I stopped by Subrosa last week while riding home from Berkeley, and I had a decent cup of coffee. This morning Anna was free for a few minutes before one of her meetings so we decided to pop back over to Subrosa for a more formal visit.
On my first visit the barista was attentive and cheerful. I asked about some of the features of the place — where did they get their counters, what kind of beans did they use, etc. — and she had some of the answers, but it didn’t seem as though she wanted to chat. This morning I think we met the owner. When I asked again about the counters she was able to give me a lot more detail, and she seemed enthusiastic about sharing. The decor of the room is delightful. Their counters are concrete with rice hulls, and the color beautifully complements the tones of steamed milk on a latte. The ceiling and the vertical surfaces of the counter are made from recycled hardwood flooring. Even the garbage receptacle on the customer side of the counter is clad in a beautiful wood case, again, made from recycled flooring. An antler chandelier hangs over the cash register. It’s very sweet.
Anna ordered a latte and I had my usual Americano. Today the drinks were exceptional. The Four Barrel Espresso Americano is not as tart and colorful as my yardstick coffee, the Verve Streetlevel, but there was a very nice fruitiness and a hint of chocolate. Anna said her latte was the best she’d ever had.
We learned a little more about the Four Barrel coffee that they use at Subrosa. The beans are purchased at auction, and are sourced from a variety of growers in several regions. Since Four Barrel buys small lots and they’re not always able to get beans from the same grower each season, they blend beans from several different growers into their espresso blend to maintain flavor consistency over time. The Four Barrel single bean roasts are also available at Subrosa if you want a brewed cup, which they will custom drip for you.
There’s not much room inside Subrosa, so if you go on a rainy morning and can’t take advantage of their tiny patio, you’ll need to snuggle up pretty close with the other patrons at the cozy window-facing bar. Three people can share the space, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a cozy spot to hang out. (I suggest Modern, Awaken, or Actual Cafe for a comfy social experience.) But for a really great cup of coffee just off the beaten path on the western edge of Oakland’s Temescal district, Subrosa is a great stop. If you go in the afternoon, you can stop in and browse through the vinyl offerings at the record shop two doors down.