I didn’t plan on acting as a coffee connoisseur while in San Francisco, the job was just kind of handed to me. Before I get too into myself though, I have to admit that I only sampled three places but have added to the list a popular NorCal addition of whom I’ve tested in my beloved Seattle.
San Francisco is a place of known diversity, by all means when it comes to population, food and drink you are likely to find what you are looking for. I even found a popular Italian chocolate bar in a random liquor store! That’s beside the point though.
On a particularly long day, Lorenzo and I were making our rounds in The Mission District of San Fran and as we boarded the bus that would take us to Golden Gate Park and my dear friend Victoria, the exhaustion flooded over us.
When Victoria’s car pulled up alongside the bus stop, just outside Golden Gate Park, I relayed the message of exhaustion in my utter refusal to get out of the car to view anything not direly worth it. The park is beautiful and I would have loved giving it my full attention but I just couldn’t bear the thought of subjecting my little feet to more walking in the biting wind.
After a short drive and some direction on the better aspects of the park (buffalo in the middle of a city anyone?), Victoria knew just the antidote for my laziness. As we turned corner after corner in this shockingly grid-like city I began to recognize the shops spreading along the sidewalk. We were back in The Mission!
Victoria had a very specific coffee shop in mind to take me. It was called Philz Coffee.
I sat in front of the menu board for ages as I carefully read through each and every single world of each brew as a means to discover what I was looking for. Victoria made a few suggestions and I finally settled on a small cup of Tesora, the Italian word for Treasure and knowing the Italians love of their coffee, I thought it must be good. The barista behind the counter graciously took my order and asked me the most simple question: sweet, medium or not-so-sweet? None of this one sugar, two sugar, red sugar, blue sugar business! What a fantastic way to order a coffee!
Once we got our order ($3 for a cup of coffee at that–take that Starbucks!) we sat down in the edgy, funky San Francisco vibe of the café as students, travelers and business men surrounded us tapping away on keyboards or simply enjoying someone else’s company.
As Victoria and I continued our week long chat on all the things that our life has brought us since we met back in 6th grade, I could not stop praising my fabulous cup of coffee. It was just so rich, so flavorful. You could taste every note, every ounce of love put into that little cup.
Philz is a must. If you are in San Francisco you have to go there. And until then watch this little video of Phil himself as he talks about his passion: coffee of course.
Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
Apparently, it’s somewhat of an institution when it comes to coffee in San Francisco. The second that I mentioned my love of Philz, Blue Bottle was the next word to come out of everyone’s mouth.
Pre-tasting my Blue Bottle Café Latte
Located just inside the San Francisco ferry building, if you want to get your hands on this famous coffee then you’ll have to wait. But trust me, it will be worth it.
I generally like to place the same order when I am testing out a new coffee shop so that I can successfully gage the tastes of each blend compared to the others. This is impossible to do with Philz because it is Turkish-style coffee and an all-around different being, but with Blue Bottle, I placed my typical, simple order: a small café latte.
Having just been in Italy where the espresso is fabulous I have to honestly say I don’t care for their cappucini or café lattes. They are straight up too milky. I like to taste my espresso, I like the smooth blend of coffee to be complemented by perfectly foamed milk, not drowned in it.
Blue Bottle did not disappoint. What a fabulous little latte I held in my hand. The espresso shot was not in the least bit bitter (again, take that Starbucks) and the milk was a perfect compliment.
It always helps the case that the ingredients used are organic, the products sold are mostly compostable and vintage and it gives off an all-around we-care-about-our-world kind of vibe.
Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Although I didn’t try Peet’s in San Francisco, it is true that it was in Berkeley, California that the first ever Peet’s graced the world with its presence. I know as a Seattle-ite I cannot keep bashing Starbucks, I have to be proud of what my city has made but if I’m being honest here, it is not always my first choice for coffee.
Peet’s is the most similar of the three to offering what Starbucks does, but I just feel as though the coffee comes off just a tad bit creamier and richer than Starbucks. It may not be the most professional opinion seeing as the number of cups of Starbucks I have drank as opposed to Peet’s is nearly triple. It’s just how I feel. I welcome thoughts on the subject in the comments below.
I felt compelled to add this little gem into the mix, although it’s not a chain. It is just a tiny little café that sits on the corner of California and 22nd Street in the Richmond District of San Fran. It was an easy walk for us from our location in the Presidio and the small town charm just added to my love.
A simple brewed coffee was fresh and tasty and the selection of bagels, pastries, wine and most importantly specialty imported cheese (porter-soaked Irish Cheddar anyone?) is enough to make it a worthwhile stop if you are in the area. This café really does make you feel as if you are being transported from the big city of San Francisco to a small town version with the same funk to it. Besides, the streets bordering the Presidio have some of the most beautiful houses of San Francisco in my own opinion.
Each and every one of these little places deserves a stop and they are all unique and fabulous for their individual reasons but I have to be honest here, and I think you all saw this coming, the obvious winner in this little taste test is Philz by a mile. I just love everything about that place! In fact, can I live there?
What is your take on San Francisco’s coffee scene? Favorite brew, blends or just spots to chill out? I want to hear about them!