The BicaTeam humbly prides itself on hand-brewing every cup of coffee. Our great line-up of roasters takes such care in roasting, and before them the growers have put such attention and love into growing the beans, that it’s only fitting that in the retail environment the beans should be treated with similar care. Be it an espresso-based drink or a brewed cup of coffee, the beans are always ground precisely and handled in such a way so as to extract the subtle flavors from the roasted beans. It is paramount to serve very recently roasted beans (Bica’s are never more than two weeks from roasting), and having local roasting partners is the best way to insure this; however, in November, Bica served coffee from 49th Parallel from Vancouver, BC, and this week Bica is pleased to be featuring coffee from Intelligentsia, from Chicago and Los Angeles. Bica will be one of the few coffeehouses in the Bay Area to be brewing Intelligentsia’s coffee; alongside local roasters De La Paz, Ecco, and Verve, the Intelli will add even more variety for Bica’s customers. A very limited amount of the beans will be on-sale, so get them before they’re all ground up!
Recently I had the great fortune of visiting Colin O’Reilly in his glass blowing studio in Oakland. Colin is the husband of Bica barista Rachel, and to watch him spend 30 minutes keeping a piece of melted sand on the end of heavy metal pipe, always moving and crafting it into a bottle, was a great life experience. Deftly sinistrous, Colin calmly provided commentary along the way, every step exposing the glass to cracking. In fact, more than halfway through the first attempt, the glass did break and ohsocalmly Colin just binned it and started anew. Apparently this is something one must learn in Glass Blowing 101! What was also interesting was the teamwork required. Colin had one partner and at one critical point even employed Rachel in the process to help. It was very surgeon-like with the laying out of the various tools in exactly the right place so that he could just reach over a shoulder and a pliers would be there or the torch he needed was already flaming. The two furnaces that he uses are hot….really hot. The one with the molten glass is about 2000F and the one that he uses for working is closer to 1800F. When asked how hot that really was, Rachel offered the following YouTube vid, in which we can see Colin brewing none other than coffee with liquid glass as his power source! To brew coffee in a stove top italian-type of brewer like this one takes about five minutes at home. Bica could be the first cafe using Colin’s method! Well, maybe not…..while that’s not realistic, having hand-blown Chemex carafe’s might be…..we’ll see. If you might be interested in commissioning a work from Colin, please just ask Rachel at the store, or email me and I’ll pass the request along to her via email.
Also on the hand crafted liquid essence front, I recently had a great discussion with a local bartender about the perfect martini. Well, as with anything culinary there is no perfect, but there are varying levels of attention spent on preparation. This mixologist reminded me so much of Cameron: young, focused, deft with his hands, extremely serious about his craft, and knowledgeable about so many other things outside of his bailiwick. He stirred the vermouth and vodka (yes, vodka martini) in a beaker with largish ice cubes (which were added after the liquids) for about 50-60 seconds. The length of stir depends on the size of the ice cubes. What he’s trying to achieve are A) the correct amount of water in the drink, and B) the correct temperature. This is directly analogous to grind level and time of extraction and volume correct for an espresso, for example. He was dead serious about this and claims that when he uses a different sized ice cube, it takes him a few tries to get the output correct. Hmmmm, sounds very familiar to dialing in a coffee grinder! Even the glassware was precise: it was a bulb shaped glass, not on a stem, according to him the “traditional” shape. The big tall glasses we’re used to are “cocktail” glasses and not meant for a martini, which will get warm too quickly in the glass with high surface area. When asked about why his traditional glass was not on a stem, he was quick to answer A), it can be, but just not in this bar, and B) if you drink it fast enough your hands won’t warm it up!
On the liquid theme, I found myself in Guangzhou, China last week marveling at the Canton Tower, on the Pearl River. It is the highest TV tower in the world and was totally unexpected. I’m an engineering nut, loving all things related to bridges and towers, so this was a real joy to see. The LED lights that adorn the tower play a never ending show at night, bringing motion to an otherwise static structure. Even the construction of the tower, totally exposed like a suspension bridge, creates the allusion of movement, a liquid not a solid.
The holiday season is well at hand and things in Bica have been hopping. It’s the time of year to give, and to recognize and give thanks for those gifts that have been bestowed upon us, but this takes time on the streets shopping! And that means tired legs coming in for a respite and a rejuvenating shot of liquid energy. Bica is so grateful for her benevolent customers, especially this time of year. I hope that the season brings joy to all of you.
Back to the liquid gold….so good that it sometimes brings a little tear to the eye…..drink up!