An adventure of the senses at Blue Bottle Coffee
Enveloped by the fragrant aroma of coffee, the loud hum of roasters and the chilly air of the former produce market, James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, escorted SFPFS members throughout the company’s fascinating roasting plant on Feb. 18.
While showings sacks of (mostly) organic coffee beans, James pointed out their global origins and explained that the bean is actually the pit of the fruit. (This fruit is referred to as a “cherry” by the coffee trade.) The group next made a diversion to the incredible bakery where his wife Caitlin was brushing absinthe (yes, absinthe!) onto biscotti and sprinkling them with sesame seeds, resulting in their namesake Regina’s Biscotti. In fact, all Blue Bottle pastries emanate from this flagship bakery with the exception of those at SFMOMA, where an additional selection is available.
Art meets science in the roasting process. Experienced supervising artisans evaluate the beans for appearance, taste and smell while monitoring the environmental conditions. Today’s unplanned challenge was a power outage, thankfully restored by PG&E just prior to our visit. For blending coffee beans, the surprising piece of equipment used is none other than a cement mixer.
“Cupping” ensued–a three-stage process where first we smelled a variety of ground single origin beans. Next, hot water was poured over these grounds and we inhaled the aromas of each one. Finally, spoons were provided for sipping. Here are some tasting notes about each:
Sidama – highly fruity
Yirgacheffe Peaberry – dried apricots
Sulawesi Peaberry – Molasses
Brazil Poco Fundo – pungent, excellent for espresso
Daterra Reserve – maple, almonds
Ethiopia – tangy, sour, peach acidity
Lively banter about favorites was interspersed with more information about Blue Bottle from James, including plans for a new location in Manhattan. Incredibly, after only eight and a half years, this brand is recognized as premium in the category.
A platter of Caitlin’s pastries provided the sweet finish to our visit. SFPFS members will be dreaming about Parmesan-Fennel Biscotti, Stonehouse Olive Oil-Caraway Shortbread, Saffron Snickerdoodles and Michael Recchutti Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies for months to come!
By Kathy Lassen-Hahne
Photos courtesy Nader Khouri Photography