Converting people to the wonders of specialty coffee in large cities has clearly been less of a challenge. The Mission district alone has several compelling coffeehouses in San Francisco, and Greenwich Village is similarly prolific in New York. Back in the Bay Area, San Jose is far from a backwater town – it’s the de facto capital of Silicon Valley and even has a pro sports team, the San Jose Sharks – and based on recent visits to Barefoot Coffee, which roasts in-town, and Red Berry Coffee Bar, it seems like San Jose is finally finding coffee traction.
Jeff Hampton previously worked in tech for over two decades, but when his company moved and his commute jumped from 7 to 50 miles, that was part of the impetus to change careers. He opened Red Berry in October 2009 across from San Jose City Hall and down the street from the Convention Center. Hampton named his coffeehouse in honor of ripe red coffee cherries. His logo features five red thumbprints. “Everybody can put their own imprint on the coffee,” said Hampton, including farmers, roasters and baristas, to name just three key contributors to the coffee chain.
Red Berry sources beans from multiple coffee companies, all roasted in California, including Sumatra Lintog from Temple and Tanzania Mwalyego from De La Paz. My choice was Handsome Coffee Siberia Estate, a fairly balanced and bright coffee from El Salvador.
My go to espresso is Intelligentsia’s Black Cat in decaf form, which was on Red Berry’s blackboard, but it was a good opportunity to try another local option. Given that, my espresso ($2) ended up being from Sacramento’s Temple Coffee, since the name of De La Paz Perfume V sounded oddly fragrant.
Red Berry is a simple-looking but ambitious coffeehouse that’s about as viable an option as nearby Barefoot thanks to the commitment level and compelling variety of beans.