Locked & Loaded: On The Importance of Good Baristas, Cafe Divis and the 'New Coffees' Site
Darwin Cafe, a new restaurant and cafe near South Park at the corner of Ritch and Bryant, proves that even the best beans, served via the best equipment are really only as good as the barista.
Darwin's brewed coffee is quite good. They serve De La Paz, and they're pouring individual servings via Beehouse drippers. You can order an 8 ounce ($1.75) or 12 ounce ($2.25) cup. I really dig the options in serving size, especially in the afternoon. I've stopped in twice, and both times they were attentive to detail in preparation and I left happy. I'd certainly suggest stopping in for coffee.
And then there's the espresso. In my experience, the drinks varied wildly depending on the barista. By which I mean: I've had one okay espresso drink, and two really bad ones.
The microfoam was, well, macro; the cappuccinos were so wet they may as well have been lattes, and the drinks were uniformly served too hot.
I get it, it's a new shop with new staff. But even if you've got a nice La Marzocco setup and great beans from De La Paz, you need to invest in good baristas (with proper training) in order to serve good cofee.
On another note, Cafe Divis at Divisadero and Oak (formerly the location of an utterly forgettable spot called On the Corner) is now open, and serving Blue Bottle. I've only been in once, but found excellent espresso drinks, a pleasant atmosphere, and a variety of choices. It appears to be yet another great spot in that formerly dead zone of lower Divisadero. Look for a full review soon.
And finally, if you're wondering what a particular roaster has on offer this week, there's a great new single-serving site to help you with that. New Coffees lists "the latest coffees from the best roasters" all on a single page. Currently, it's listing coffees from Ecco, Ritual and Four Barrel locally, as well as Intelligentsia, Stumptown, PT's, and Square Mile (!) if you feel like splurging on shipping (and at least every once in a while, you should treat yourself). They're adding more all the time, so go ahead and bookmark it.