Posts for Tag: blue bottle coffee

What?! Facebook acquires Blue Bottle.

Lost in the news about Facebook acquiring Gowalla is the news that Facebook has bought the mini-San Francisco/Brooklyn coffee chain Blue Bottle.

Don't know how to take this. Blue Bottle is my current go-to coffee spot. I like them because 1) they make great coffee and 2) they are an Oakland based small business. Now that they only are one of these things (and I'm not sure if the other thing will continue or not), I'm not sure I want to support a mega-corp whose other service I don't 100% agree with.

Latte/Cappuccino art and why it's like a bowl with no brown M&M's

Just the other day, someone I know was giving me grief over where I buy my coffee.  The word "douche bag" was used at some point which is fine with me.  I've come to realize that some of the things I enjoy are also enjoyed by the "bags of douche".  Does that make me a douche bag?  Maybe, but that's a subject for another time.  Back to coffee, the fact that Blue Bottle baristas create a nice little piece of latte/cap art was pointed as a sign of ultimate douche-baggery.  But I think people miss the point of why the art is there.  It's not to heighten my enjoyment of the coffee.  It would taste exactly the same whether the art was there or not.  However, it is an indicator that the barista who took the time to learn how to make the art most likely also took the time to learn how to pull a good shot of espresso, steam milk properly, etc.  Most importantly, the fact that Blue Bottle is obsessive enough about coffee to have their baristas learn how to make art means they are also obsessive about the quality of the coffee they source, roast and serve.

It reminds me of the story regarding Van Halen and the infamous bowl of no brown M&M's.  The larger than life rockers were known for their eccentric rocker habits and even wrote into their contracts that one of the requirements the venue provider had to have was a bowl of M&M's in the dressing room with every brown M&M removed or the contract would be voided with full payment due to the band.  Crazy?  Well actually not really.  The band used the brown M&M's as an indicator of whether the venue provider actually read every detail of the contract.  If they failed to notice a small clause like that, what else would they have missed?  Security requirements?  Sufficient power for all the equipment?  Whether their stage could support the weight of the band's lighting equipment, etc?  And more often than not, if they went into the dressing room and saw a bowl of M&M's with the brown ones still included (or no bowl at all), there would also be something much more critical that was overlooked.  In one case, the floor collapsed because the venue provider didn't read the section that showed what Van Halen's stage equipment weighed and that they needed to sufficiently prepare their floor to support it.   

I'm not saying that every place that serves coffee with some art on the top is a great coffee place but based on experience, I've gotten far fewer bad cups of coffee from places that make their caps/lattes with the art versus places that don't.  As with all things, your mileage will vary but next time you see a barista hastily pour steamed milk into your espresso, ask yourself what else she hastily did when making your drink.

How Mark Ruffalo and coffee showed me the value of Twitter over Google

I went to grab a coffee this afternoon at Blue Bottle in Oakland and the barista let me know a celeb was in the area - Mark Ruffalo. I have no real opinion about him as an actor. I think I've seen two movies he was in and thought he didn't add nor took away from my enjoyment of said movies. However, I'm always curious when movies or TV shows shoot in Oakland (Moneyball, Matrix Reloaded, etc) so I went to rusty-trusty Google and typed in "Mark Ruffalo Oakland". Nothing remotely relevant came up. Tried a few variations, adjusted some search parameters (only searches within 24 hours - one week) but still nothing that explains why Mark Ruffalo was in Oakland. I then popped over to Twitter and typed in the same keywords "Mark Ruffalo" and got these results:

As you can see, the 5th result down mentioned Mark Ruffalo and Sungevity, a solar startup down the street. Clicked on the link and BAM!, Mark Ruffalo sitting in a Tesla Roadster wearing a Sungevity hat. Looks like he was in the area not to shoot a movie but to pop into Sungevity for something or other.

This brings up my second instance where Twitter succeeded where Google (and other methods) failed to solve a problem/query. Over the July 4th holiday, I wanted to know if Blue Bottle was open on Monday, the 4th. Calling their number didn't help because it was a standard phone greeting offering hours of service during normal weeks but not holidays. Same for their website and any search I did about Blue Bottle and the 4th of July yielded no mention of hours. I then went over to Twitter and found Blue Bottle's account and BAM!, there you go.

Now these are just two specific instances and of course, I still do most of my general search on Google but it's been a long time since I last found the answer to a query outside of Google. It's a death by a thousand cuts for them as Facebook, Twitter, and others start chipping away at their defenses. Google looked unassailable, much like Microsoft 10-15 years ago. Today, there's only one product of Microsoft's that I use, Office. I've switched from Windows to Mac for my hardware, Windows Mobile to iPhone for my cell, and even Exchange to Google Apps for my businesses. The endless cycle of rise and fall in tech is unrelenting and no one is immune.

A good cup of coffee

I'm sitting at my usual coffee spot, Peet's on 12th and Broadway. I'm always asked why I go 9+ blocks from the office to get my coffee when there are a few cafes close by. The short answer, it's not easy to get a well made cup of coffee. The "artisanal" coffee roasters over at Blue Bottle apparently can roast a mean bean, but their baristas can't make a good cup of coffee. Always luke warm, always tepid. I've given them maybe 3-4 tries at different times to make sure it wasn't one particular barista. Still no luck. World Ground makes a decent cup of coffee but only if a particular person is there. Urban Blend is ok but only on a nice day. It has this open air configuration that's not too comfortable on colder, windier days.

This particular Peet's seems to hit my sweet spot. There's ample seating inside and outside, plus there's a decent mix of folks here. And no matter who's working, the coffee seems to have a certain consistency of quality. There's something to be said about the quality controls that come with being a multi-million dollar corporation. The ladies at the table next to me are lamenting the "corporate" feel of the place but don't seem to have a problem sitting here for 30 minutes drinking their blended lattes and shooting the shit. I personally have no issue with corporations if they maintain quality. Starbucks used to be good but the day they started rolling out the "press a button" coffee machines, I stopped being a regular customer. I have no problem with the automation, it's just the coffee doesn't taste as good as before. You just can't beat a well made hand pulled cappuccino or latte.