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The Other Place

August 20, 2009
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Here is a bit more about the current state of coffee in San Francisco.

Yesterday I may have left some of you hanging again.  Although this time nobody called me out on it.  Maybe Brent is still grumping in a corner, or perhaps by now he has learned that I will never leave you hanging for long.  Just enough to heighten that antici…

[wait for it]

Sorry.  I couldn’t help myself.

So yesterday I mentioned finding a transcendent espresso experience in San Francisco, and the vast majority of locals I spoke to said the exact same thing, “Eh. Blue Bottle is good, but Philz is much better.”

Me: “Much better? That’s impossible!”
Them: “No really, it’s much better.”
Me: “Maybe it could be a little better, but I’d be very surprised.”
Them: “You really should try it.”

Philz?  What is this Philz?

Clearly, I had to carve out some extra time in my eating schedule to seek out this coffee destination.  I wasn’t sure what would need to be sacrificed, but whatever the gods demanded I would put on the altar.  How could I not try the coffee that everyone was saying is better than Blue Bottle – which I say without reservation was the best coffee I have had in my life.

Those people who suggested that Blue Bottle was nothing very special really do not understand the sad state of coffee around the rest of the country.  I would highly recommend a couple of years in upstate New York, and then watch as they kiss the hallowed ground at the feet of the baristas manning the machines at Blue Bottle.

But let me get back to Philz.

It turns out that Philz only serves brewed coffee.  So I can pack up my incredulity and save it for those who think of Starbucks as the be-all end-all.  On one hand I was disappointed; on the other hand I was glad that Blue Bottle retained its place in my heart.  I love Blue Bottle for its espresso.  Why on earth would I try their brewed coffee with espresso that good?

I mean no disrespect when I say, “Philz only serves brewed coffee.”  Their brewed coffee is absolutely brilliant.

It is brewed to order by the cup.  It is made from their own proprietary blends of beans, the longest of which reportedly took seven years to perfect.  It is very delicious brewed coffee.  Possibly the best brewed coffee I have ever had.  But it is hard to tell, because really I ordered wrong.  I should have gone with their recommendation, but I was driven to try the Philtered Soul based on the recommendation of a few friends and the raves it received on Yelp.

What is amazing is how by blending and roasting beans to their demanding specifications, Philz is able to coax their nutty and chocolaty flavors out.  It’s amazing because they assured me the blend was not a flavored coffee.  Yet those flavors were so prominent, it really tasted like a flavored coffee.  I was flabbergasted that coffee could do this on its own (mind you, after years of perfecting the roasts and blends).

But I am not the biggest fan of flavored coffee.

Next time, I’ll get something darker and not as sweet, perhaps with a good dose of earthiness and spice.  The coffee brewers are more like sommeliers, and I am confident they can guide me to the better blend.

I would certainly recommend this place for a killer cup of brewed coffee.  But as good as it is, Philz does not knock Blue Bottle off its pedestal.

These two institutions are raising the bar in a town where the standards were already high.  Let’s hear it for high standards.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2009 10:33 pm

    Coffee’s one of those things I just don’t really get. It all tastes kind of the same to me, and I have this awful tendency to burn every pot I put on the stove. (Maybe the former has more to do with the latter, though)

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    August 21, 2009 9:37 am

    And who in the capital district is interested in coffee in freaking San Francisco?!

    • August 21, 2009 11:09 am

      Mr. Sunshine, I had the exact same thought, and could not have hoped for a better segue into today’s post. Thank you.

      The FLB isn’t a travel log. But I sometimes need to pull examples from my life in order to make a larger point.

      Hope you enjoy. I look forward to your feedback.

  3. August 21, 2009 1:50 pm

    @AJ – with a French press, you can’t go wrong.

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