January 30, 2011
Chocolate Fish gets into the coffee roasting game

By Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Restaurant Critic

Chocolate Fish, the downtown coffeehouse with the stellar reputation, has begun roasting its own beans.

I learned this recently when I stopped in for one of my favorite coffee drinks in the city - the "flat white," the delicious equivalent of a strong latte - less foam and a little more milk than a cappuccino.

Andy Baker, who owns the shop with his wife, Edie, said Chocolate Fish is roasting at a facility near the new Target on 65th Street. The roasting plant isn't open to the public, but the beans are available for sale at the coffeehouse at Third and Q streets.

This is big news for coffee aficionados, as it gives the city even more options for ultra-premium coffee beans. Chocolate Fish is known for its quality and attention to detail. Beyond that, its employees seem to exude that perfect blend of coffee love and customer service - you'll get the obsession but without the attitude, and they can pretty much answer any coffee question you can think of.

The roasting endeavor is so new that there is no mention of it on the company's website, and its brochures still refer to sourcing coffee from Ritual Roasters in San Francisco.

There's already plenty of roasting talent in town. Last July, the folks at Sacramento's Temple Coffee stunned the coffee industry - and no doubt themselves - by earning a score of 97 (out of 100) from the prestigious for its roast of Guatemala Hunapu Antigua Bourbon beans. The score was the highest in the country and prompted online sales from throughout the United States and beyond.

Other local shops that roast their own beans include Old Soul and the venerable Boulevard Coffee (in Carmichael).

That kind of number from Coffee Review doesn't come around often. But I would expect Chocolate Fish to be happy with nothing less than excellence as it ramps up its roasting operation. I bought a pound of its espresso blend for use at home with the Mypressi Twist, the amazing handheld espresso maker powered with nitrous oxide chargers. The flavor of this espresso is complex, with an appealing sweetness and hints of caramel without any smokiness as it lingers on the palate.

Check out all the options for beans at Chocolate Fish and, if you know what's good for you, stay awhile and let one of the shop's baristas prepare you a coffee that approaches perfection.

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