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Monday, October 21, 2013

Saint Frank Evangelizes on the Holy-Rolling Glory of Coffee

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Bohlin (left) in the freshly opened Saint Frank. - MOLLY GORE
  • Molly Gore
  • Bohlin (left) in the freshly opened Saint Frank.

Saint Frank, the much anticipated café from Ritual alum Kevin "Tex" Bohlin, is now open. The café has been sitting under a stack of permits and waiting to clear some city inspections for months, and Saturday it opened its doors with a bang to the people of Russian Hill.

See also: Saint Frank Bringing the Story of Coffee to Russian Hill

Ritual Takes Sixth Place in National Barista Competition

Ritual's Kevin "Tex" Bohlin Talks Competitive Coffee and Raw Steak Whipped Cream

The café is unique for a few reasons, as we reported back in April. To start, Bohlin ascribes the term "relationally sourced" to his coffee. This means he is not only trading directly, but he is relying on a few, well-developed relationships with smallholder farmers, seeking to improve not only the quality of coffee, but life too on both ends of the supply chain. He's equally animated about sharing his coffee's origin story while brewing on Polk Street as he is about brewing the stuff in the Honduran mountains for the farmers who grew it. He's got one hand in each side of the supply chain, slowly pulling them closer together.

Bohlin comes armed with a glittering pedigree, having honed his coffee chops at Ritual, and faring well in competitive barista championships at both the regional and national level. But still, when you ask him about coffee, he's not given to talking about himself.

Saint Frank is exercising some new, sleek technology too. Walk in, and the space widens before you into an airy white expanse (peppered with Instagrammers making use of the light wooden walls). The café owes its spacious feel to its nearly invisible equipment. Saint Frank's features the debut of an as yet unnamed machine, custom built by locally-based John "Jepy" Ermacoff, that looks a bit like an espresso machine stripped down to its skivvies--slender chromed arches growing out of the counter, while the rest is buried beneath. The machine has been in development for a few years, and at the moment, this is the only one you'll find in existence.

Using Ermacoff's set-up makes perfect sense in Saint Frank. Bohlin is a people man. He's left Ritual the role of roasting Saint Frank beans in part because he'd rather be in the people-facing portion of coffee work -- educating, conversing. Not sitting in front of the roaster. The set-up bolsters Bohlin's goal here, to clear and demystify the space around delicious coffee, to get coffee drinkers a little closer to understanding what's in their cup, where it came from, and why that matters. In a word, it removes barriers.

The café also offers a few pourovers on V60, and a filter-brewed option. Pastries come from the likes of Marla Bakery, La Marais, and Mr. Holmes, and you'll also find quaint jars and parfaits of Worthy Granola. Sunlight occupies the rest of the space.

One of the café's coffee darlings comes from a farm called Finca Las Nieves, a small lot of Honduran coffee that makes for a lovely and balanced cup with a good story. If you're keen to know more, just step up and ask.

Visit Saint Frank at 2340 Polk Street.

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Molly Gore


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