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Easy Come, Easy Go

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Name: Blackbird Cafe
Location: Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, Oakland, CA Marin Farmers Market, Marin Civic Center
Rating: 3+

I got word a few weeks ago from Jen over at Scarlett City Coffee Roasting that Blackbird Cafe would be opening up a kiosk at the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market. This was great news. I’ve long been meaning to get up to the Marin Farmer’s Market, where Blackbird rules the coffee roost, but never yet acted on those good intentions. This, after all, is the bay area, where farmer’s markets are as plentiful as they are cliche, making it hard to drag oneself too far for a farmer’s market. Besides, wouldn’t that defeat the whole “shop local” thing?

Sadly, I had never even made it over to the Grand Lake Market. They are just far enough away and have many of the same booths as my much beloved Temescal market minus the Blue Bottle kiosk (I’m starting to sound like a New Yorker who never leaves a 10 block radius!). The addition of Blackbird, a kiosk recommended to me by several people, suddenly made that market worth checking out. So, I packed up the kid and headed over to check out the Grand Lake market and Blackbird Cafe.

My one minor critique of Blackbird, which I’ll air up front, is really with the market organizers: the location of this kiosk was terrible. I wandered around for nearly an hour before noticing it along Grand Avenue, outside the perimeter of the park. Apparently, getting a premium spot at these markets is serious matter – making the touchy-feely farmers markets seem a bit more dog-eat-organic-dog than one might otherwise think. Rumor has it that concerns were raised about competition with the Hawaiian Coffee guy. I haven’t reviewed his coffee, nor did I have a strong desire to, so I’ll simply stick to what I tried.

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Blackbird has taken the challenging, high road for a farmers market kiosk by sticking exclusively to espresso based drinks. They offer no drip coffee here. This approach makes for tough going, especially for a commercial pump machine like the two group La Victoria Blackbird uses. These machines are a big power draw and mean a lot of adjusting on the fly, especially when it’s your first time at a market. Blue Bottle is the only other kiosk I’ve seen serving espresso at farmers markets and they do it using lever machines, which still use power but much less so.

My shot of Scarlett City’s Lightspeed Organic Espresso blend espresso (they also serve the Electric Sheep Organic Decaf) was served in paper with a nicely mottled golden crema. It was a dark, buttery shot with lots of oak and bright lemon punching solidly through it. This two toned espresso was very satisfying and likely to work well in milk. Based on several comments I received, it sounds like it may also trend toward an even sweeter shot under ideal conditions. My shot, however, was amongst the first ever served at that market and the staff noted that they were still trying to get the rhythm of this setup. Oh, and I should add that my daughter gave the hot chocolate a big thumbs up – my tastebuds agreed.

Of course all good things must come to an end – some, it seems, much sooner than others. Before I could even get this review to press, I got word that Blackbird will no longer be at the Grand Lake Farmers market. It seems the owners are stepping back to work towards a more permanent cafe location. Until that time comes, you can still find Blackbird making its regular appearance at the Marin Farmers Market, serving Scarlett City Coffee.

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2 comments to Easy Come, Easy Go

  • “Rumor has it that concerns were raised about competition with the Hawaiian Coffee guy. I haven’t reviewed his coffee, nor did I have a strong desire to, so I’ll simply stick to what I tried.”

    Follow your instincts there. I honestly don’t know weather the coffee “Hawaiian Guy” serves us good or not. Unfortunately, he butchers it in storage. It sits in a CAMBRO container. Horrid (and I don’t dish out the negative comments lightly and unless I feel it’s truly, truly warranted). He may disrespect his coffee while brewing as well but I don’t know.

    It’s unfortunate that Grand Lake didn’t work out. There was a lot of hope that it would. But, in the end it might be good that it didn’t as this frees up Giya’s schedule to focus on what she has wanted for a long time: her very own café.

  • Jen

    Thanks for the review!! Just wanted to add, Blackbird does serve drip coffee and whole beans at the Marin markets (El Salvador Monterey, plus both espresso blends) in addition to espresso drinks. Folks in SF/Oakland/Berkeley can still order beans directly from me & pick them up at the warehouse in West Oakland.

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