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Sacramento’s Merry Old Soul

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Name: Old Soul Company
Location: 1716 L Street, Rear Alley and 812 21st (21st and H) Street, Sacramento, CA
Rating: 3 (a 3+ for the espresso)

It’s comforting to know that California lawmakers and folks heading up to Tahoe can count on our State capital for good coffee. There’s Temple, which, by all accounts, serves quality coffee from Barefoot Roasters, Chocolate Fish which serves a fine rendition of coffee from Ecco Caffe, and Infusion Cafe, which reportedly does a good job with Zoka. Of course, the coffee being served at each of these establishments is only, in a best case scenario, barely “local”. If you want to try something from Sacramento, please follow the tip first given to me from a Blue Bottle barista about a Sacramento roaster known as Old Soul Company.

On a couple of recent couple of trips, I hit up both locations of Old Soul: the somewhat hidden, mothership warehouse roaster and bakery and their newest addition, the Weatherstone cafe. I apologize now for the fact that pretty much all my pictures hail from the Weaterstone location – too much coffee sometimes stumps my photojournalistic impulses. I won’t even begin to apologize for the terrible quality of these cell phone photographs – I lost my camera a month or so back and am still trying to figure out which new one to get.

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The aesthetic at both cafes is one of “retrofitted warehouse.” Both are spruced of versions of some former open space, with exposed brick walls, a smattering of tables, a counter and shelves which seem to be hastily located, and larger baker’s carts filled with pastries. This motif in the newer space is a little contrived seeming given that it isn’t a workspace, but the warehouse them makes sense given that the original cafe really is primarily a bakery and coffee roasting operation with a cafe thrown in as an afterthought.

The pastries and sandwiches are quite tasty and probably warrant a visit on their own. Fortunately, it turns out that the coffee is pretty good as well, although based on my single visit to each, I’d probably head to the original location for the coffee. The staff, equipment and selection seemed slightly superior to what I found at the Weatherstone, although I found staff at both locations helpful and knowledgeable. The Weatherstone location does have the advantage of outdoor seating and a slightly preferable indoor aesthetic.

The main cafe and roaster is armed with a three group La Marzocco Linea and turns out a decently textured macchiato and a not too shabby decaf espresso. The Weatherstone location comes armed with a slightly smaller 2 group Faema (I didn’t catch the exact model). The espresso is all fairly traditional and very pleasing with shots coming out neither super short nor too long. My shots had plenty of, if somewhat lighter, crema (the photo below is of a decaf shot), and the flavor, while not earth shattering, was also not harsh. If found the regular relying mostly on heavier notes with slight, bright kick. It was fairly chocolaty with some slight berry undertones. The decaf, not surprisingly, was a bit more one-dimensional.

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Both cafes offered a rotating single origin coffee and a decaf, brewed on a commercial brewer. At the Weatherstone, I tasted a Costa Rican and at the main cafe I tasted a Mexican coffee. Both of these medium roasted coffees, at least as brewed, struck me as better than their chain store counterparts but not particualrly compelling. About 8-9 different coffees were available for sale, hailing merely from a country/region rather than a particular estate or farm.

I purchased some washed Kenya Irigithathi Peaberry to take home. This coffee was either better than the other two I tried in the store or simply tasted better because it was brewed as a French Press. It had a juicy, grapefruit and pomegranate acidity that was a bit muted at first, but which improved markedly with time – starting to shine about a week out from the roast date. This medium bodied coffee also exhibited some floral and chocolate notes. It, understandably, didn’t work all that well as an espresso, but wasn’t entirely terrible in that instantiation either.

Overall, I was impressed by the skill and attentiveness of Old Soul’s baristas especially given the volume of business these cafes seemed to be doing and felt  compelled to come again simply because  they have the right attitude, approach and a decent, local product that I can’t get elsewhere. It is genuinely is comforting to see a Central Valley roaster doing something right.

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