As you may have been following on this blog and elsewhere, quality coffee is finally beginning to roll into the East Bay. Funny enough, it seems to be arriving with baggage included. I’m not making some subtle dig at the airlines here, but instead referring to the…rivalry? competition? – that exists between Ritual and Four Barrel, two of San Francisco’s leading coffee roasters. Both of these roasters’ flagship shops sit just a few blocks from one another along Valencia Street in San Francisco, which makes coffee crawling convenient but sets these two up for something of a Hatfield vs. McCoy type of existence (or perhaps Cancun vs El Farolito to be more geographically appropriate). As if San Francisco weren’t enough, these two roasters have brought their rivaling ways to what I’d argue are their premier wholesale client cafes in the East Bay. Subrosa (Four Barrel) set up shop a few months ago on 40th while just around the corner is Remedy Coffee (Ritual), currently operating in speakeasy status.
If all goes well, Remedy should open its doors in a matter of days or weeks and promises to be a bit bigger build-out than Subrosa’s cozy space. Remedy will have indoor seating and a very cool phone booth where guests will be encouraged to take cell phone calls. There will also be food, baked in house, by (I hope I have this right) Oakland’s Cake Ladies. For now though you can enjoy Ritual coffee via Remedy’s coffee cart, which you’ll find parked outside or in, depending on the weather, until early to mid afternoon on most days of the week.
I should clarify that Remedy’s coffee cart is no simple on. The espresso is Ritual’s frequently rotating blend with shots pulled on a three group La Marzocco Linea. More specifically, its one of the less common, paddle-group Lineas you can see at the original Ninth Street Espresso, or, as it just so happens, around the corner at Subrosa. Remedy will also grind and brew your choice of four different Ritual coffees on a Clover. Although I’m sure a cart isn’t the best thing for a Clover, it’s so fun to see one there, that I almost don’t want Remedy to open and move this machine to its permanent perch.
As far as the quality of the coffee, Remedy is good. Of course, with this kind of equipment and Ritual’s beans it had better be. On different visits, I’ve enjoyed cups of the Costa Rica Helsar de Zarcero and the Kenya Kayoni. The Kenya was sweet with dried fruit and on the darker end of where Kenyas can go while the Costa Rica was light and full of more stone fruit than chocolate. I was left feeling that both were fine examples of their origin but likely needed some further tweaking in the brewing to bring out their full potential. The flavors seemed good, but perhaps a bit muted.
For espresso, I’ve visited during both High Striker and Snow Cone season (they’ve since moved on to Evil Twin) with a handful of shots in total. All of them have carried that sweet, signature Ritual brightness without a lot of depth. For at least one of my Snow Cone shots, I noted how intensely fruity it was with notes of strawberry and blueberry. Still, I also noted some consistent ashy notes and a lack of fullness (not so much depth since that isn’t necessarily a typical characteristic of a Ritual espresso).
Remedy is a welcome addition to the East Bay, especially now that 33 Revolutions is closed. It gives those of us over here a place to drink Ritual coffee made on equipment on par with Ritual, without having to travel to the city. At the moment, I think Subrosa is just a bit better when it comes to nailing their coffee’s potential, but then again, Remedy is operating from a cart. I’m eagerly awaiting Remedy’s opening when it offers more than coffee and when its coffee gets a stable home (and will return with some details when they do). The bottom line, though, is that with both cafes so close to one another, you don’t really have to chose. With their paired arrival, East Bay coffee has improved exponentially. The result is that everybody wins.