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Locked & Loaded: Ice, Ice, Coffee, Baby

Blue Bottle Kyoto Iced Coffee. Photo by Mat Honan

Now that summer is almost over, it's finally starting to warm up in San Francisco. And since few of us here have air-conditioning, likely the last thing you want to do on these hot days is to slug down an even hotter drink. But you still need your caffeine fix, right? Enter the iced coffee. 

I've been missing iced coffees for the entirety of this miserable summer. They're often sweet and always a treat. Yesterday, when I stopped by Falletti's, the line of people snaking out the door at Peet's, waiting for their blended Freddos, looked like something normally seen at Tartine on a Sunday. (And I shudder to think what the line at Humphrey Slocombe looks like on these dog days.) And while Freddos are the very definition of delicious, and Starbucks will sell you a Frappuccino from almost every other street corner in America, sometimes you may want something a little less sugary and a little more, well, coffee. And to get that, you want something that's not only cold, but is actually cold-brewed.

Coffee that's brewed cold (as opposed to simply chilled down in a fridge or poured over ice after brewing) tends to have its own sweetness, with none of the bitter flavor you get from a hot brew made cold. You can easily make it at home yourself with a Toddy or other cold-brewing system, but given how few genuinely hot days we have here that might seem like somewhat of an extravagance. 

Fortunately, cold-brewed coffee is a staple in San Francisco. You can get a New Orleans Style iced coffee at points all over the map. It's a delicious, long-steeped concoction that's spread from the sweltering Big Easy all over the world. But my favorite tall cold drink of joe is a Blue Bottle specialty: the Kyoto iced coffee.

The Kyoto is made one drip at a time, literally. The drink is made with an Oji slow dripper from Japan that lets water trickle through one small drop at a time. It's a painfully long extraction process, but the results are beautiful. You don't have the oils that you do in hot brewed coffee, and it brings out delicate flavors you might miss in a piping hot cup. Kyoto iced coffee is naturally sweet and floral, with almost an herbal quality to it.

Yes, you may have to suffer a line to score one, but the rarity is well worth it. Pro tip: Go shortly after lunchtime. The heat makes the reward all the sweeter, and the line isn't nearly as bad as during the morning rush.