majority stake in it. It’s not something they seem forthcoming with on their website and I had no idea until a reader emailed me to let me know. Thanks to her, we can all now make an informed decision.
Flywheel is a family-owned business located in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood right in front of the Golden Gate Park. It was a sight for sore eyes (and feet) when I emerged from the park after a few hours of walking around. The café is welcoming and according to their website, built with repurposed and recycled materials. the long bar on the left is brimming with every single coffee paraphernalia imaginable, from the cool brass-accentuated siphon coffee on the back bar to the shining espresso machine and aligned pour over bar. Your choice!
BONUS CAFÉ: TARTINE BAKERY
A classic in San Francisco, Tartine Bakery is one of two Tartine spots in the city. I only did a quick stop on my way to Tartine Manufactory but I regret not sitting and sampling ALL the cakes in the display counter. They were all tall, fluffy and spectacular!
All photos © mrb404