The San Francisco Coffee Crawl

Like a bar crawl, but with caffeine instead of alcohol.

Planning

San Francisco is home to a lot of wonderful coffee shops. Before my internship in the Bay area came to end, I wanted to take a day and completely immerse myself in the San Francisco coffee experience. Thus, the idea of the San Francisco coffee crawl was born. I did some research and found six coffee shops that I wanted to visit and that were located reasonably close together, largely in the Mission district. I set aside a Saturday to venture into the city and try the coffee at each and every one of these shops.

Methodology

I wanted to attempt to compare the different coffee shops that I was visiting. The comparison system I used was very informal and does not at all attempt to control for the fact that I might simply be tired of drinking coffee after the first few places.

The methodology I used was straightforward. At each coffee shop, I would order the smallest cup of coffee that they offered. Ordering a cup of coffee seemed like the most reasonable way to get a feel for a place, though I wouldn't mind doing a coffee crawl sampling espresso instead. I ordered the smallest size to better avoid overdosing on caffeine. If they had multiple varieties of bean available, I would try for a "house blend" or "bean of the day", in that order. If neither of those were available, I would choose at my own discretion.

Embarkment

I got off the Caltrain at the 22nd St. Station. The weather was shaping up to be mild and pleasant for walking.

The first order of business was to climb up and over the large hill separating me from the Mission's coffee shops. It did not fail to uphold San Francisco's reputation for hilliness. The view from the peak was quite excellent; I could see far into the neighbouring districts of the city and beyond. The hill seemed even steeper on the way down than it did on the way up.

Sightglass Coffee

Stop number one on the trip was Sightglass Coffee. A charming little place, well-lit by sun flowing through the wide front windows. Comfortably adorned with wood and leather upholstery.

I ordered a cup of the Blueboon Blend, for a price of $2.75. It was a very tasty coffee. Rich flavour, nice finish. A good start to the crawl.

Bluebottle Coffee

The Bluebottle I visited was very small. So small, in fact, that it didn't really have its own seating. After ordering, I set off to explore the surrounding area and find a park or other place to sit. Eventually, I found a bench near a plaza where I sat, savoured the coffee, and wrote this down.

I had ordered a cup of the Blend du Jour, which cost me $3.64. The coffee was not too richly flavoured; considerably less so than that from Sightglass. It was more subtle. After a few sips I started to taste an interesting undercurrent of flavour that I couldn't quite place. Almost fruity, but not exactly. It kept me interested until the cup was empty. I never figured out what it was.

Repose Coffee

Repose Coffee was a coffee shop that I did not originally plan on visiting. As I was making the long walk from the Mission to the next shop, The Mill, I stumbled across this cute coffee shop, adding a seventh stop on the list. It was a tiny place with a few stools and two friendly staff members.

I ordered the house drip, for $2.50. Good price, good body, good finish. I didn't stay in the shop to drink the coffee, but drank it as I continued on my way to The Mill.

The Mill

The Mill was quite a distance from the other shops on my planned route, but it was well worth it. It's not just known for coffee, but also for toast. I ordered a cup of coffee and the rye toast with cream cheese, pesto, and pine nuts. Not only did the coffee have a very nice edge to it, but the toast was damn amazing. The coffee cost $3.25 and the toast cost $7.00. That may sound like a lot of money for a single slice of toast, but if you were to taste it, you'd understand. Absolutely delicious.

By now I was four cups of coffee deep. Not dead yet, though perhaps slightly twitchy. I wasn't sure what the recommended daily limit on cups of coffee was, but I was sure that I was near it and that by the end of the day I would exceed it by a decent margin. I later found out that the recommended daily intake is four cups. I was right on the line, but not for long.

Before departing The Mill, I couldn't help myself and ordered another slice of toast. This time I got a dessert toast, which coast $4.00 and was just as good as the first slice. It consisted of raisin bread topped with butter, cinnamon sugar, and sea salt.

At this point I noted down that I sounded pretty ridiculous throwing around phrases like "rich flavour" and "nice finish", but hey, what the hell. I'm doing a coffee crawl, I might as talk the talk.

Four Barrel Coffee

Having sated my hunger, I moved on to the next coffee shop on the list, Four Barrel Coffee. It was quite a large establishment, and very busy. Luckily there was a lot of seating, both inside and out.

I ordered a cup of coffee, which cost me $3.25. Rich and full-bodied; a pleasure to drink.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

Ritual Coffee Roasters was a similar establishment to Four Barrel Coffee, in that it was fairly large and quite busy.

A few different blends were available. I went with a cup of 51 Angel, which cost $4.00. It had an almost buttery taste which I found to be quite enjoyable.

I noted that I was starting to write less the further I progressed into the crawl. Drinking that much coffee does take its toll. Six cups in and I could

definitely feel the caffeine affecting my body. Quite jittery. Only one place left; couldn't stop now.

The Temporarium

I finally reached the last stop on my coffee adventure. The Temporarium was a tiny one-man operation. The owner was very friendly and clearly knew his stuff.

I had a tasty pour-over coffee, which again had hints of butter. It was very good. You'll notice that I didn't mention the price of this coffee. As I said earlier, this much coffee takes its toll, and I forgot to write it down.

Conclusion

At seven cups of coffee in about six hours, I was feeling it. I was both tired and energized at the same time, the sort of state where one wants to sleep but would definitely not be able to.

I returned home to same way I had come. The caffeine had largely worn off by the time I went to bed that night, but I still had some trouble getting to sleep. I didn't consume any caffeine the following day for good measure.

In all, the San Francisco Coffee Crawl was a fun experience. However, I would caution anyone interested in doing something similar that consuming so much coffee in a single day may not be a good idea. Consider visiting fewer places or sharing single cups among multiple people.