Monday, November 2, 2015

Mendo's Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015 - Day 7

Four Barrel, Bubble Tree and Lucky Number 7

Take a chance on something new, sometimes it works out better than expected. I found the Bubble Tree Cafe on Yelp and looked them up. The mention of Four Barrel Coffee made me think this sleepy looking place might have some high octane punch. It did. But it also had the feeling of home - not the look, unless you happened to grow up in a strip mall but the welcoming and relaxing feeling of home. What a great way to finish the Coffeeneuring Challenge.

### Coffeeneuring Control Stop #7 ###

DATE: 11/1/15
DRINKS: Americano (roasted by Four Barrel Coffee)
MILEAGE: 9.3 miles
COFFEE SHOP: The Bubble Tree Cafe

BACKGROUND: There's not much online, but I talked with one of the owners. They've been open only a few months and intended to focus on Boba and Bubble Tea, and maybe smoothies - an Asian selection for most items. Fortunately for me, they also decided to offer coffee. After searching and asking around in the Mission district of San Francisco, they settled on Four Barrel Coffee. If you look at their website, you get a very edgy, hipster vibe which is in marked contrast to the sunny, suburban, Asian vibe of Bubble Tree. Allegedly, Four Barrel dictated their espresso machine - only the top of the line if you're selling our stuff. Make no mistake, they make an excellent cup of coffee here.

COFFEE REVIEW: I arrived at about 9:20am since the website said they opened at 9:00am, but no one was there. Patience. The sign on the window had the clock pointing to 9am, so I started posing my bike for a photo. Then the owner pulled up and asked if she could get something for me. Coffee? She unlocked, apologized about her big Halloween party last night making her late and offered me an Americano since they hadn't started the drip yet.

Four Barrel gets their espresso from El Salvado: pacas and bourbon, single origin. Their website describes the flavor as being akin to "...that sexy professional cellist who likes to get tipsy on hard apple cider, then wink those nutmeg and brown sugar eyes ...totally out of our league." Okay, I didn't quite get that image when I drank it. But it was one of the better Americanos I've ever had. It was complex and well balanced like a great cup of coffee, not bitter and rough like most espresso/Americano drinks. Two thumbs up, five out of five, whatever my rating system - it's tops.

FOOD PAIRING: I didn't partake of any food. Sorry.

BIKE AMBIANCE: Not their strong suit. Suburban-safe, but not much ambiance of any fashion. It actually seemed like the kitchenette at a Courtyard by Marriott or the corner of your typical Silicon Valley workplace (Google, Facebook etc, not being typical). But that made it all the more comfortable, somehow. In their defense, the building didn't offer much to work with.

DUCK'S VIEW: Mendo actually blended in quite well. It was bright and cheery and primary colored - not rustic or industrial like many artisan coffee shops. On a scale from a hunting lodge to your kids' bathroom, Mendo belongs in your kids' bathroom. If that helps. Again, if there were a little fountain, it would have been just ducky. (I've waited seven blog posts to use that one!)

THE BIKE: Soma, see Day 1 post.

THE RIDE: Santa Rita is a fairly busy, four-lane thoroughfare across Pleasanton. So I let Google recommend an alternate bike route. Therefore, I meandered through quiet, bucolic neighborhoods in what we affectionately refer to as "the bubble" - Pleasanton, because it's pleasantly isolated from the big, scary cities (San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose) as well as the hyper-growth of some of the suburbs (you know who you are). Since it was the morning after Halloween it was still rather comical. In general, it was a slow cruise. Easy. Happy.

LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN: I'll be honest, I've been enjoying this challenge and didn't want it to end. But it must, so I then wanted to finish with something fantastic. But life happens and I found myself not sure where to go. The Bubble Tree Cafe with its Four Barrel Coffee was a total gamble. Half the shops so far were fantastic, so the bar was pretty high. Some shops were let-downs. Why? Mostly because I didn't engage with the owner/barista/whoever - either because I tried and they didn't reciprocate, or because the atmosphere inhibited that sort of thing. If the Bubble Tree Cafe had been busy, I might not have taken the opportunity to talk with the owner - even though I'm sure she is generally quite open, so maybe it would have happened anyway. But I did and it paid off.

You make your own luck.

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