In case you haven’t noticed, Ritual has been a busy, busy coffee company in the past few months. Here’s a bit of what’s been going on.
- Ritual’s new website is online. Amongst other things, it includes some great videos on cupping, brewing and other tips and tricks for appreciating good coffee.
- Staff have revamped the coffee menu. That’s right, as good as it was, the San Jose El Yalu COE #3 has finally moved off the list, making way for a host of new coffees, including Ritual’s version of the El Salvador Matalapa made famous a couple of months ago by Kyle Glanville when he won the 2008 USBC.
- They’ve opened their new cafe in Napa’s Oxbow Market. From what I’ve read, it isn’t paradigm shifting establishment like Blue Bottle’s Cafe, but it is a solid addition to their Valencia flagship and the Flora Grubb Kiosk. I suppose it also makes a subtle nod in the direction of the constant comparison people make between coffee and wine tasting.
- The Valencia store now offers, public cuppings, every day at noon. I haven’t confirmed it, but they apparently also offer daily cuppings at the Oxbow Market cafe as well. (Note to self: good opportunity to try the new coffees).
- Ritual has been trading staff like a baseball team. Changes also include the arrival of M’lissa Muckerman and Chris Owens from Octane and Counter Culture, respectively, and Justin Tiesel from Alterra. And there are probably other changes I’ve missed. The baseball analogy is a good one, but I’d say there are apt analogies to be made with arranged marriages and cross-pollination as well. Ritual is forming some pretty powerful alliances while sharing practices and skills with roasters and cafes around the country.
- Ritual is extending its reach. Blue Bottle and Ecco Cafe aren’t the only bay area coffees going bi-coastal. Ritual is now on the menu at Cafe Grumpy as well as the shelves of Grab Grocery in Brooklyn. Apparently the NY Times forgot Ritual this time. The list of places to get Ritual’s coffee elsewhere in California includes cafes in Roseville and Avila Beach.
- Ritual in the East Bay. I’ve spotted Ritual’s coffee at Whole Foods in Berkeley and at 33 Revolutions in El Cerrito. Both locations sell 12 oz bags for $12. The bag size increase, up from the 8 oz bags sold at Ritual’s cafes, makes sense since many coffee consumers are used to bigger bags. The bags are roast dated, but also have a “consume by” date. This wouldn’t be odd – many grocers require this sort of thing -except that the date is three weeks past the roast date, a bit longer than the 10-14 day period commonly touted by the specialty coffee industry for freshness. Most of the beans being sold also come from Ritual’s older coffee stock. 33 Revolutions, for instance, sells the El Yalu. It seems like Ritual has made some minor sacrifices in coffee quality to make this expansion possible.
I suppose the question is what’s motivating all these changes? Most likely its a convergence of factors. Ritual is no doubt riding the wave brought on by their recent success at the 2008 USBC and glowing reviews from Ken Davids, smartly leveraging this opportunity to boost their status in the coffee world. I also can’t help but wonder if the imminent arrival of a new kid on the block who will soon be shopping for customers doesn’t provide a little metaphorical kick in the pants. Of course, I’m sure the People Magazine portion of my brain would want to report on these happenings regardless of the reasons. Enquiring minds sometimes just want to know.