Epic Cubano at Epicenter Cafe

I ended up at the Epicenter Cafe on Harrison Street in San Francisco for a few different reasons. First, I was alone in an area of the city I’ve never ventured, and thus immediately defaulted to finding a coffee shop. Second, this was the closest cafe to where I ended up. Third, they had four stars with 365 reviews on Yelp, which lead me to believe they must be good. Fourth, when I got here they had a hand-decorated sandwich board outside that said free-wifi, which was more than just a plus; it was a necessity due to the fact I have no idea how long it will be until Hugo picks me up. Fifth, I had never heard of it and ideally want to try every boutique coffee shop in San Francisco.

For starters, the first thing I noticed on their menu was that all espresso drinks come with a double ristretto shot (this is how I knew I was in the right place). All of their espresso is an Italian Rosetta/Italian Ristretto style, so when it pours it has a nice crema and is deliciously strong. All of their coffee and espresso is medium roast, which worked well. For espresso Epicenter Cafe pours Chromatic Coffee Company’s Gamut, which is their chocolate creamy butterscotch espresso. The description sold me instantly.

The barista recommended the Cubano, which is a cappuccino with a sugar base. They take a shot of espresso, add brown sugar on top, and press them together to get ready to pull. This heats the sugar on top as the water goes through, giving it the toasted sugary taste. The brown sugar melts on top as the espresso seeps through. I ordered it with soy, which is one of their two non-dairy alternatives. I was about to get it with almond milk, but I was told that the soy looks better for pictures, and so I was swayed.

I was able to taste the brown sugar/caramel flavor immediately on the first sip. There was a short, decadent layer of foam on top with a Rosetta (the leaf/floral looking) design. The barista is able to obtain this Rosetta design only if the milk is perfect, which is when the design basically draws itself as the milk is poured in. You need to have the milk perfectly textured to accomplish a beautiful design. The micro-foam was smooth with a velvety texture. In case you were curious about what I meant by micro-foam, you should know that it was described to me today as when you steaming the milk you let air into it a tiny bit, so that you get the same texture all the way out, which is opposite of Starbucks’ method of scooping the foam out unevenly.

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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.