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Baristas brew San Francisco's artisanal java to perfection

Personal Service

San Francisco's artisan coffee shops have become a destination for the caffeinated crowd. Young guys work like highly trained chemists behind gleaming counters, intent on concocting the perfect brew. And the baristas don't just rely on $10,000 espresso machines to do the work. These coffee shops put on a show with glowing heat lamps, bubbling beakers and beautifully artistic cappuccinos. They also serve a memorable breakfast and lunch using local, organic ingredients from places such as Acme Bread, INNA Jam and K&J Orchards. The tab: $149 (before taxes) for a night at Hotel Monaco; $10 for breakfast and a caffé mocha at Blue Bottle Coffee; $18 for a pound of El Meridiano Colombian beans from Sightglass; and $4.25 for two scoops of ice cream at Humphry Slocombe.

The bed

Hotel Monaco (501 Geary St.; [800] 214-4220, http://www.monaco-sf.com), in Union Square, serves a decent cup of coffee in the lobby every morning, but you already have that covered. Instead, hang out at the hotel between 5 and 6 p.m. for the complimentary wine and popcorn with truffle butter. At the end of the day, wind down in the hotel's lovely whirlpool, sauna or steam room.

The meal

Blue Bottle Coffee (66 Mint St.; [510] 653-3394, http://www.bluebottlecoffee.com) has seven locations across the city, but visit the Mint Plaza location if you want sublime, thick-cut Acme toast and jam and front-row seats for the five-light siphon bar — one of the first of its kind in the United States. We sat, sipping caffé mocha, mesmerized by the chemistry experiment unfolding before us. The barista talked with us at length about the elaborate siphon bar process and gave us free samples of his first cup of the day. For an even more personal discussion of coffee brewing methods, try Sightglass Coffee's Top Bar (270 7th St.; [415] 861-1313, http://www.sightglasscoffee.com). This is the place to learn whether you prefer coffee brewed in a French press, Chemex or the V60.

The find

End the day with one last buzz by ordering two scoops of the divine Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee ice cream at Humphry Slocombe (2790 A Harrison St.; [415] 550-6971, http://www.humphryslocombe.com). Yes, there will probably be a long line. But it's worth it. They also sell an ice cream cookbook that's offbeat and brimming with experimental flavors (strawberry candied jalapeño, anyone?).

The lesson learned

Blue Bottle Coffee's Mint Plaza location is not easy to find. The shop is tucked behind a nondescript building with just a discreet blue bottle for a sign. As we left, hopped up on caffeine, we helped two lost souls find their way to coffee heaven.

travel@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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