Technically known as Sansome, Blue Bottle Coffee’s latest cafe is an example of what a local business should be: It’s profoundly local in most of what it does, especially in where its cafes are placed and how they’re designed. Blue Bottle has made a business out of recovering classic spaces or carving something entirely new out of Bay Area corners, establishing them as destinations within the new urban fabric all while maintaining and absurdly high level of quality in everything it does. Remember when the flagship at Mint Plaza opened in 2008? That was no man’s land and now it’s an international destination and anchor to an entire urban district. Today Blue Bottle is an international company with locations in New York and Tokyo. But it’s carrying brand San Francisco forward with ever greater confidence. April’s trifecta of mergers with Los Angeles’ Handsome Coffee Roasters and Tonx, then later in the month with Tartine only expands its conceptual identity; globalization as San Francisan byproduct?
The latest addition to the fold expands on the company’s design identity with the slightest variations. Situated on the corner of Bush and Sutter in the midst of old San Francisco the caffe looks out onto the Crown Zellerbach Building’s high internationalism of floating glass and steel as it intersects with the Deco of the Shell building all the weighty brick and stone clad iterations of the earlier city. The cafe itself is within the lobby of a building from an earlier era defined by decorative corinthian columns and lots of marble which the caffe picks up on in its own white marble and spare wood interior. Fortunately they preserved the square tiles on the floor in all their slightly disjointed alignments which make for great staring off into space moments. But let your gaze drift further out the windows to take in all the surrounding buildings, you can grasp two hundred years of neighborhood history without straining your peripheral vision. When you get bored of that the passing human parade is just as entertaining.
Like most Blue Bottles it’s all about the light and the space. Incredible amounts of both which make you appreciate just how much of a design identity is embodied in the place. Sure, it’s a mini-chain but one that came from a human hand. The little tweaks to the Financial District location highlight that this is a very human endeavor – it’s so spacious and organically part of the building that the cafe simultaneously embraces the building’s identity and expands on it. Like most, all?, Blue Bottle cafes the speakers are incredibly distinctive, the models here are wood cased and horizontal ad they pump out the melodic pop of our era. The counter tops are getting sparer, less on them, less to interfere with interactions, less to fill up the space and detract from the space. St. Frank really pioneered this concept, it’s great to see everyone else jumping on board.
And then there’s the coffee, while most of the new roasters in town and across the country really focus on bringing high acidity and fruit to their espressos Blue Bottle consistently focuses on a balance of sweet and round flavors while keeping those sharp and fruity notes to cupped coffees. They managed the evolution of Italian espresso like Vivace in Seattle but enhancing the sensation without really altering it.