Over Memorial Day Weekend we made a trip to the Bay Area. Given the relatively sad state of coffee in L.A., I made it a top priority to visit some of the finest cafes in the Bay Area, those that are truly pushing the state-of-the-art and currently being heralded in the premier coffee forum.
Given time constraints, I only had a chance to visit three of the four on my list:
1. Barefoot Coffee Roasters (5237 Stevens Creek, Santa Clara, near Lawrence Expr. just off of Hwy 280). Superbly sweet double shot (a pure shot of unadorned espresso) and capp. Get one of the more experienced baristas to pour you a rosetta leaf on top of the capp.
2. Blue Bottle (315 Linden in Hayes Valley), a recently opened kiosk in an alley. Again, a superb double, a bit more intense than Barefoot and a great capp as well. Seems more of a purist's place with a short menu and none of the froufrou drinks. Other locations as well, but I haven't been.
3. Cafe Organica (526 Central in Hayes Valley), also recently opened. Once again, an excellent capp with a rosetta.
None of these cafes had the overextraction, bitterness, and big bubble foamed milk plaguing countless cafes, those in North Beach included. I can only attest to the cafes I've been to, and I will say that these three are at the top of their game, at least for espresso-based drinks. (For reference, I would place Peet's in the second tier.) Those who have been hesitant to sample the essence of the bean in a double can confidently do so at any of these.
I did not have a chance to check out Ritual Coffee at 1026 Valencia, near 21st. This place recently opened and has also been getting a lot of press in the coffee world (Melanie et. al. looking in the Mission, you may want to check this out).