A few years ago, a handful of baristas took third wave coffee and did what any honorable denizen of Berkeley would do. They collectivized it. That is to say, they took the standard, vertical model of business ownership, smashed it up, rolled it out, and divvied it into the hands of the employees. As their own bosses, the Alchemy Collective Café crew have modeled a democratic approach to specialty coffee, wooing the hearts of South Berkeley with their gritty but beautiful neighborhood vibe, and the silkiest cappuccinos in town.
The spot has been evolving for three years -- born as a mobile cart, soon tucked into a Lilliputian café, and now, just around the corner from its former spot, Alchemy has officially opened the doors of its full-grown space, lovely as ever. Right now, you'll find the same offerings as always -- Verve coffee, Starter Bakery pastries -- but be on the lookout for a food menu soon. Co-founder Chris Meyers tells us eggy breakfast sandwiches (or maybe tacos) are in the works, as are soup, sandwiches, soup, granola, oatmeal, and other snacky bits.
Make no mistake, though, Alchemy is not a restaurant, and coffee remains the heart of the operation. The space has potential as a venue, and the crew aims to fill it with everything from pop-ups to music. Look forward to unique offerings too, from writing groups to specialized gatherings (in the past, geared towards connecting interested folks with legal pros who can help them learn about and start their own cooperative ventures). To check out the new space, visit 1741 Alcatraz Avenue.
After months of progress stopped up by the city, upcoming Andytown Coffee Roasters finally got permission to close its walls. On the tails of that announcement comes a new Kickstarter campaign, aiming to fund the end of café construction (and possibly upgrade some equipment). Andytown is the homegrown project of Lauren Crabbe -- former Blue Bottle lead barista -- and Michael McCrory, a Renaissance person with a bartending background who grew up in Belfast's Andersontown (Andytown's namesake). The café has been built out entirely by the pair and their friends, and McCrory will be roasting Andytown's coffee onsite. The Kickstarter has some delicious reward options, from McCrory's griddle-baked soda bread to a year to Andytown's coffee. Pledge $100 and you can even get a mixtape from Michael. For high-rolling backers close to the beach, there's a custom-designed surfboard.
This week, Blue Bottle hosts coffee farming luminary Aida Battle, a producer out of El Salvador. She's a fifth-generation coffee grower who wound her way into international renown after wrangling some of the world's best coffee from her own family farm, pioneering new cultivation methods and conversations that have done well to shape the world of coffee as it is now (for a more thorough portrait, dig up her profile in the November 21, 2011 issue of The New Yorker). She will join Blue Bottle's green coffee buyer, Stephen Vick, for a tasting and discussion tomorrow, December 17, from 6-8 p.m. At 160 14th Street. The event is free.
And, in case you missed it, here's a snappy video of last week's latté art competition at Four Barrel, the Californian grand finale that included a showdown of S.F. against L.A. The Northern California series was won by Leslie Ruckman of Bellano Coffee (1st), Taylere Yamamura from Saint Frank Coffee (2nd), and Selina Viguera of Blue Bottle (3rd). L.A. won out in the NorCal vs. SoCal battle, but we don't have to talk about that.