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Coffee & Tea San Francisco Bay Area

Coffee wars update

Windy | | Jun 24, 2006 06:57 AM

It's been a year since I started drinking coffee again, and months since I started detouring to Blue Bottle and hanging out weekday mornings at Ritual with my iBook. In that time, Organica mysteriously closed, Blue Bottle's beans continue to impress me with their sweetness, and Ritual's baristas consistently made the best cappucino. The grilled ham and cheese croissant at Ritual is good too.

This week I needed a little variety on the wifi scene, so I stopped in at Coffee to the People, on Masonic near Haight. It's a sunny place, with a very young, very friendly clientele. Everyone is like 10 years younger than anyone at Ritual, and they don't appear to be starting companies or writing novels. It's hard not to like a place that has huge bags of compost available at the front counter. I got a cappucino and watched as the perfectionist who made it created truly beautiful wet foam, like a giant cup of marshmallow fluff.

The coffee was fine. I might drop in if I lived closer. The music was unbearable though: a double Cat Stevens CD. Even the homeless man sleeping in the comfy chair eventually got up and fled.

A teenager sitting across from me had a Dade County sticker on his iBook and I ask if he's from Miami. "Yeah, I just moved here."

"How do you like it so far?" He's not sure. "Everything organic here."

But here's my real complaint: the wifi's flaky, or maybe Mac unfriendly. I keep getting this message:

Please wait...

The Broadband Booster is currently measuring your network connection.
Service will be available shortly.

Friday after work on my way to a party, I had to meet a friend in Palo Alto and decided on Coupa Cafe, a place I'd always meant to try. We both got the spicy iced hot chocolate, and I got an order of arepas with shredded meat.

The iced hot chocolate is just a terrible idea. It's hot chocolate poured over ice, so the ice melts and the hot chocolate is watered down. Like people who don't know how to make iced tea. What a waste! The chocolate at the bottom was pretty good although not spicy the way say Jacques Torres' chocolate is.

The arepa was wonderful--delicate and airy. It was accompanied by a handful of overdressed fancy greens. I should have just gotten two of them.

But the highlight, on a hot afternoon, went by on a tray to another table: a glass of ice and a carafe of mint lemonade. Delivered on a tray by a smiling man. I had to have one.

It's definitely a well-heeled crowd but less whitebread than a lot of places in Palo Alto. The strivers were across the street at NOLA or up the block at the Blue Chalk. Everyone has a laptop. Two guys in striped shirts even walked by with MacBooks still in the boxes, direct from the Apple store. (Or maybe the boxes were empty. I didn't look).

Like the best internet cafes, Coupa is a great place to work. It's quiet and shady and cool inside, the network is fast, and the staff is very friendly. As I left, the guy behind the country told me to come back soon.

Coupa Cafe is on Ramona near University Avenue in Palo Alto. Open until 11 p.m. every night. Prices are high--$1 more than Ritual prices, and not as good, but you're paying rent. Next time I'll try the coffee.

(Are those pieces of chocolate as good as they look? I meant to get one of the roses or rainbow-colored Hawaiian macadamia nut candies but forgot.)