Scout

Stephanie and I decided this was the perfect day, now that we are back in San Luis Obispo after over a week of traveling to San Francisco and Las Vegas, to relax over good cups of coffee and try out the frequently talked about hipster coffee shop Scout on Garden Street. Scout has been open for 2 months, still new to San Luis Obispo’s coffee market, and it is also very open-feeling with the large glass door/windows that extend from the floor to near the ceiling, around 9 feet tall, in the high-ceiling coffee shop. It was a great atmosphere, with the windows wide open on this beautiful day. We chose seats at the smooth wooden bar with tall green-metal stools to get the best view of the behind-the-bar action.

I ordered a large latte with almond milk for here; Stephanie got hers to-go in a hand-stamped cup. The highlight is that almond milk here is house-made; Scout buys almonds in bulk and puts them in a blender with a little water before it is strained and made into the delicious almond milk they sell today. The milk was steamed to 165 degrees of perfection. The espresso is a medium-roast Street Level from Verve. It’s a blend of all Costa Ricas with four different coffees featured. The tasting notes are black cherry up-front with the tanginess and a sweet almond finish. We also ordered the Scout Cookie (which complemented the latte VERY well). The Scout Cookie is a triple chocolate using dark, semi-sweet, and bitter chocolate with toasted pecans and oats. The very-chocolate-y cookie was huge; we definitely made a good decision by splitting it. The cup had lingering marks from the foam of the coffee towards the top rim, similar to the lingering tastes of almond and my lingering desire for another cup.

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The art and science of good coffee.

Best cappuccino in San Francisco is here at Jane. They have a list of different coffee options from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which I’ve noticed is very popular up here in SF. Your choices for now until March 28th include: Sulawesi Toraja (profile: honey, cola, naval orange and marshmallow), Duromina (profile: strawberries and cream), Huye Mountain (profile: peanut butter, cocao, and raspberries), and Hairbended (profile: milk chocolate, Meyer lemon, and caramel). From this selection I chose the Huye Mountain beans from Rwanda, which was the best decision, especially with the lingering tastes of chocolate and peanut butter, in addition to how smooth the foam was on the well-designed cappuccino. My options for ways to order the Huye Mountain included espresso, macchiato, Gibraltar, or cappuccino, and I now want to try them all! I ended up with the cappuccino because I felt I needed the largest one possible. I got it with almond milk and they complemented eachother perfectly. Highly highly recommend. It was served in a white cup on a black saucer, which perfectly matched the black and white decor in this chic cafe. Everything about this cafe is thought out and inviting, including (but not limited to) the chevron tile tables, long bar, large cold brew drip, mirrored walls, two stories, and simplistic exterior.

They also are featuring Stumptown’s single origins, including the Sulawesi Toaraco Peaberry with darker notes and an earthy taste. Their coffee manager decided to have a chemistry-tube rack filled with different beans and spices to display the science that goes into each cup of coffee. It’s an art and a science: visually appealing and builds on the fact that baristas are both skillful artists and chemists.

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Duboce Park Cafe. Smoothie?

I felt my caffeine-dependent blood flowing slower through my veins, craving the morning coffee IV drip, as I slowly pushed open the door to Duboce Park Cafe on Sanchez Street in San Francisco. The word “coffee” was the only thing on my mind as Stephanie and I walked inside. I ordered a chai crush smoothie with a double shot, which is their house brewed chai, banana, honey, and almond milk. I was so tired and coffee deprived when we got here that I was a walking zombie in search of coffee rather than brains. I decided to get the chai smoothie with double shots of their Sightglass espresso because of their extensive specialty smoothie menu. I don’t know why I got a frozen drink on this foggy morning, but I’m pretty sure I can trace that decision back to my ordering mentality. I wish I could taste the espresso more, but I get that’s what you get with smoothies. The chai was great and had lots of flavor. I think I need a stronger and warmer drink next time.

Roaster

Walk in for a breath of coffee air in Union Street Coffee Roastery. I had high expectations, due to the name of the café and my assumption that the coffee would be freshly roasted. Additionally I had been on a roll with good coffee shops in SF, and was expecting my lucky streak to continue. Unfortunately the staff was neither helpful nor friendly. When asked what type of espresso it was, the barista told me “bean.” When asked if they roast their coffee daily, the barista told me “no, only twice a week.” Luckily they had two different types of non-dairy milk alternative (almond and soy) for the lactose-intolerant. The worst was yet to come: the coffee came with an advertisement sleeve for Claritin (awkward ad placement that makes this place look very cheap) surrounding a cheap almond-milk latte that tasted and smelled like instant coffee. It was so terrible I couldn’t even finish, and both Carmen and Stephanie agreed it didn’t taste right and that there was something seriously wrong with it.

Gibraltar at Blue Bottle

Blue Bottle. At The Market Pier 1. The line around the corner foreshadows something special enough to be worth the wait. Apparently it’s the best in the city. Barista said soy latte will blow my mind.

This is how I somehow ended up trying my first Gibraltar in San Francisco. The Gibraltar was named after the glass, and Blue Bottle claimed they were the first specialty coffee store to have this specialty drink. It’s espresso with steamed milk in a 1:1 ratio espresso to milk that is steamed to 120 degrees. It started out as a barista drink that baristas could drink fast; supposed to be drunk in under a minute or two (hence why it’s only available to order for here). Single origin Costa Rica coffee of the Red Catuai varietal with a tart finish.

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La Boulange Café

Being up in San Francisco for my last-ever spring break, obviously the first thing Carmen, Stephanie, and I had to do was get coffee. We just stopped at La Boulange Café & Bakery in Danville and I immediately felt relaxed with the boutique decor: wood floors, wooden tables and chairs, orbe lights and a wash on the wall that looks like coffee was used to paint them.

I was originally hesitant due to their partnership/being owned by Starbucks, but I was thoroughly impressed with their drinks. The pastries look significantly better than those in the Starbucks cases (such as the almond croissant and the goat cheese tomato basil mini sandwhich).

The espresso is a medium roast, fair trade and organic from Latin America. I ordered the soy iced latte with a small splash of vanilla syrup.
It has a rich, lingering finish from the espresso that is in no way overpowered by the soy. I purposely ordered it with just a small amount of vanilla because I was truly curious about the taste of their espresso, even though the La Boulange barista recommended either the vanilla or caramel latte.

Their loyalty card is very friendly, with the rounded edges and the genuine “Thank you for your loyalty” statement on the back. Because I went with my SF-local cousin Carmen, we got her loyal customer card stamped by their unique B-shaped puncher, on our way to our free drink (after 9, that is). Definitely an incentive to return later this week.

Top Dog’s Chai

“SiD Soy”

These six letters written on my clear, perspiring plastic cup are almost as meaningful as the eight letters in I love you.  Their iced soy shot in the dark, comprised of chai and espresso, also known as a dirty soy chai, is quite literally morning-changing.  

The goods:  This is the best dirty soy chai I’ve ever had in my entire life.  Simply put.  There is a perfect balance between the Kirkland Organic Soy, ice, chai tea, and espresso.  The chai is actually a brewed chai tea (not a syrup or powder!) that is shipped over from Oregon, where they make this chai goodness in batches based off a recipe from India.  These chai people in Oregon know what they’re doing.  Additionally, the way Top Dog pours the espresso is even special, using their house blend 3-2-1, pulling the espresso in three different sections to create the perfect combination.  

The downside: This SiD was so refreshing that, and before I knew it, the entire drink was down to just the ice cubes!  Initially I accused Hugo of stealing the entire thing when I wasn’t looking, but I am pretty sure that wasn’t actually the case.  

I’m intrigued by the Mango Chai, along with multiple other Chai options, listed on their Chai menu.  Top Dog Coffee Bar, at 857 Main Street in Morro Bay, California, has an entire section of their posted hand-written menu dedicated to their ten different chai options.  Everything about this place is wonderful, ranging from the local art hung on the walls to the friendly and helpful staff to the garden patio to the burlap decor to the large windows to the wooden chairs with coffee cups carved into their backings.  Definitely trying Top Dog’s Mango Chai next.