Eileen Hassi and Jeremy Tooker opened this Mission District coffeehouse in May 2005. Ritual quickly built a reputation as an excellent coffeehouse. Tooker left this year to open Four Barrel Coffee down the Valencia Street. At least for now, Ritual has weathered his departure and remains one of the most compelling coffeehouses in California…especially on this visit.
When Ritual Coffee Roasters first opened, they used coffee beans roasted at Stumptown in Portland. Now they roast in-house, using this machine. The rear of the store is littered with burlap sacks, all filled with green coffee.
I stumbled upon a special event. The blackboard menu read: “We are pleased to offer you five unique coffees vacuum packaged for transport from Huila, Colombia, to capture and sustain their intrinsic qualities.” The Department of Huila is known to grow some of best coffee in South America, so “unique” seemed like an apt description.
I ordered a Cappuccino ($3.35) and a French Press Coffee ($2), each made using a different Huila coffee.
Ritual is one of the few American coffee companies, along with Counter Culture Coffee, that is especially committed to showcasing the role of the farmer. As a result, Ritual printed a flyer to help explain the importance of the Huila coffee growers. It was a nice personal touch. The espresso originated at Fina Los Naranjos. The flyer stated, “In the town of Las Acacias, Rosalia Manquillo grows this Caturra variety 1598 masl (meters above sea level) with her husband, Emiro, and her seven children, three of which help her on the 2 hectare farm. The coffee is sweet and fruited, with notes of strawberry pie, blood orange, red currant and rainbow sherbet.” The tasting notes are designed for palates that exist on a higher coffee plane, but it was clearly a lush, full-bodied espresso.
The coffee came from Finca La Esperanza. According to the flyer, “In the town of La Lajita, David Molina Escarpeta grows this Caturra variety 1820 masl with his wife, Dorancy, and two sons, Diego and Jose, on their 2 hectare farm. The coffee has beautiful citrus acidity, with juicy fruit notes, vanilla, clove and Fujian green tea.” Again, the tasting notes are for the most part lost on me, but it was a well-balanced cup of coffee.
Ritual is very loud, and there’s always a line out the door, but the coffee is compelling, and when visiting from Los Angeles, it’s still the top coffeehouse in San Francisco. Of course that could change once Tooker and Duane Sorenson open Four Barrel, but that’s not a given.