I’m not sure why it is, but sometimes you just can’t get good work done at work. That’s when I head out to a café. This time, I needed a change of pace from my usual spots, but I also wanted some good coffee to help me along. My research turned up Village Grounds. Although I’ve passed it by countless times, I had always dismissed it as a UC Berkeley “study” café with only mediocre coffee. I had clearly never stuck my head inside to check out the coffee.
VG is nestled into a new apartment complex on Shattuck just at the edge of Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto. The inside is pleasant enough. It’s clean, they have wireless internet, a large flat panel television (?) and some nice leather chairs in addition to a real variety of table sizes. It’s a much-needed relief from dirty cafes, but it’s not aesthetically forward thinking either. The students arrived in droves by the afternoon, but what sets them apart from other study cafes is the coffee.
VG serves Flying Goat coffee, pretty much the primo espresso spot up in Marin from all I’ve gathered. I’ve been trying to get back there for quite some time. The last time I went was years ago, but I didn’t have the espresso then and don’t remember the drip.
Of course, I’m skeptical of good coffee served in cafes not run by the roaster, even when there are high standards supposedly governing its use. I’ve been burned twice by Specialty’s, a fantastic bakery in San Francisco (go if you get the chance for the cookies and the BBQ chicken sandwich), which just can’t do justice to Intelligentsia’s house blend – it always tastes bitter and lifeless to me. However, I had high hopes for VG.
They serve two drips, Ms. Garland’s Blend (Med-Full) and Sumatra Triple Pick (Full). They also serve two espresso blends – that’s right two – technically 3 if you count the decaf! They serve a lighter roast (the Ticino) for cappuccinos on down and a darker roast (Vesuvio) for lattes on up, although they’ll supposedly make either for you for whatever drink you want.
I started with a cup of the brewed (Ms. Garland’s blend). It had a good, simple, clean taste with just a little burst of acidity to it to brighten it up. It wasn’t particularly complex which is probably what they were striving for in a house blend. I did find it a little bitter for my taste (over roasted or over extracted, I’m not sure), but a decent cup none-the-less.
The macchiato I ordered later on was really superb. It had a rich chocolate flavor, slightly dark, with lots of cherry and raspberry notes. They’re right that it is a bit lighter than you might expect. It took me a couple of sips for the flavor to really sink in, but once it did I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to try this from Flying Goat proper.