Fueled Up!

Posted on April 24, 2017

Sacramento's coffee scene has exploded. Here's a look at the major players, big and small.

Photography by Rachel Valley

SACRAMENTO RUNS ON COFFEE. It’s both the fuel that gets us going in the morning and the lubricant that brings people together all day long. It’s an integral and important part of our culture. To wit: Sacramento recently landed on Infogroup’s list of the hippest cities in the United States, thanks in part to the large number of coffeehouses in the metro area.

All of which means there is a surfeit of options when it comes to grabbing your daily cup of joe. To get the scoop, we drank a lot of coffee, talked to local coffee pros and checked out some of the region’s specialty coffeehouses.

Temple Coffee on K
Temple Coffee on K

5 locations
Everyone who works at any of Temple’s five cafes looks as if they know more about coffee than you do. And they probably do. Temple came onto the scene in 2005, when owner Sean Kohmescher opened his first store downtown. The trendy, slightly macho K Street location, the largest of the Temple coffeehouses, can be especially daunting. Don’t be shy. Stroll to the counter (even though the equipment looks like it belongs in Dumbledore’s office) and put yourself in the capable hands of a Temple barista, who might inquire which varietal you’d like in your cappuccino. Temple encourages customer-barista face time, but coffee is the real star of the show. For coffee gearheads, Temple on K has Kyoto slow-drip brewers, Curtis Seraphim pour-overs and a tap for nitrogen-infused coffee. Gluten-free pastries from Sugar Plum Vegan are tempting and plentiful. The slightly less intimidating Temple on Ninth works well for business meetings or a break from the office, while the slightly shaggier location on S, next to Temple’s roastery and training center, has the perfect patio for sipping and people watching. 2200 K St.; 1010 Ninth St.; 2829 S St.; 2600 Fair Oaks Blvd.; 239 G St., Davis; templecoffee.com

Temple's slowdrip coffee
Temple's slow-drip coffee paraphernalia

1 location
It’s easy to overlook The Trade, located a few doors down from Temple on K, but this tiny cafe and coworking space is worth checking out. The coffee comes from Counter Culture in Emeryville. Order an espresso or drip coffee via the website for a quick grab and go. The Trade uses Clover organic milk, as well as Pacific and Califia soy, almond and hemp milk. Everything associated with the go cup is compostable. Pastries are fresh from Freeport Bakery. A complimentary day pass might give you a sneak peek into your new work digs. Buy a coworking membership and set up shop with other coworkers in one of the communal offices in back. 2220 K St.; thetradecollab.com

1 location
It’s been a year since local coffee veteran Lucky Rodrigues opened Identity Coffees with his best friend, Ryan Rake. From the front, the building looks like the lid on a large black box. Inside, there’s no doubt it’s a warehouse. They offer the usual, from house drip to mocha. Have it with cow’s milk or almond milk. (There’s no soy.) Grab a dairy-free doughnut (made exclusively for Identity by Conscious Creamery), a piece of quiche or a baked good from Bella Bru. Take a seat at one of the wooden tables, built by Rodrigues out of reclaimed, locally sourced wood. Admire the other pieces of wood leaning against the walls, waiting for Rodrigues’ attention, and listen to the eclectic music. Identity is a model for minimalism. According to Rodrigues, they are still “realizing” the potential for the location. “We plan to grow into it,” he says. That hasn’t stopped Rodrigues and his partner from holding monthly makers fairs and music events. “We are passionate about the product,” Rodrigues says. By product he means coffee. And by we he means his partner, his wife (Vanessa Rodrigues), his employees and himself. No one is just a barista or a roaster or a buyer at Identity. In the future, he plans to take employees with him when he sources coffee beans. 1430 28th St.; identitycoffees.com

Coffee Design Old Soul Hanging Bikes

3 locations
Jason Griest and Tim Jordan teamed up in 2006 to open the original Old Soul in a former Eppie’s warehouse located in a midtown alley. Lived-in-urban industrial? Check. Old-world charm? Check. At this bustling location, you enter through the back of the building on Liestal Alley. There’s an indoor rack, so you can park your bike, and lots of books and games for rainy days. Plop down on a leather couch or grab a chair at one of the communal tables. Need alone time? There are small tables in the back. If you’re lucky, your barista will be the one with the stunning barbershop-quartet moustache and suspenders holding up his shorts. Buy bulk beans in a jar, and bring the jar back when you need a refill. Breakfast is served all day, and you can watch it being made in the open kitchen. Try a generous portion of golden French toast swimming in syrup with your soy latte. 1716 L St. (rear alley); 812 21st St.; 3434 Broadway; oldsoulco.com

Old Soul on L
Old Soul on L

1 location
Co-owners Nick and Ilah Cookston- Minton operated a mobile cafe before they opened The Mill a few years ago. The inviting, light-filled space acts as a neighborhood hub, with a line stretching from counter to front door on weekends. The Mill gets its coffee from Heart Roasters out of Portland, Oregon. According to Nick Cookston-Minton, the beans are roasted a little lighter and adjustments are made during the brewing process, rather than the roasting process, to produce smoother taste. They serve regular drinks, including filter coffee, cold-brew iced coffee and espresso drinks, as well as signature drinks like a cafe mocha made with Ginger Elizabeth chocolate. For your latte or cappuccino, house-made almond-macadamia milk sweetened with dates is offered as an alternative to soy or cow’s milk. Delicious waffles are made to order, including a honey-butter waffle and a maple waffle, served with house-whipped butter and delivered hot to your table. 1827 I St.; themillsacramento.com

2 locations
California meets Down Under at Chocolate Fish. Edie Baker lived in Sacramento before moving to New Zealand, where she absorbed the thriving coffee culture and met her future husband, Andy. The couple spent four years planning their own coffee venture before opening the f lagship Chocolate Fish Coffee Bar downtown in 2008. At the East Sacramento cafe and roastery, soothing blue-gray walls help you forget there’s no Wi-Fi. “We want people to come in and talk and be loud and noisy,” Edie says. “We’re encouraging conversation.” Front-row seating offers access to the roasting process. The Bakers are big on freshness. They source beans harvested within the last year from farms in Central America, South America and Africa and roast about two times a week. According to Edie, Chocolate Fish was the first coffeehouse in Sac to travel to origin (that word is used a lot in coffee circles) to source beans. You’ll find a few drinks from Down Under, including a flat white, a long black (double shot of espresso poured over hot water) and a fluffy (steamed milk and froth). This spring, Chocolate Fish is scheduled to open a third location in Land Park on Freeport Boulevard near Taylor’s Market. There won’t be any Wi-Fi there, either, so be prepared to put down your phone and talk to your neighbor. 400 P St.; 4749 Folsom Blvd.; chocolatefishcoffee.com

5 locations
On a recent Saturday morning, Insight on 16th and P was buzzing. Some people sipped coffee while watching a tightrope walker—she’d strung a rope between two trees—practice her craft in Fremont Park. Others occupied couches or sat at wooden tables. Drawings of bearded baristas roasting beans and pulling espresso shots decorate a wall. The real baristas look a lot like the drawings. The menu is easy to navigate, with standard drink choices like an Americano or a macchiato, but prices are listed in fractions rather than dollars and cents. From the brew bar, choose coffee based on the country or region where it originated. Pastries are baked in-house. While Insight has been on Sac’s coffee scene only since 2011, when it opened the Southside location, it has not lost time establishing its sleek, efficient style in a number of key spots, with plans to open more stores in the future. An important part of Insight’s mission is to educate consumers about coffee. Some locations offer weekly device demonstrations and public tastings at no charge. Rotating monthly events include tastings, based on country of origin and processing methods, as well as coffee-sourcing seminars and home-roasting techniques. 1901 Eighth St.; 1014 10th St.; 566 Pavilions Lane; 1615 16th St.; 6241 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael; insightcoffee.com

Naked Lounge on Q
Naked Lounge on Q

Naked Lounge gravity

4 locations
This pioneer coffeehouse—one of Sacramento’s earliest—opened 15 years ago at Q and 15th, in a wood-framed building (formerly a grocery store) built in 1894. Inside, the vibe is funky and relaxed, and it can seem as dark as a hookah lounge, but there’s a patio with tables outside when you need some light. There are two more Nakeds (one downtown, another in Oak Park), plus a sister cafe, Tupelo Coffeehouse in East Sac, that’s popular with Sac State students. There’s usually a sea of open laptops, proof the Wi-Fi works. The drinks are imaginative. From the “Usuals” side of the menu, the Hammerhead offers a shot of espresso topped with regular coffee. The eye-opening Keith Richards, from the “Unusuals” side, works when you’re jonesing for a double shot of espresso poured over Shasta cola. And the Kerouac, which might tempt James Bond, comes with four shots of espresso, condensed milk and cream, shaken over ice and served in a martini glass. For students on a budget, there’s house coffee. Cookies, pastries, bagels, oatmeal and Orphan Breakfast House’s granola round out the menu. 1500 Q St.; 1111 H St.; 5700 Elvas Ave.; 3527 Broadway; nakedcoffee.net

Customer at Naked Lounge Coffee

Drinking Coffee


Argos Caffe
“I started roasting coffee when I was 7 or 8 years old in Mexico,” says Jorge Gocobachi, who roasted beans outside in a cast-iron skillet. Gocobachi is one of the co-owners and the head roaster at Argos Caffe, which opened last year in Folsom. There are remnants of the Starbucks that used to occupy the space (it moved across the road to open a drive-through) and lots of natural light from large windows. Try one of the unforgettable lavender-flavored drinks. Organic lavender is steeped in honey or milk and added to espresso, creating a creamy, soothing cup made for savoring. 195 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom; argoscaffe.com

Bloom Coffee & Tea
Bloom is busy, really busy. Roseville residents can’t get enough of this coffeehouse located in a tony mall. Order an espresso made with Verve Coffee out of Santa Cruz. Pair it with one of the tempting breakfast or lunch options prepared in the little kitchen. Peer around the corner and watch the cook placing thick slices of bacon on a baking sheet. Pastries are baked fresh every day (maple bacon scone, anyone?), and vegan options abound. And how about a coconut brown butter cookie to nibble with your coffee? Be prepared to wait for a table, though. Yep, it’s that busy. 1485 Eureka Road, Roseville; bloomcoffee.com

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