“It seems like a big part of what helped James Freeman get his start was the support of customers at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, where he had his first success with a coffee stand,” says Tara Duggan, co-author of The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes with the Freemans. “That concentrated market of discerning customers willing to wait in line for 20 minutes for coffee by the cup definitely built a following for it, and the Bay Area continues to support what Blue Bottle does.
“But around the country you see this unabated hunger for better-quality coffee, with people willing to wait a long time and spend a little more on a cup of “crafted” coffee even when there are plenty of other options available, often from multiple places within a half block.”
Bay Area coffee drinkers now have more places to drink specialty roasts, drip coffee and more. Young upstarts like Sightglass and Contraband have recognition beyond their locations and have grown into something people ask for by name. Among the most notable signs of growth: Ritual Coffee Roasters has grown from one to four locations since opening in 2005, and Four Barrel Coffee just debuted The Mill, a collaboration with toast wizard Josey Baker (“the Bread Maker”).
San Francisco’s recent coffee success ties into a larger international appreciation for it as an art form, and West Coast roasters are starting to branch out across the globe — Ritual Coffee, says Duggan, is now served at a cafe in Beijing, for example. It all amounts to a lot more than just a hill of beans.