Image of a latte.

Best Coffee Around Parnassus

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It was love at first sip. Moments like this remind me why I love coffee so much. The deep acidic aroma of the dark Turkish coffee stirred me while it bubbled in the cezve, a small pot designed specifically for Turkish coffee. Time seemed to stretch longer and longer as each second became a minute. Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, my Turkish friend brought me his creation, and the tantalizing aroma made its way over, and I finally sipped it. The coffee was warming and calming, and the dark delightful bitterness coursed through me. Now I could get to work. Each time I drink good coffee results in a different anecdote, but when I drink good coffee, I always remember the moment.

Whether we are students, professors, postdoctoral researchers, or families, coffee plays a role in our everyday functions, from keeping us awake during busy times to being the perfect brunch companion. Coffee is also an art form and a way of enjoying life, coming in many different flavors. From the number of coffee shops in the city, it is obvious that people love coffee here. Specifically near UCSF campus, cafes line Irving Street, from the popular Starbucks to the lesser known cafe “The Beanery”. As a coffee addict who has explored cafe options around campus, I have concluded that the following five coffee shops are the best in the area.

1. Snowbird Coffee (1352A 9th Avenue)

With a small wooden sign and cozy darker interior, Snowbird Coffee makes gourmet coffee and coffee drinks that are unique and hard to beat, such as the shakerato, cafe bonbon, and brevano. It also makes pour-overs for those who prefer to taste different notes in coffee without adding too much sugar or sweeteners. Snowbird roasts its own coffee as well as serves coffee from around the country, and the beans are available for sale in the store.

My favorite drink is the brevano, which is a smaller six ounce drink with an espresso shot and wildflower honey. The combination is unique as I have never seen it anywhere yet, and it tastes unlike anything I have drank before. The brevano has a subtle taste of honey but is neither too sweet nor too bitter, which can be common for coffee. Besides the brevano, the hand shaken shakerato and cafe bonbon, espresso with condensed milk, are also quite tasty, and with Snowbird, it is very difficult to go wrong.

2. Martha & Bros. Coffee Company (401 Irving St.)

Established in 1987, Martha & Bros. Coffee Company has a strong emphasis on coffee quality and the knowledge and skillset to support that. The owners grew up on a Nicaraguan coffee plantation, acquiring coffee knowledge and skills, ranging from growing to brewing. Furthermore, each of four San Francisco locations roasts only the coffee beans needed for that day so customers always sip on freshly roasted and brewed coffee.

Usually I dislike regular coffee because I cannot taste the coffee bean notes, so pour overs are usually my drink of choice. At Martha & Bros., the regular coffee notes stand out, and the coffee is one of the strongest I have ever drank. Besides regular coffee, Martha & Bros. also serves other coffee drinks, from ice mocha to frappe chai to cafe au lait. Combined with food and snack selections, a good ambiance for studying and getting work done, lots of natural light, and outdoor seating for sunnier days, Martha & Bros. falls highly on my list for Inner Sunset coffee shops.

3. Blanc Cafe (549 Irving St.)

As one of the more “bougie” cafes in the area, the Blanc Cafe has pricier coffees but also has amazing natural light and work ambiance. The wooden benches, topped with soft cushy pillows, are surrounded by classy dark tables and modern lighting fixtures along with clean cut porcelain sugar dispensers. A finishing touch of candles and bamboo placemats make for the classiest study and work spot.

Its artsy lattes are topped with carefully made smooth and creamy milk foam and come in a generous mug. Sipping on a delicious hot milky latte and comfortably sitting back onto a pillow while stretching my legs out on a nice bench couldn’t make for a better work environment. Blanc Cafe also serves some small treats and other drinks, such as regular coffee and tea, so treat yourself sometimes and enjoy the high quality espresso drinks while being productive.

4. Hollow (1435 Irving St.)

This hole in the wall coffee shop is perfect for relaxing with a novel and sipping coffee on a lazy afternoon. With its “home sweet home” cozy ambiance and hipster vibe along with treats, empanadas and gourmet Mast Brothers and Twenty-Four Blackbirds chocolate bars, the cute small cafe is hard to beat. With only four tables, the small gem still draws attention with its popular Titanic II and housemade butterscotch and vanilla bean lattes, made with Ritual Coffee, which is roasted right here in San Francisco.

The Titanic II is a dark chocolate mocha topped with a marshmallow, and the lattes are unique in that the syrups cannot be found elsewhere. Debating amongst the three drinks, I decided to order the butterscotch latte and it was well worth $4.25. The latte foam was creamy, smooth and perfectly milky, and the latte itself had a subtle and not too sweet butterscotch flavor. The drink was very smooth and rounded with a creamy butteriness to it. In addition, Hollow also serves regular coffee drinks, such as pour-overs, lattes and cold brews, for those who want less sweetness. The cute, comfortable and cozy ambiance along with top notch coffee drinks will bring me back for more.