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Rockridge Cornucopia

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Barry Kaufman Sep 20, 2000 03:23 PM

COLLEGE AVENUE COFFEE CULTURE
In Warren Beatty’s epic film Reds, John Reed visits anarchist Emma Goldman in prison. Reed and Goldman argue the finer points of the Bolshevik revolution and Lenin’s betrayal of the working class. As Reed is leaving Goldman’s cell, he asks if there is anything he could do for her. Goldman thinks a moment: “Just make sure I get my Chase and Sanborn coffee – I cannot imagine a revolution without my Chase and Sanborn.”

Coffee drinkers are in love with their beverage as much as wine or beer drinkers. Whereas wine and beer drinkers crave variety, coffee lovers tend to settle on one brand, one roast, one method of preparation and most of all one favorite place to drink their daily cup.The coffee drinker seeks a coffeehouse with a comfortable corner to read a newspaper, observe the passing parade of daily life, and pass judgement on personal and world affairs.

How lucky we are. Rockridge’s College Avenue is the only East-bay neighborhood commercial street with independent and non-chain coffee specialty shops. A walk down College Avenue finds four distinctive coffeehouses: Hudson Bay Café, Peaberry’s Coffee and Tea, Spasso Coffeehouse, and Royal Coffee. Each of these coffeehouses brings a unique offering of coffee and culture. A “perfect” cup of coffee in a coffeehouse is more than the beverage; it is a magical intersection of time, place, and people.

Hudson Bay Café is the oldest coffeehouse on College. They buy their beans from Graffeo and Montanos Brothers; two of the oldest and most respected coffee roasters in the Bay-Area. The culture of Hudson Bay Café is the most traditional bohemian. Many of the patrons of Hudson Bay Café are either students or faculty from the California College of Arts and Crafts. On a recent visit, I found people playing Hearts, reading, and, writing intensely into journals. For solitude and a wonderful cup of coffee Hudson Bay Café is ideal.

Moving North, we come to Peaberry’s Coffee and Tea in Market Hall. Peaberry’s is the complete opposite of Hudson Bay Café. More in the Italian tradition of a standup coffee bar, Peaberry’s caters to a more upscale and professional Rockridge clientele. Peaberry’s serves and carries their own brand of coffee that is roasted for them. They also carry a wide assortment of prestige teas and sweets.

Next is Spasso Coffeehouse. At Spasso the Rockridge News contributors and production staff meet to review the past issue of the News and prepare for the next. Rockridge News readers will remember that the former owner of Spasso Hamid Rasafar was wounded in a robbery at the store and the community came together to support his family and business. What is most striking about Spasso are the beautiful murals depicting coffee production in the Arab world. Spasso is a perfect place to meet with friends and talk about the state of the world.

The last coffeehouse on our tour is Royal Coffee. Royal Coffee is the only one of the four coffeehouses that imports their own green beans. The beans are roasted by McLaughlin Coffee Company, and sold directly at the coffeehouse. McLauglin Coffee Company is among the finest coffee roasters in the Bay-Area. McLaughlin roasts much of the coffee you drink in high-end restaurants and specialty shops. I’ve been using Royal’s Max’s Blend for nearly 15 years. I will try other roasts and blends but I always return to Max’s. Max’s is named after the son of Bob Fulmer one of the partners in Royal Coffee. I had the privilege of knowing Pete McLauglin when he first opened Royal Coffee. After a battle with cancer, Pete past away a few years ago, but among coffee lovers he was a legend and a moving force into making Royal Coffee what it is today. The crowd at Royal Coffee is what I would characterize as neo-bohemian - young, hip-hop culture, smokers, with a pick-up edge. It is only a Royal Coffee that you get a freshly brewed pot of any coffee they sell.

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