My friend Lyle is mildly obsessed with coffee. If it's daylight outside, there is usually a paper take away cup filled with the black, caffeinated liquid within a two-and-a-half foot radius of him. I haven't measured his wingspan. I'm just telling you it's nearly always within his reach. Or nestled in a cup holder inside his car. The other night at work, he announced he was going to The Blue Bottle Coffee Co. the next day and was taking orders. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked what the big deal was. He mentioned that they happened to serve the best frigging coffee in the city. Only I am not certain he used that precise word.
The next afternoon, after a little bit of directional confusion for which I blame my own genetics and short attention span, I found my way to tiny Linden Street, the block known unofficially as The Artists Alley. I saw a crowd of about fifteen people not-too-neatly queued up in front of what looked like a garage. Lyle was there, off to the side reading a magazine; the remnants of something brown and foamy making its way gradually to the bottom of a little glass in front of him. "Order a Gibraltar," he said. That's what he had been drinking while waiting for me. I did as I was told, but I wanted to try their coffee, too. The line wasn't terribly long-- I waited about five minutes for my Gibraltar (which is basically a very short latte with just a titch of foam and, I believe, named after the glass in which it is served) and my cup of drip coffee (one size only, thank you). I threw in a few cookies for good measure and snapped a few photos.
The Gibraltar was good. Very good. I carefully sipped at it a couple of times-- creamy, well balanced and rich. I was happy. I thought about swirling it about in the glass as I one might do wine, but the glass is too small and I worried about the likely coffee stains down my shirt and crotch. I headed back to my apartment with Lyle to drink our drip coffee in relative comfort. By relative, I mean in a chair. By chair, I mean a piece of furniture with four legs and perhaps a bit of padding-- Blue Bottle has one plywood bench that I believe may have at one time been a seventh grader's midterm wood shop project. Such is the Blue Bottle's charm. I can't say I can blame them for not encouraging people to lounge-- the demand for their coffee can be fierce (they regularly sell out of their bags of whole beans)-- especially on weekends.
We sipped at the Bella Donovan en route to my apartment. This is, according to Blue Bottle's website, their most popular blend; "the wool sweater of our blends." I could feel the caffeine taking hold of me. I was feeling a little light-headed when I go out of Lyle's car. By the time we got ourselves into seated position--cookies in hand, I had consumed half my coffee. I felt the end of my nose tingle and my cheeks begin to go numb. This is serious coffee. I don't think I had ever gotten myself this caffeinated before. I hadn't intended on drinking two Charles Atlas-strength coffees on top of my accustomed morning cup-and-a-half. I felt nauseated. I blame myself, of course, but I now see the warning sign so clearly hinted at in the blend's name-- drinking this blend is like snacking on digitalis; my heart raced wildly and, had I thought to look in the mirror, I am certain my pupils would have been enormous. I hope it made me look pretty.
In spite of my caffeine overdose, I find myself in agreement with Lyle-- this coffee is frigging good.
If you are a serious coffee drinker and have not been to Blue Bottle Coffee Company, I suggest you give it a go. In addition to the garage/kiosk at 315 Linden Street, you will find them at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and at the Berkeley Farmer's Market on Saturdays, brewing and selling their wares.
For much more information, visit their website. It's an amusing and informative read:
More about Blue Bottle on BAB:
Blue Bottle Coffee Redux: One Giant Step for Coffeekind