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A new coffee roasting boom in San Francisco; here are Bay Area roasteries that let you watch and sample.

Here are Bay Area roasteries that let you watch and sample

Since coffee first arrived, as cargo on ships carrying gold miners, San Franciscans have taken to the drink with enthusiasm and expertise. Recognizing a sure market in the prospectors, entrepreneurs Jim Folger, Austin and Reuben Hills, and M.J. Brandenstein set up small roasters. They were able to establish a standard of quality by insisting on good arabica beans (as opposed to lower-quality robusta) from Latin America.

Today the Bay Area is in the midst of a new coffee-roasting boom, with custom roasteries springing up everywhere. Visiting a couple of them will give you a free crash course in coffee from some of the most enthusiastic teachers around.

For the most enjoyable and successful trip, call ahead to make sure there'll be a roast during your visit. You do have to be there at the right time; it takes only about 15 minutes to roast a batch of green beans (new convection roasters take even less time about 6 minutes), and most businesses modify the number of roasts they do each day to meet the demands of their customers.

Try to visit two or three roasteries. Roastermen, easily as opinionated as winemakers, have strong reasons for using their particular roasting style, type of beans and machinery, even methods of decaffeination and flavoring. All are keenly interested in educating consumers about roasting and about where coffee is grown (in nearly every tropical country within 1,000 miles of the equator). Ask lots of questions.

Roastmasters, though, may ask you to be quiet during the crucial last few moments of the roast, when they must decide (using all five senses) whether the beans are ready to be released from the intense heat. Is the French roast of the Colombian beans at one place so dark the coffee tastes burned? Is the espresso at another place not strong enough? Can you still taste the country of origin in the Celebes Kalossi beans from Indonesia? For the ultimate test, relax and sip; most important is how well you like the coffee.

Listed here are Bay Area roasteries that welcome visitors and have enough space around their machinery for safe viewing. All sell fresh beans and will grind them for you if you don't have a grinder at home. The San Francisco and Oakland listings are wholesale warehouses, where roasts are in progress almost continuously--and where you'll see packaging facilities and a "cupping room," in which new coffees are first sampled. The others are European-style cafes or coffee houses that roast on site and sell gourmet coffee merchandise, such as espresso and cappuccino machines. All roast a wide variety of beans from around the world, Don't forget to call ahead.

Napa (area code 707). Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company (948 Main Street, Napa; 224-2233) holds cuppings regularly to educate consumers and employees. Try Kona Peaberry or Five-Bean Blend. Hours are 7:30 to 6 weekdays (until 10 Fridays), 9 A.M. tO 10 P.M. Saturdays, 9 to 5 Sundays.

San Francisco (415). Caffe Trieste (1087 Mississippi Street; 550-1107) began over 30 years ago as "espresso pioneer" Giovanni Giotta's North Beach cafe, where you can still hear the family sing opera on Saturdays. Guests are invited to visit the warehouse 8 to noon weekdays.

Mountanos Brothers Coffee Company (380 Swift Avenue, Suite 12, South San Francisco; 952-5446) is run by knowledgeable Mike Mountanos, whose family has been in the Bay Area coffee business for four generations. Tours are 10 to noon Thursdays; call for reservations.

Spinelli Coffee Company (1257 Folsom Street; 861-2272) is famous for its dark roasts. Owners Arnold Spinelli and Chris Calkins were tutored by San Francisco legend Alfred Peet, considered the father of America's gourmet coffee movement. Roasts take place 9 to 5 most weekdays.

East Bay. Peerless Coffee (260 Oak Street, Oakland; 763-1763) is a wholesale warehouse and retail shop owned by industry institution George Vukasin. The roasters are enormous, and there's a cupping room-complete with a brass spittoon. Open 8:30 to 5:30 weekdays, 9:30 to 5 Saturdays.

Uncommon Grounds (2813 Seventh Street, Berkeley; 644-4417) roasts 34 coffees and blends, including flavors such as Irish Cream and Amaretto. In an old brick warehouse, the cafe is open 7 to 5 weekdays, 9 to 3:30 Saturdays. Roasts are 11 to 2 Mondays and Wednesdays.

Marin. Mill Valley Coffee Roastery (2 Miller Avenue; 383-2912) is a cozy espresso bar and retail shop with a roaster in the front window. Its decaffeinated coffees are processed using water only. Open 7 to 7 weekdays, 8 to 8 weekends.

Peninsula. The Coffee Critic (106 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo; 342-8558) is run by Linda Nederman, whose commitment to educating the public is apparent in her use of maps, old grinders, cupping machines, and a variety of coffee memorabilia. Open 7:30 to 5:30 weekdays, 8:30 to 5 Saturdays, 10 to 2 Sundays.

Palo Alto Coffee Roasting Company (159 Stanford Shopping Center; 3272233) has a small roaster in the window. At this shop, owned by Teri Hope, try the Jamaican Blue Mountain or Arabian Yemen Mocha. Open 9 to 9 weekdays, 9 to 6 Saturdays, 11 to 6 Sundays. Roasts are 5 to 7 weekday evenings.

Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties (408). Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company (101 W. Main Street; 354-1155) is also owned by Teri Hope. Open 7 to 6 weekdays, 8 to 6 weekends. Call ahead to have a roast arranged around your visit.

International Coffee Exchange (14471 Big Basin Way, Saratoga; 741-1185) sells 39 varieties of coffee; decafs are processed by either Swiss water or chemical methods. Open 7:30 to 7 weekdays, 8 to 6 weekends.

Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company (1549 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz; 4237250) uses an air-pressure roaster, which extracts the chaff and smoke ftom the roast chamber "cleaner, less tarrytasting coffee." Open 8 to 6 daily. Roasts are early weekday mornings.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1989
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