April 23, 2007
Java City's New Buzz

Cafe Rendering.JPG As if jolted awake by one of their own double espressos, the folks of Java City have decided they aren't about to relinquish Sacramento's coffee culture to such prospering high-profile upstarts as Starbucks and Peet's.

It's time to create some new buzz of their own, they've concluded. Toward that end, they've returned to their roots to create the prototype Java City coffee house of the future.

In mid-March they closed the original Java City, opened in 1985 under a massive landmark camphor tree at 18th and Capitol, to begin a $400,000 renovation that is scheduled to be unveiled to the public next Monday.

About all that will remain of the original Java City will be its red-brick walls. From a new wood door at the entrance to a new coat of metallic orange on the espresso machine (they took it to an auto-body shop for that) the place will sparkle anew. The floor plan will remain basically the same, though divided loosely into four "soft" seating areas to encourage patrons to enjoy their coffee and snacks leisurely. Sandwiches and salads are being upgraded, "gourmet cakes" and quiches are being added to the menu, a high-speed machine to infuse whole-leaf tea into latte is being installed, Wi-Fi will be available, and Java City's roast master, Shawn Hamilton, will be putting together a series of coffee classes and tasting seminars, says Chuck Van Vleet, the company's CEO. Unlike the original Java City, however, no roasting machine will be returned to the premises.

Outside seating will be retained, but it will be cut back a bit to better safeguard the looming centerpiece camphor tree.

"This is the rebirth of Java City as a retail presence in Sacramento," says Van Vleet. "This will be our launching pad."

While Java City's profile may have slipped in Sacramento in recent years as competition has intensified, the company hasn't exactly been standing still. There are 14 Java City cafes scattered about California, along with 2,000 restaurants and retailers like supermarkets that are licensed to sell Java City's coffee and teas. It employs 325 people, roasts four million pounds of beans a year, and brews some 128 million cups of coffee annually, say officials of the privately held firm.

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