Coffee Shop Talk | My 4 favorite coffee shops in Northern California – Espresso Perfecto

Coffee Shop Talk | My 4 favorite coffee shops in Northern California

I get asked a lot about my favorite coffee shops and all-time top roasts.

While most of the places listed in this post are going to be local, almost all of them ship their beans, so if you want to try a few of my go-tos, you can totally pick a favorite from this list and get to sampling.

NO.1 PICK: Equator Coffees & Teas

If I could only drink one coffee for the rest of my life, it would be a whole milk latte from the Equator Coffee in Mill Valley California. It is smooth, a little nutty, super creamy and full of subtle and balanced flavors.

The baristas at this particular location are especially talented at their craft and always deliver expertly frothed micro-bubbles and some truly beautiful latte art. I have had at least a hundred coffees here and the consistency from one to the next is pretty amazing. I’m sure you’ve all experienced the awfulness of expecting your favorite brew and finding it not up to snuff compared to your last experience. THAT NEVER HAPPENS HERE.

My wife and I discovered this place after stopping at our favorite lunch spot across the street, Café del Soul, for some Chipotle Sunrise wraps (also a must-have). While we don’t live close enough to stop in for a weekly fix, whenever my wife is in the area for work, she always brings a bag of the Tiger Walk espresso home to enjoy with the Breville.

Equator now sells their roasts to cafés and other restaurants so if you’re in northern California (or flying in and out of SFO), it’s not too hard to track down.

NO. 2 PICK: Insight Coffee Roasters

This is our new local go to close to where we currently live and it’s always a solid pick. While it doesn’t quite measure of to my love for Equator, it delivers a rich, bold and complex flavor. It doesn’t give the same crema drama that the Tiger Walk does, but it’s better than just about any other daily drinker bean.

I also love the locations. My favorite is in Pavilions in Sacramento. It has an open, sunny vibe, lot’s of neutral and wood tones and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating in case you want to sit and visit or use it as an office away from the office.

Their espresso blend changes every so often so you’re not always enjoying the same latte or Americano. The Zacamitla blend is pretty solid but I really liked their Mario Lopez roast from Mexico while they offered it.

My wife is also a sucker for the traditional 70s brown latte mugs and Insight offers these to customers enjoying their beverage in store so they get extra points for the IG-worthy shots she gets from them.

NO.3 PICK: Blue Bottle Coffee

I know this one might be a little controversial, but long before Blue Bottle was owned by uber-giant-corporation, Nestlé, it was a small, independent roaster that offered up a craft coffee experience with baristas who totally know their game. Guess what? It still does.

I always think of Blue Bottle as being for true coffee geeks. If you’ve ever been to one of their physical locations, you’ll know what I mean because it sort of looks like a really beautiful coffee laboratory. All of their locations have huge, soaring ceilings, tons of space and minimalist decor so you feel light and airy drinking your perfectly roasted coffee.

I’m a big fan of their cold brew, but my wife is crazy for their “New Orleans Style” iced coffee, which is perfectly sweetened just a touch to enhance the natural flavors from the beans and the milk. It’s a beautiful harmony that hasn’t been corrupted by the corporate ownership. Whenever I grab one, I always wish I’d ordered two, because it’s never enough and they only offer the one size.

My favorite location is the Broadway shop in the Temescal district between Berkeley and Oakland. It’s a coffee nerd’s nirvana.

NO. 4 PICK: Philz Coffee

While Philz isn’t strictly espresso, it’s just too good to ignore. If you haven’t been here before, it’s totally unlike any coffee shop you’ve ever been to and I totally recommend it just for the novelty of the experience alone.

What makes Philz it’s own special unicorn of a coffee shop is that they only do pour overs. Yep, you read that right. Every order is a specialty pour over and you select your brew from a menu of 20+ coffee options, broken down by intensity and flavor notes so you can really personalize your coffee experience. Only in California, right?

My wife and I both agree their dark roast Jacob’s Wonderbar (with notes of nuts and chocolate) is our go-to, she always has it customized “Philz way,” which is medium milk, medium sugar while I usually take it light milk, light sugar. Yes, they even add the extras and then have you taste it to make sure you’re happy with the blend.

Philz isn’t the sophisticated experience of Blue Bottle or Equator, but pour overs are pretty badass, and it’s always a fun experience.

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About the Author Michael York

I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!

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