Heaven is different things to different people, but sitting in a cafe, nibbling on wonderful coffees, daughter reading by your side, rain beating out the window and McCoy Tyner percussing in the background, cool breeze flowing in from the west. Not bad. This season of rebirth can’t help but awaken us, with the smells of the blossoming fruit trees, the rain cleansing our skin, the sounds of cars swishing through puddles, the sight of the green grass filling our surrounding hillsides, and of course, the taste of freshly brewed coffees dancing on our buds.
We welcomed Stumptown Roasters from Portland into our non-Bay Area line-up a couple of weeks ago and the reception has been wonderful. The folks at Stumptown were so gracious to me personally, when I was forming Bica about two years ago. I took a trip up to Portland and spent the better part of a day with Skip Colombo from Stumptown who took me to a couple of Stumptown stores, allowed me to sit with their roaster while he roasted his father’s beans from Central America, visited a couple of Stumptown retail cafes, and of course loaded me up with “an armful” of Duane Sorenson’s carefully sourced and lightly roasted beans. A great read is “God in a Cup” which provides a foundational background of the Third Wave movement in coffee, following three seminal roasters: Intelligentsia, Stumptown, and Counter Culture. At the moment, Bica is proud to be serving both Intelli and Stumptown coffees, likely the only coffeehouse in the Bay Area to be so lucky.
But man, is the local stuff amazing! On several of my last visits to Bica, I’ve either overheard or heard directly, “the DLP Black Candy is THE best espresso in the Bay Area”. Jason and Sharky from De La Paz hit the map big over a year ago with their Cherry Chapstick (remember the allusion to Katy Perry, Shark?) and they have not looked back. Never one to rest on their laurels, they change their espresso blend frequently, as the beans demand it. Today’s Black Candy roast is full of sweet anise and a nutty black cherry. It plays so well the sweetness of well-foamed milk, the spro breaking through even a latte (but go for a macchiato if you want the perfect match). We’re also serving a delicious DLP Rwanda Kigeyo on brew bar. Mostly through V60, it’s an amazing mix of tropical flower with a sweet chewy caramel, to be experienced!
In addition to the DLP, Verve’s coffees continue to be very popular, because…..well….they’re so DANG GOOD!!!!! At the moment, we’re brewing up an Ethiopian Worka and a Guat El Injerto Pacamara. The Pacamara is a special coffee indeed, one that I gravitate towards every time I step in the store, which is as frequently as possible with this one around. I find orange peel and stone fruit, Cameron’s onto a buttery savory croissant, Bryn’s dialing in caramel and a “diamond finish”, and Justine just plain digs it. On top of the DLP and the Verve, we’re brewing up Stumptown’s Peru Cecovasa and Colombian El Jordan, as well as their Hairbender blend on our second espresso grinder. While the Stumptown offerings on the bar are lovely, I’m personally loving their Kenya Ngunguru which I brew up in a Chemex and dish out to those lucky few in the store when I’m there! Sun-dried fruit mixed with a sweet pink grapefruit with a silky milky chocolate…..just imagine it!
Bryn is on fire with a total command behind bar. And, he’s a great teammate! Just a few days ago, a customer who’s name I should have known came in the store whilst I was behind bar brewing something yummy. I don’t get in that often and I’m not that great with names, so to be there late in a day is great, but the pitfall is that….I’m not great with names. Bryn knows this, turns and walks toward me as I’m walking to greet the customer, we pass, he whispers the guys name to me, I go and great the customer without a pause….by his first name. Perfect timing. It’s that attention to the details of customer service that makes for a great retail experience, and Bryn has it ALL GOING ON (as Randy Jackson would say)! In addition to that, hearing him woo customers on a rainy Saturday morning with lines like, “what would you like to wrap yourself up in?”, make me A) crack up, while B) doing a fist pump of pride in the BicaTeam. Thanks guys.
Last weekend, I bumped into to of my favorite customers, both named Paul, one a BicaDevotee who bought one of our first Chemexs and who routinely buys bags of beans for homebrew and the other the former chef from Oliveto, Paul Canales who will be opening his own restaurant in downtown Oakland very soon….watch this and MANY other spaces for information on that, it will be one of the hottest openings in 2012. The first Paul regaled me with a story of his kids skiing, we just caught up on stuff, and he went on about the coffees and how Bica had brought life to this little corner in Rockridge and how great it’s been for him as a small part in a complex life. The other Paul told me….surprise surprise….that he’s a bit — “picky” — about his coffee and that he comes to Bica every day even though it’s not the closest Third Wave cafe to his home or store, but because, “Bica serves the finest coffee in the Bay Area”. To hear these two comments in one day gives one a rush of happiness. Thanks Pauls!
Time to head next door to get some Stargazer Lillies. Is there anything more lovely at this, or indeed any, time of year than a glorious Lily?
Grind and brew….and then do it again. Tis the season.