Now that Indian summer is in full swing, it's prime time to start squeezing the most out of all the warm weekends you have left. In most ways, the city has the local monopoly on good coffee, but happily, there's a new spot just north that's doing a bang-up job of squaring our love of the good joe with a need to get away.
The spot is Equator Coffee and Tea's new branch at the Mill Valley Proof Lab Surf Shop. The venture is just over two months into opening, and on a recent visit, we awakened to the find that surf shops and coffee shops make for a mighty natural marriage. There's even a skate ramp in the back of the surf boutique, and if you're lucky, you'll catch teams of tots learning to shred. The quiet town, wrapped in the salty air of a seaside getaway, lies deceptively close to the city. We went just to check out the coffee bar, and found ourselves napping on Stinson Beach two hours later. As it turns out, the winding and majestic drive up Highway 1 is a tad bit easier after your coffee.
Equator's co-founder, Helen Russell, has invested a good many years in the area, and knows well the rhythm of things. Walk in and you'll find her wiping tables and hugging regulars. In her off time, she's buying surfboards from next door to support things like a women's empowerment surfing project in Bangladesh, or checking on the microlot the company grows for Thomas Keller himself. That's the thing about Equator, it seems to have its hand in all the right pots. The socially responsible company ritually invests itself in progressive work at origin, and maintains a solid reputation as an excellent steward of the earth and a model women-owned company.
And, of course, it carries some of the highest-scoring coffees around town. Just a few months ago, roaster Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia roasted a lot for Equator that garnered first prize at the 2013 Roaster's Choice competition. The coffee, a variety of Ethiopian Geisha, went for $18 a cup and disappeared in a blink. If that doesn't start your engine, it should.
Generally, you'll find Equator's high end single-origin coffees over standard brew methods -- Hario V60, Aeropress, and Chemex -- and espresso falling from that Ferrari of espresso machines, a La Marzocco Strada. The whole patio is a lush thing, decked in succulents. Give yourself ten minutes and you'll be tempted to buy a wetsuit and renounce your city life altogether. Should you choose to, local pastries and savory brioche sandwiches are on hand to keep you sustained.
The coffee bar beams bright, at 244 Shoreline Highway, decked in Equator's signature red. Look for a sleek black Bengal tiger wiped across the side, and surfboards out front. The shop is open Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.