June 4, 2012
Pacha Coffee offers new option to the grid's great scene

Pacha in alley.JPG

There's another coffee shop in a midtown alley, but it doesn't serve coffee, it doesn't roast coffee and you won't find anyone hanging out there reading, writing, surfing or chatting. The hours? They're weak.

Pacha Coffee Cooperative focuses on one thing: it sells beans - very good beans, at a very good price and, best of all, without all that awkward exploitation associated with much of the coffee we drink in the Western world.

I recently stopped by Pacha (short for Pachamama, or mother earth, which too many people found too difficult to say) to check it out. It is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., that is, when the employee doesn't lock up to make a quick lunch run. The address is 919 20th St., though you enter on the alley between I and J streets.

As reported in The Bee and elsewhere, Pacha's business model is unusual and enlightening - it's not out to make big money. Instead, this cooperative operates on behalf of the coffee farmers who own the cooperative. The farmers get the profits and are able to reinvest the money into their farms.

Pacha hours.JPGYou, the coffee customer, get professionally roasted beans (roasted in Fort Bragg) in several varieties, along with the satisfaction of being part of something new and high-minded. Sure, profits can be good, too, and there are plenty of impressive coffee options around town that use that model and do an excellent job at roasting and serving coffee at the highest level.

At Pacha, I bought two 1-pound bags of whole beans for about $10 each. The bags are stamped "100% farmer-owned."

One bag, labeled "Guatemala," was the darker of the two roasts and had a full, balanced flavor profile with only hints of smokiness and none of that burnt carbon taste associated with most store-bought French roasts. The other was labeled "Peru" and was also produced a nicely rounded cup for both espresso and drip coffee (via the AeroPress), with hints of cocoa and caramel and a pleasing smoothness. Shoppers of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Davis Food Co-op and Nugget Markets might recognize the name - Pachamama beans have been sold there for several years.

As we have reported in weeks past, Sacramento has come of age as a coffee town - Insight, Temple, Chocolate Fish, Old Soul, Naked Lounge and Broadacre have raised the bar for quality coffee and made us expect excellence when we go out for coffee. The high standards have a ripple effect. I've noticed Java City has upped its game. And Starbucks and Peet's are trying to create a look and feel that is more like the independent shops (though the Starbucks near our house still doesn't carry demitasse cups and serves espresso only in a paper cup).

Pacha isn't trying to one-up these places. Still, it's nice to see another option and another way of doing business in midtown. And I like to see these under-utilized alleys attract positive uses like this. I'm still going to hit my favorite independent coffee houses on a regular basis for espresso and for beans, but I think I will start dropping by Pacha Coffee now and then to stock up. Competition is good. So is variety.

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