Top 6 SF coffee shops: When you need more than Starbucks or Peet’s to Get by

So, I realize the title of this is a little provocative and may insinuate the need for something stronger than caffeine, but alas that is not the case. I just sometimes get bored of the same old coffee spots. I have an awesome group of buddies at work who are always down to try different places for lunch once or twice a month so I feel like I don’t get bored in the food arena as much (plus I try my best to bring my lunch most days of the week), but coffee…sometimes you need to mix it up a bit.

I am a creature of habit. The night before I pick out what I’m going to wear to work (yes, I do this because it actually saves me time in the morning), I wake up around 6:30 am, shower and either wash my hair or don’t wash my hair depending on how it’s looking/feeling, finish getting ready…makeup, hair and teeth are almost always done in the same order every morning, I make a cup of coffee (Keurig) and mosey on my way to the train. I drink that cup of coffee while on the train into the city and then once I get to work (around 8:30 am) my co-worker and I go grab another cup of coffee (usually a latte for me) and we usually go to Peet’s for that.

However, we began venturing out for other options recently. We probably only mix it up say once a week, or once every other week, but regardless it helps keeps things interesting. So, I decided that I would share with you my top 5 alternatives to our usual suspects – not that there’s anything wrong with Peet’s and Starbucks, it’s just they are on every corner, and the 6 listed below are not.

joe and the juice

Joe and the Juice – This is just as it sounds, coffee and juices. I was excited when a smaller version of one on Market street opened up and couldn’t wait to check it out. While their juice menu is bigger than their coffee menu, there is one latte in particular I am a HUGE fan of – the Ginger Latte. I mean, talk about heaven in a cup. I love ginger, and when the holidays roll around, a Gingerbread Latte from Starbucks is usually my weekly indulgence, so to have a healthier option anytime my heart desired was a definite plus! However, it’s an almost 5 dollar cup of coffee so I only let myself go once a week, but well worth it. So, how did Joe and Juice start? It all started with a little privately owned juice-bar inside an expensive furniture shop in central Copenhagen. The founder of Joe and The Juice is Kasper Basse. The vibe inside the coffee shop is super cool, the folks who work there always seem to have these amazing foreign accents and call you “love,” and you just generally leave there feeling really good about yourself, and with a ginger latte in hand. Win-win if you ask me! I haven’t tried the juices yet, as I’m still stuck on the ridiculousness of paying that much for juice. I guess I’m just not there yet.

Illy

Illy – The first time I ever tried Illy I was on a coffee date with someone I reconnected with on some dating app (eye roll). Anyway, I liked the vibe and the coffee was delicious. And now, I love going there because it reminds me of Italy. Illy coffee was everywhere in Italy! The company is known and admired on five continents for the high quality and unmistakable velvety taste of its coffee, an outstanding blend made up of nine types of pure Arabica.

bluestonelane

Bluestone Lane Coffee – This cafe is all over New York, and now in a couple of locations in SF (near me). The vibe of the cafe is pretty cool, and one of my buddies even said, “so this is where you come to see all the pretty people in SF.” Here is a little blurb about the style inspiration for the financial district location (taken from their website): The design of the store is inspired by the new locals of the Financial District neighborhood. The beautiful white minimal entry is lined with lush palms and outdoor benches where you can sit and enjoy your coffee. There is also plenty of seating and cushions from Australian designer KIP&CO inside with large windows creating a bright and airy space with lots of natural light, perfect for early mornings with the newspaper or a late breakfast with friends. Three brass pendant lights hang above the white oak bar and splashes of color are provided by our signature seafoam green tiles from Mercury Mosaics. Throughout the space, locals can sit at round marble tables under a sea of white shade pendants. The focal point of the space is a large community table with brass chairs framed by a large planter box housing two tall fiddle leaf plants. Bluestone Lane Coffee is influenced from the renowned coffee culture hub of Melbourne Australia, where premium coffee is a way of life.

Philz

Philz – OK so my first introduction to Philz, was funny enough, also on a coffee date! Haha I’m seeing a trend here. Anyway, the only one near my office was located a few blocks up and you had to quite literally carve out 30-45 minutes to get coffee there. The line was never less than 15-20 people ahead of you. They then opened a second location closer to my office. You don’t need to carve out as much time but you are guaranteed to have at least 5-8 people in front of you in line at any given time. Everyone RAVED about it, if you were a hipster this is all you would drink etc., etc., but I have to say I’ve tried a number of different coffees from there and have only found one or two that really hit my taste buds just right. I enjoy (when it’s not 55 degrees in SF – which is not that frequent) the iced “It’s the Best.” I mean, it really is. There is a cool vibe here and the baristas (I think you call them that here too?) are super cool and make your coffee just to your liking. They will even ask you to take a sip of it before you pay for it to ensure you’re happy with the cream, coffee, sugar ratio.

workshop cafe

Workshop Cafe – This place is super cool. The concept is that it is not just a coffee shop/cafe, but also a place to work. The way it works is like this: Walk in and choose your seat, look at the real-time seat map and pick a spot. They have work space for individuals and groups. Prices to reserve space start at $2 an hour, and you can order food or bring your own, they are super flexible. I only had a latte while I was there, but was extremely tempted by their yummy looking menu which included cheesy popcorn, and then right below that “healthy popcorn.” I’ll take the cheesy please! Anyway, I’m excited to go back there and check it out – definitely wish these existed while I was in college, they would have been nice to use for group projects or for when you really had to crank some stuff out and work.

blue bottle

Blue Bottle – Blue Bottle was introduced to me by my boss at the time, who is self-admittedly a coffee snob. For example, we were on a work trip up in the Napa area, and after a long day of doing some volunteer work he just HAD to detour to downtown Napa to a hipster little coffee shop for an iced something-or-other. Anyway, I credit him for introducing me to something other than Starbucks and Peet’s, and broadening my horizons on what “good coffee” actually is. It was also the first time I spent 4 bucks on a cup of coffee. Blue Bottle also has these AMAZING waffles. I mean, quite literally the biggest sugar splurge you can have for breakfast, but with moderation I think it’s well worth it! Here is a little background on Blue Bottle – I also like that it started in my backyard (Oakland, CA). In the early 2000s, in Oakland, California, a slightly disaffected freelance musician and coffee lunatic, weary of the commercial coffee enterprise and stale, overly roasted beans, decided to open a roaster for people who were clamoring for the actual taste of fresh coffee. Using a minuscule six-pound batch roaster, he made a historic vow: “I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roaster to my guests, so they may enjoy coffee at peak flavor. I will only use the finest, most delicious, and responsibly sourced beans.”

Well, I hope this gives some of my local readers some inspiration and motivation to try something new, and for my non-local SF readers to check and see if any of these places are located in your area so you can try them yourself! Either way, happy coffee sipping!

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My Favorite things of Fall!

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I love Fall, also known as Autumn. I think I enjoy it so much because it is a welcoming to a much needed change from the hot summer months, to the cool, crisp and rainy days of winter. It’s the unassuming season that is often overlooked, but it is indeed an important season as it marks the transition of change.

Not only does it mark the transition from Summer to Fall, but also the arrival of night becoming noticeably earlier and of course if you were a child and had chores, the shedding of leaves in the yard. Of course, Autumn and Fall are also marked by some of my favorite things, like Halloween (though I didn’t dress up this year), pumpkin patch fun, Hocus Pocus, boots and sweaters, rainy days, pumpkin flavored everything (and creamer!). Overall, it’s all good for your belly, mind, spirit and soul. It’s one of the few changes I fully and whole heartedly welcome every year.

So, here are some of my favorite things of Fall!

  1. Halloween – it is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from Celtic harvest festivals which some say have pagan roots, specifically the Gaelic festival Samhain, and that this was the festival Christianized as Halloween. The word Halloween dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word actually means “hallowed evening” or “holy evening.” Of course, for us nowadays it is mostly marked by trick-or-treating, dressing up in Halloween costumes, decorating, and carving pumpkins.
  2. Pumpkin patches! I have distinct memories of picking out my pumpkin every year. It really was a big deal, and always a family outing. It has changed a bit as I’ve gotten older. For example, it is now an all-day outing that includes haunted houses, hayrides, petting zoos, and so on. But, still fun even as an adult (I went this year with a good friend and my mom!)
  3. Hocus Pocus – if you have never seen Hocus Pocus, we cannot be virtual friends…just kidding! But seriously if you haven’t seen it you must! Hocus Pocus came out in 1993, directed by Kenny Ortega, starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker. The plot is this – In 1963 on October 31st in Salem, Massachusetts, during the Salem witch trials, Thackery Binx sees his little sister, Emily Binx, spirited away to the cottage of three witches. There, the Sanderson sisters – Winifred, Sarah, and Mary – cast a spell on Emily to absorb her youth and regain their own, killing her in the process. Binx confronts the witches who transform him into an immortal black cat to live with his guilt of not saving his sister Emily. The townsfolk, led by Binx’s father, capture and hang the witches, but Winifred’s spell book casts a curse that will resurrect the witches on All Hallows Eve when any virgin lights the Black Flame Candle. Binx guards the cottage to ensure no one summons the witches. 300 years later in 1993 on October 31st, Max Dennison moves from LA to Salem with his family, including his sister Dani. While exploring the town, he and Dani meet Allison, whose family owns the Sanderson cottage as a museum. Max suggests that they go there and impress Allison – well, as you can imagine the story takes off from there. Check it out as it is a must-see every Fall/Halloween time.
  4. Boots & sweaters – I have a slight obsession with boots. I have them in every color, in every heel and in every style: short, mid-calf, up to the knee, ankle…you name it – I got it. And, you can’t forget sweaters! There is nothing more comfortable than a huge sweater, and pair of skinny jeans and boots! Just another reason to love Fall so much!
  5. Pumpkin flavored everything – I can’t lie to you, I’m not an obsessive PSL (pumpkin spiced latte) person, I don’t die for it when it comes back into season (P.S. it was back in Starbucks and Peet’s at like the end of August this year – come on people! It’s like shoving Christmas in our face before we even get to Halloween!) – but i digress. Anyway, there is one pumpkiny thing that I look forward to every year. One is the Nestle Coffee-mate, pumpkin spice creamer. That with a little bit of whipped cream and “ta dah” deliciousness in a cup! SO good!
  6. Rainy days – oh rainy days! They were an awful occurrence as a child, but always welcomed now as an adult. When I see rain in the weather forecast (which being in California doesn’t happen enough) and it coincides with a weekend, I’m overjoyed because it means I can lay in bed, drink my pumpkin spiced creamer/coffee and catch up on the DVR.
  7. Lastly, Fall opens the doors for my absolute, most favorite holiday of the season, which is Thanksgiving. It’s a day that I can lay around in my sweats, eat, drink and be genuinely merry – and grateful. It’s an overall great day spent feeding our bellies and souls.

Fall shows us how beautiful it is to let things go. Happy Fall ya’ll!