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Blue Bottle Nirvana at Temescal

Last Sunday I visited the Temescal FM for the first time. Although I was a bit disappointed at the lack of produce, etc. stands and the large number of jewelry stands, I did pick up some really great onions and garlic. I think there were only 3 or 4 produce stands. Also lots of food stalls selling prepared food.

I had not, however, eaten any breakfast or had any coffee when I got there. The first stand I saw (after passing the jewelry tables) was Blue Bot. I got in line with the rest of the caffeine-challenged and waited my turn. I have only had BB coffee twice before, both times at the Berk. FM and both times from a cooler containing a pitcher of premade iced coffee. It was pretty great, but the real stuff is far superior.

I tell you, I've been a Peet's groupie for almost 40 years and this was really superior. I was blown away. With the coffee, I chomped on a scone from Bakesale Betty's stand. I almost started dancing and singing ala Fred Astaire - "Heaven, I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak" etc etc.

I bought some beans and froze them because I don't make coffee at home til the wknd. Hope they hold up.

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  1. Oakjoan, did they have a lot of beans for sale? I want to buy some to send as a gift and the Temescal FM is so close to where I live it'll be convenient to get a couple of pounds from Blue Bottle there.

    Also, what time did you go to the market? I think if you're there around 9 a.m. you'll see more food produce stalls. By noon they're pretty much closed up. At least that's been my experience. (But still, it is a smaller farmers market. I just like it because it's close to where I live.)

    4 Replies
    1. re: singleguychef

      If you call them a day before the market, they will save you any and all the beans you want. When you walk up to the counter tell them who you are and they will have your beans ready.

        1. re: chipman

          do you still have to wait in line?
          I went about 10am on Sunday, all I wanted was to buy beans, but the line was so long I was dismayed.

          1. re: oaklandfoodie

            you don't have to wait in line if you are just buying beans. once we waited and the BB guy said to just come up front next time.

      1. They have a very friendly web site for ordering beans - I think you can work out a way to pick them up at the various farmer's markets if you object to using the mail (or Fedex, ?).

        1. Oakjoan, never, never freeze coffee beans. and also don't refrigerate them Put them in a airtight container and place them in a dark place. They should be fine by the weekend.

          5 Replies
          1. re: chipman

            I NEVER put beans in the fridge, but I always freeze them. I wrap them well so that other odors won't invade them. Been doing it for 40 years and haven't had problems. I don't have the time to make a special coffee-buying trip every week so I've hit upon this method. Maybe my taste buds are so jaded that they don't notice. I'll see what happens to the BB beans this weekend. We only drink one cup of coffee a day so it better be good!

            To the person who asked when I went to Temescal - I went twice. Once around 11 a.m. and again around 1:30. BB was closing up but they still had beans - only sold in 1/2 lb. bags. After I tasted their coffee, I went and got my husband and made him buy a cup. He was very glad I did!

            1. re: oakjoan

              This week the Temescal FM was disappointing -- I've been in other weeks and found a lot more good stuff. I agree that there were very few produce stands this week, I think there were at least two or three places that are usually there that I didn't see when I was there this week around noonish.

              1. re: JasmineG

                Glad to hear it's not usually like that. I'm in need of a market that's closer than Berk on Sat which I can't get to that often. I don't know if any of the rest of you like my local market on Grand/Lakeshore on Sat. I just can't get into it.

                Will try Temescal again next weekend and go a little earlier.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  Hey Oakjoan, I'm curious why the Grandlake market doesn't do it for you...I've been going there pretty much every Saturday for the past three and a half years and I'm pretty happy with it. It has gotten more crowded (and a little more expensive as a result), but I find it usually meets my weekly produce needs pretty well - plus Panorama breads are darn good (skip the danish though), and Prather Ranch is there to satisfy any meat cravings. For lunch, the Thai food stand is top-notch - I can't quite remember the name, it's something like Cindy & Andy's.

            2. re: chipman

              I was just going to say the same thing. I used to freeze and then tried the airtight dark place method and I was amazed how much fresher the beans stayed.

            3. 'Heaven, I'm in heaven" for me is a gibraltar from Blue Bottle and an almond croissant from Bay Bread. The combination of those two with the creek and a sunny bench lures me often on Sundays. Plus the whole wheat flatbread from the Afghan stall is worth a trip there by itself.

              I love that there is a filipino food stand with vegan lumpias as well as the usual meat ones. The Breton style crepes are nearly as good as Ti Couz, and the fish purveyor has sterling fresh fish from Santa Cruz. The atmosphere is very neighborly and relaxed, and I meet new folks with ease there.
              The veggie stands aren't as complete as the Saturday Berkeley Market, but it has its own flavor, and that's what draws me. I often go to both, for different reasons.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Armoise

                Sounds wonderful. I'd rather have had an almond crois from Bay Bread than a scone from Bakesale B's - less sugary.

                The fish guy wasn't there and I didn't look into the food stalls. I'll be back.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  Well, the almond croissant is stuffed with marzipan, so it's probably more sugary! Two days ago when I went at 10 am, the fish stand had wild salmon, black snapper, red snapper, dungeness crab meat and sablefish. I think it sells out quickly.

                2. re: Armoise

                  The Temescal FM has been my first experience with Bay Bread, and I have to say that I'm loving their stuff! I fell in love with the asiago baguette this summer, and then got their sprouted whole wheat bread a few weeks ago, and was very skeptical, but it's excellent. This Sunday I bought another of those and the epi, which was also great.

                3. I've been a Tuesday and Saturday Berkeley market person for a while. I've just moved three blocks from the Sunday Temescal market, which is awesome. But I'm generally disappointed with the market as a whole. Too many prepared food vendors, not enough vegetables, not enough variety. I don't want to recreate the Berkeley markets here, but there is something both of those markets have that Sunday doesn't.
                  The crafts vendors, eh - I don't really need them.
                  I'll continue to go to the market every Sunday, because I want to support the farmers that are there, but hope to see more vegetable vendors in the future. Maybe I should direct these sentiments to the market manager...

                  1. I totally agree you should NEVER freeze coffee beans. It destroys the natural oils on the bean. Just get a nice airtight container to store them in and they will last a very long time.


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: PateBriseej

                      I experimented and found that freezing keeps beans fresh longer with no negative effects provided I let them come to room temperature before grinding.

                      1. re: PateBriseej

                        I know what you mean oakjoan -- Blue Bottle was a revelation to me, too! BTW, by Temescal do you mean Lake Temescal?

                        Regarding freezing, if you plan to store the beans for an extended period (i.e., more than a few weeks) without removing them, freezing may be your best option. Otherwise, I agree with Pate -- a cool, dry, airtight container works best.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          The Temescal farmers market is in the DMV parking lot at 5300 Claremont, just east of Telegraph.

                          The neighborhood's named after Temescal Creek, which with one sort of Disneyish exception is mostly culverted around there.

                      2. Another note on Blue Bottle for East Bay fans:

                        Cafe 817 in Old Oakland (at 817 Washington St... just next to Ratto's Deli) has started serving Blue Bottle coffee !!

                        As far as I know, there is only one other DAILY "casual" place in the East Bay to get it - Sketch Ice Cream on Berkeley Fourth St., and who the hell wants to go into that mess of a world? I mean, poodle parkas and doggy dungarees? C'mon!

                        When I was there at Cafe 817, they had two types of Blue Bottle beans - and they offered 'em in a French Press.

                        I just stumbled into it, pure chance. BUT IT WAS MY LUCKY DAY ! I LOVE BLUE BOTTLE. GET IT IN HAYES VALLEY (or at S.F. Ferry Bldg.) WHENEVER I CAN. For some reason, I hadn't been to Cafe 817 in years, and they really seemed to be into coffee there, as I talked to the owner and he really knew his beans! (I don't know how I had overlooked it). They also seem to put great care into their preparation. (with others, of course, only so much you can do with a Freedom Press, er, French Press).

                        My other favorite East Bay spots:
                        * Cole Coffee on College (near Alcatraz) is tremendous for is selection of high-grade beans, from which you can choose any of 10-12 varieties; they grind it right there and give you a single-drip cup or espresso drink.
                        * Cafe Diem in the Diamond District (MacArthur at Fruitvale) takes time and care making tremendous espresso drinks if the right barista is working.
                        * Crema at the base of the Tribune building makes super espresso drinks using Illy coffee, putting a lot of care and time into each order.

                        In S.F.: Philz is pretty damn good ... Coffee for the People is pretty good ... but Blue Bottle is the greatest.

                        1. Will have to check out Cafe Diem and Crema. Thanks for the rec. Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley on Shattuck also serves Blue Bottle coffee, Regular and French press. Bittersweet in Oakland and SF serve Blue Bottle too. If you are not into Sketch ... or at least the area, you might find Bittersweet on the edge of preciousness.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: rworange

                            I stopped by Guerilla Cafe today to try this vaunted Blue Bottle coffee, after reading about it here. I didn't realize they served French press, or I certainly would have requested it. I was sorely disappointed with the cup I got and will have to find out the blend so that I can give BB a chance with another variety I might like more. I prefer my coffee strong, full bodied, rich, smooth, low-acidity; maybe fruity, nutty or with a hint of chocolate. I tend to go more for Pacific & African beans, and I use a French press. My go-to coffees are Peet's Garuda or Major Dickenson's. My favorite of all time (for you Peet's fans) was their 2005 Holiday Blend, which many lobbied to have regularly. I generally use 25-50% more coffee than Peet's recommends in my brew, so you know I like it s-t-r-o-n-g. Anybody have any suggestions of what BB (or other yummy coffees) to try?

                            1. re: BellaCalabrese

                              Have to say I agree with you on almost all your points. I have tried BB on numerous occasions even the beans at home and my impression has been , it is o.k. a step or two above Starbucks. I too am a Peetnik , yes the 2005 Holiday blend was EXCELLENT.

                              1. re: frangelica

                                I didn't even think BB compared well to Starbucks, which I avoid. To my taste, it seemed like a somewhat better version of many of the old supermarket standbys.

                                I understand Peets is still being lobbied on the 2005 Holiday blend, so you might want to zap them an email. They have been known to release their Holiday or Anniversary blends as regular offerings, so it's worth the try. I loved it so much that I tried to blend some myself, but the closest I got, while quite nice, was not worth the effort with the exquisite memory of it's inspiration.

                              2. re: BellaCalabrese

                                I'm another original Peetnik (and was prepped for it by several years of Graffeo and other North Beach offerings), and also don't "get" BBC. It seems the antithesis of the full-on roast style that makes Peet's so appealing. I wanted to take some to my daughter in NY and asked for a dark roast (she's on the French pressed Graffeo-Peet's track) and they looked at me as if I were nuts.

                                1. re: BellaCalabrese

                                  You won't find a strong cup of coffee at Blue Bottle. The most asseritve coffee they have is the Hayes Valley which is highly acidic in my opinion. The blend they sell to Bittersweet is similar. In favor of the bittersweet blend ... on it's own, don't like it. However, it is great with chocolate.

                                  I'm a dark roast Graffeo fan myself and like a strong coffee. They don't use African beans though because they consider them poor quality. I was in there complaining that I never had a good cup of coffee in France and never had a bad cup of coffee in Italy. The manager said that a lot of the beans imported by the French were from Africa and the quality wasn't good.

                                  Blue bottle is best to drink black. It is mellow and the nuances are more likely to be picked up. They do have a great espresso, but again, it is mellow rather than assertive. If you get a chance, have the iced New Orleans coffee some day. I love chicory and it is a great drink.

                                  From my understanding that African BB sold at Guerilla was made for a French press to get best results.

                                  You might give Revolution Coffee a try. It is located under the West Oakland Bart Station. The roasts are strong. They jar you awake.

                                  Have you tried Cafe Roma ... dark as night ... strong as sin ... or some slogan like that. I don't like them as much as Graffeo, but they are my next choice in SF. Haven't had enough Ritual to make a decision. I was crazy about Philz for a while, but drifted back to Graffeo.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    Thank you for sparing me more trials with Blue Bottle. It is difficult to get a strong coffee that's smooth, not acidic. I didn't realize when I went to Bittersweet that they used Blue Bottle; no wonder I was not enamored of their Mocha the way I adore their Classic and, to a lesser extent, Bittersweet Hot Chocolate. (If only their prices came with the chance at a seat!)

                                    Thank you for the rest of your suggestions. I will definitely give them a try. I haven't had Graffeo; how's it's acid level? (I don't just prefer smooth coffees; I require them because my body reacts poorly to the highly acidic ones.)

                                    I haven't had chicory since the early '70's when coffee prices spiked and many of us were forced to use it to cut costs. I never did acquire the taste but, perhaps like many foods, better options might be available today and I should give it a try. Just don't suggest Kona!!! As for drinking coffee black, no can do. I would if I could. I need the dairy & sugar to cut the acid. Heck, I'd drink hot high-quality coffee ice cream if it weren't such a nutritional nightmare. (That's the one area, BTW, where I'll buy Starbucks: Their java chip is the strongest coffee ice cream with the darkest chocolate chips I've ever found. If I were so inclined, it would be my drug of choice. It's even surpasses the quite delicious Coffee Coffee Buzz! Buzz! Buzz from Ben & Jerry's, whom I'd much rather support.)

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      I always drink my coffee black (and unsweetened). What to you think I am, some kind of New Yorker?

                                      Enrico's on Broadway, way back in the days when it was still something of a Beatnik hangout, served a signature house coffee that was a French roast laced with chicory.

                                      1. re: Gary Soup

                                        Hey Gary, you nailed me! I'm an ex-New Yorker. As a matter of fact, my initial response when trying the Blue Bottle was, "This reminds me of that drek back in New York, only a bit better." BTW, I don't take my coffee NY "regular;" I've progressed from the old "light and sweet" to something that takes little less like milk and sugar. Of course there's the requisite sip test for each new variety.

                                2. I reported about the Temescal Market in August and was impressed with the amount of produce. I am wondering if maybe some vendors have dropped out completely, or left for the season. Here's my August list which was originally reported on Bay Area Bites: http://www.kqed.org/weblog/food/2006/...

                                  Does anyone remember specifics about what produce vendors are there now?

                                  Bakesale Betty (Oakland). Baked items.
                                  Bay Bread (San Francisco).
                                  Big Paw Grub. Oils, Vinegars.
                                  Blossom Bluff Orchard (Parlier). Stone fruit.
                                  Blue Bottle Coffee Company.
                                  Borba Farm (Aromas). Vegetables, berries, peppers.
                                  Brentwood Corn (Brentwood).
                                  Donna's Tamales.
                                  East/West Afghan (Martinez). Prepared Afghan Food.
                                  EGB Farms (Ripon). Stone fruit.
                                  Ella Bella Farm (Santa Cruz). Berries, dry-farmed tomatoes, vegetables.
                                  Feel Good Bakery (Alameda).
                                  Glaum Egg Ranch (Aptos). Eggs.
                                  Hamada Farm (Kingsburg). Stone fruit.
                                  Happy Boy Farms (Freedom). Vegetables, melons, tomatoes.
                                  Happy Girl Foods (Freedom). Pickled, canned items.
                                  Hodo Soy (San Jose). Tofu products.
                                  Kashiwase (Winton). Stone fruit.
                                  Kettle Corn.
                                  Laloo's Ice Cream (Sonoma County). Goat milk ice cream.
                                  Little Bug Organic. Baby Food.
                                  Lucero Organic (Lodi). Tomatoes, strawberries, squashes.
                                  MacDonald's Organic Farm (Sebastopol). Apples.
                                  Mt. Moriah Farms. Stone fruit, grapes.
                                  Olio Olinda (Happy Valley). Olive oil.
                                  Pinnacle Organic Produce (San Juan Bautista). Vegetables, tomatoes, corn.
                                  Pot Pie Paradise. Pot pies to take home.
                                  Sterntaler Bakery (San Carlos). German baked goods.
                                  The Pasta Shop (Oakland). Fresh pasta.
                                  VB Organic (Watsonville). Berries, snow peas.
                                  Wild King Salmon.
                                  Various prepared food vendors: crepes, Thai food, Filipino Food.

                                  1. My take is it's a seasonal thing. I've been going since it opened, and it just seems like the number of produce vendors has dwindled as the winter progresses. I imagine it will be back in full swing in April/May.

                                    I finally broke down and got a chicken tikka pot pie from the pot pie vendors at the Temescal fm. Heated from frozen at home, and it was goooood.