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Monday, March 24, 2014

Six Places to Find Great Coffee in Oakland

Posted By on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Blue Bottle's Morse location blends history with a modern coffee program. - MOLLY GORE
  • Molly Gore
  • Blue Bottle's Morse location blends history with a modern coffee program.

If, for whatever reason, you're in need of more reasons to join The Great Migration to the East Bay, let us be the ones to tip the scale. Consider first the lower rents, sunnier days, a good food renaissance, and all the hip cred you can fit in a pair of second hand drop crotch pants, and add to that a thriving hotbed of terrific coffee. Thanks to cheap warehouse space -- as good for brewers and anyone looking to "get better at drumming" as it is for coffee roasters -- the East Bay has long been fertile ground for craft coffee (and aspiring musicians). Lately, there's been a small surge of openings and projects that make it an especially exciting time to head east and get your buzz on. For six of our favorite spots, read on.

See also: First Look at Andytown Coffee Roasters

Coffee News: Local 123 Now Roasting Its Own, Blue Bottle Unveils Packaging, and Andytown Set to Open

First Look at Oakland's Newest: Grand Fare

Bica Coffeehouse

Bica doesn't get very much publicity, but it's one of the most skillfully curated multiroasters in Oakland (or Brokeland, as Michael Chabon famously coined the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland). The selection rotates often, sticking to reliable big guns like Ritual, Four Barrel, and Verve, but it does well to provide good brews from non-local, harder to find names like Handsome Coffee Roasters, Coava, and Intelligentsia. Mornings can be a little busy, but the WiFi is great and lunchtime means good and simple pre-made sandwiches from Southie down the street.

Timeless Coffee Roasters

Owner RJ Leimpeter is an old gun in the coffee world, having clocked time as a Peet's man and later as the head roaster at Sightglass, but now he's helming his own operation that just began roasting its own last last year. Add to that a stellar (and vegan!) food and pastry program, and you have yourself a great weekend morning. Which reminds us, don't miss the Sunday brunch.

Modern Coffee

Modern Coffee is another third wave offshoot from Peet's veterans. Call it a multiroaster, but it's more of a coffee taproom for industry nerds. The staff is infinitely knowledgable and keen to educate, reliably adept at matching customer tastes to something from their (excellently curated) selection. Look for coffee from Stumptown, Counter Culture, Chromatic Coffee Co., De La Paz, and more. Seating is limited, making the spot more of a small oasis for wonderful tasting things than a place to hang out all day. It's only open on weekdays, and located in the bottom of Oakland's old Tribune Tower.

The Bodega at Duende

Around the corner from Modern Coffee is another, more hidden coffee project inside the beautiful, looming walls of Spanish restaurant Duende. The restaurant comes to life at night as a venue for both dinner and occasionally experimental music, teeming with big cast iron pans of paellas and albodigas and tiny glasses of sherry. In the mornings, though, it's one of the most wonderfully quiet and rustic places to sit down with a cup of Verve. The pastries are made in-house by pastry chef Michelle Lee. Think housemade churros with chocolate sauce, currant scones paired with berry jams and crème fraiche, chocolate sea salt cookies, and more. And WiFi? Not here. Just relax and enjoy.

Blue Bottle Morse

Not too long ago, Blue Bottle opened up a new café in the historic W.C. Morse building. The space is quintessentially Blue Bottle: clean, bright, minimalist. The whole things feels lofting and lovely, grounded by original tiles and outfitted with an amazing suspended speaker system. The café slings the standard Blue Bottle menu alongside more inventive additions like the Shakerato (espresso and simple syrup shaken with ice), and a sparkling Cascara tea. Ask about the Oji slow drip cold brew, and don't forget to try the Liege waffle.

Grand Fare

Grand Fare opened as a coffee house just over a month ago, taking over space that used to house café and Balinese art gallery, Monkey Forest Road. Now, Doug Washington (Town Hall, Salt House, Anchor and Hope), has revived the space with a communal vibe centered around a coffee program from Andrew Barnett's heralded Linea Caffe. The vibe is retro-chic: shag rugs, orange couches, '70s lighting fixtures. The set up is not so conducive to zoning out on your laptop, which is part of the point. It feels a bit like the living room of a rich and social art collector, the kind of place you bring someone you'd like to actually cozy up with and talk to. No phone zombies here, just good coffee, good tea, and stellar pastries. Look out for the future, when Grand Fare will evolve into a market concept, lining the perimeter with food vendors and decking out the patio outside with chandeliers (seriously), heat lamps, and seating. But Washington assures us, the coffee will never go away.

If those aren't enough to keep your buzz going, check out Local 123 in North Berkeley, and Highwire Coffee Roasters in Rockridge.

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Molly Gore


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