Local Businesses: Coffee Roasters

In some of my posts about west Berkeley, I talked about some of the historical businesses in Berkeley. But what about more recent history? As I have continued my walking, I have found that there is quite a bit of territory to cover in the area of companies from Berkeley or that got their start in Berkeley. Perhaps one of the best-known Berkeley companies is Peets Coffee. Peets was nothing new to me before moving to Berkeley; when I was living in San Francisco in the mid-to-late ’80s I was well-supplied with Peets coffee thanks to various roommates and friends who worked there. But, I had never been to the original Peets location on Vine Street. Now Peets is all over the Bay Area, elsewhere in California and other states, and available in grocery stores. Definitely not huge on the scale of Starbucks, but it does seem like the number of stores is growing. One interesting thing about Peets in Berkeley is that there is a store/cafe in most of the neighborhoods: Downtown Berkeley, North Shattuck/Gourmet Ghetto, Solano Avenue, West Berkeley, Claremont/Elmwood, and (most recently) Telegraph Avenue. I thought it might be interesting sometime to do an all-day walk that stops at each of the Peets locations to compare all of them (building, customers, surrounding area, etc.) It would be one way to get a feel for Berkeley and its neighborhoods.

Of course Peets isn’t the only game in town for coffee, both in terms of cafes (more on this in a later post) and roasters. Over in West Berkeley, Uncommon Grounds roasts beans and supplies organic and fair-trade coffee to lots of local cafes and restaurants. Around the back of their Seventh St. roasting facility is their cafe that sells beans and brewed coffee and food. Blue Bottle Coffee is Oakland-based, but its retail start was a stand at the Berkeley farmers market. It is still available at the Tuesday and Saturday markets, and some of the microroaster’s early restaurant customers (such as Tacubaya and Sketch) were in Berkeley.

While doing some research on coffee I ran into a very interesting company from Ontario, Canada, called Cameron’s. Their list of environmental initiatives is pretty impressive: solar-dried coffee, biodiesel company car, incorporation of roasting byproducts in other applications, roasters run on photovoltaic power, etc., and apparently they use a bicycle grinder for some products at their farmer’s market booth. It made me wonder if this type of coffee business will eventually exist in Berkeley.

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4 Comments »

  1. After tasting just about every local coffee roaster’s beans here in the Triangle area of NC; none surpassed Peet’s, or even came close. I like to support local business, but when it comes to coffee, well, I’ll have to ignore my ethics of sustainability. Thank the goddess, Peet’s is now online, and if you sign up for their free newsletter, you get free shipping on your first order. I plan to order 10 lbs. And to think I once took Peet’s for granted.

  2. Joanna said

    Hi, I just discovered your site, and it’s inspiring me to get out and walk! I’ve lived in Minneapolis for 18 years, but before that I lived in Berkeley for about 15 years, without a car, so although I didn’t walk or bike all its streets, I have fond memories of those years. When I lived there, the first Peet’s spinoff had just opened, closer to my house. When I moved away, I mail-ordered Peet’s coffee, too. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos and stories.

  3. shannon said

    I grew up in Berkeley – my parents used to be some of the original Peetniks, holding court outside the shop on Vine – back when coffee was served in styrofoam cups.

    Now living in Austin I’m tempted to mailorder Peets, but I prefer to get large bags of locally roasted Ruta Maya coffee from Chiapas. Ruta Maya puts on free live music, free community classes (yoga for kids, capoira, tango lessons, live music for kids). http://www.rutamaya.net

  4. […] First of all, Alfred Peet, founder of Peet’s Coffee died today. Here’s a little bit on Peet’s from my post about coffee roasters. […]

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