I’m the lucky one who gets to go to Barcelona again, on business. This town is wonderful, like San Francisco in so many ways: small, cosmopolitan, water (Barca’s is warm), great food. One big difference, the coffee is a drug only, there is little pleasure in the coffee or the preparation, very little joy. However, I will say, the experience in the cafes is fantastic: quick, clear, neat, and engaging. The baristas are basically also beer and wine bartenders, a direction I would like to go at Bica, but one thing at a time. It’s just the coffee… bitter spro and popcorn leche. The ubiquitous café con leche is the same from place to place, nobody seems to take the pride to differentiate, lots of autopilot here around the coffee and beer. They do make more of an effort on wine; I’ve found (through reference at local tapas joint) a lovely little wine bar that sells a slew of local Catalunyan and other Spanish wines. It’s a tiny spot on a tiny street with a tiny door and no windows, Howard Shultz would NOT locate the Green Siren here. But, if you find yourself in Barca, look it up for sure. Plenty of great tapas in the area, too.
Speaking of far afield, we got a GREAT letter from former Barista Paul a couple of weeks ago. He’s in Boston, working for George Howell, Third Wave coffee savant, at Terroir. Paul speaks of getting a deeper education in coffee now and has an intimate appreciation for Bica’s concept. He sent an amazing Kenyan our way, which betwixt me, Cameron, Justine, and Bryn was enjoyed very quickly, ripe with small berry with lovely lamb bone marrow finish. Paul says there’s a chance he will come back to the Bay in his travels, following migrating birds (if you’re like Paul, and me to a much lesser extent, and know the difference between a robin and a goldfinch, go see “Big Year” – lovely movie, there are words and bird sounds), around the country. Once a member of the BicaTeam, always a member, especially when you’re getting George Howell’s religion!
The espresso is so good now that Erika, an anchor at Bica, is now throwing back spro jobs. Jeezh! She started milky and has been working down to the essence of the spro. She looked so surprised with herself when we discussed it last week! Between the DLP Black Candy and the Verve Panamanian Single Origin Espresso (SOE) that we’ve had lately, the espresso is spectacular at Bica. Spectacular is an understatement, I humbly say. I love the fact that there are differences in the flavors and characters. I’ve become jaded beyond repair at this point, and even when in a great coffee loving country, I’ve become a bit of a…dare I say it…I’m a snob….eeewww. I’m so snooty that I snooped out Alchemy at the conference I attended in Barca. You might remember my mentioning them last February. These guys roast in London, REALLY WELL, and have a side business, named Ristretto, where they travel from conference to conference around the world, hired by big names like Skype (last year) and Mozilla (this year). They are on the company’s stand, with a double-barreled Linea with variable infusion and a great Mazzer Major grinder and they light it UP! Their line is longer than any high tech booth’s line at the show! In fact, I think it might hurt Mozilla because their customers and partners just don’t have any room on the stand. I LOVE their business model and idea for distributing. I’m sure it’s very hard work to lug around that machine that must weigh 120 pounds, not to mention the grinder and the other associated stuff to make a completely enclosed spro system. But what a way to see the world! Between Terroir and Alchemy, I have some folks to bring to Bica…..if they’re willing, I am!
I want to close by recounting a line from Rosa, one of our letter carriers. I bumped into her at Great Harvest the other day, getting a tuna with provolone. I haven’t seen her in months and she recognized me! She gave me a hug and said that “Bica has made the corner into magic!”. Wow! That’s so tremendously satisfying. I’m humbled. We’ll do our best to keep Rosa happy!