It’s possible that students think “Starbucks” when they think of American coffee, but there is so much more to U.S. coffee culture than this famous chain! In fact, the Bay Area (and in particular, San Francisco) is home to some award-winning cafes that brew delicious coffees in beautiful locations. Have you checked out these famous coffee shops?
Five Must-Try Cafes in San Francisco
It was chosen as one of the best coffee shops in the U.S. by The Daily Meal, and for good reason: the company carefully selects its beans from Central America, South America, and Africa and is known as one of the “pioneers” of the coffee trend in San Francisco. There are many locations in SF, but we recommend the original shop on Valencia shop, which is a great place to people watch and is decorated in a modern and sleek design.
P.S. If you love Ritual, check out Saint Frank on Polk Street, which serves their coffee in a minimalist and serene environment.
Blue Bottle Cafe
The cafe is often credited as beginning the “anti-Starbucks,” carefully brewed coffee movement. Is this true? Who knows! They know have locations around the world (even in Tokyo)! One thing we know for sure is that one of its shops was on Flavor Wire’s list of The Most Beautiful Coffee Shops in the World. If you’re really interested in learning about coffee, their Brewing Guides are an excellent resource! We love this coffee shop for its open and bright feel.
1 Ferry Building, #7
San Francisco, CA 94111
A coffee shop with NO Wifi or plugs for your computers? What a novel concept! The shop is actually owned in part by award-winning coffee shop Four Barrel Coffee (see below) and by Josey Baker Bread, and their flour is made from a special German mill. If you’re not in the mood for a coffee, this is a great place to try some delicious breads! Whether you’re hungry or thirsty, The Mill is the perfect place to study or hang out with friends, without the distraction of smartphones and laptops.
736 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Four Barrel Coffee
As with the other cafes on this list, Four Barrel has made its way onto an impressive list: Thrillist’s Best Coffee Shops in America. The company prides itself on its old-fashioned roasting techniques (they use a vintage German roaster!) and sources its beans from places such as Indonesia and East Africa. The shop is an open and beautiful location (with some strange wall decorations: check out the boar heads!) that is welcoming and trendy.
375 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
It wouldn’t be a list of SF coffee shops without including Philz, which is a cafe beloved by many locals! Maybe it’s the delicious mint mojito coffee that makes Philz such a hit: whichever location you visit, expect a wait! We suggest trying the Philz located Downtown on Van Ness: it’s one of the quieter locations.
748 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
Vocabulary for Cofee and Cafes
Now that you know some of the coolest places to check out in SF for a cup of coffee, learn this coffee-related vocabulary! The truth is, coffee ordering can sometimes be complicated: there are many different styles of coffee, different sizes, different preferences . . . it can all be confusing! Here are some of the more common words you need to know.
Cup of joe
OK, perhaps this isn’t the most important coffee-related vocabulary word, but it’s possibly the most fun! “A cup of Joe” is slang for a cup of coffee.
“To brew” is to make the coffee. There are different ways of brewing coffee, and many shops these days will have their own unique brewing methods.
Truthfully, coffee beans are actually berries . . . but in English, we call them “beans.”
To grind coffee beans is to put them in a machine and change them from bean shape to smaller pieces, which is what we use to make coffee. The past tense of “grind” is “ground.”
“Grinds” refer to how much we grind the coffee. We can grind the coffee a little (for a “coarser” grind) or a lot (for a “finer” grind).
“Coffee grounds” is the dark, wet stuff that remains after we make our coffee. Many people use coffee grounds in their garden: coffee grounds are great at helping plants grow!
Espresso is finely-ground coffee used for a cup of espresso. It is also added to water or milk for drinks such as a latte or a mocha. Fun fact: many people think that espresso has more caffeine in it than regular coffee . . . but this is not true!
Espresso and steamed milk are combined and then topped with foam, which is made by incorporating air into the milk.
Coffee + chocolate? What could be better? A mocha is similar to a latte, but chocolate is added. It is often topped with whipped cream.
KEEP LEARNING: Use this post in the classroom!
- It was nearly impossible for us to choose just five cafes: which coffee shops are we missing? Tell your class which cafes you’d add to the list and why.
- Do you know anyone who is addicted to coffee?
- What’s your favorite thing to order when at a cafe?
- How is coffee culture different in your country?
- In the U.S., adults often tell children that coffee cannot be consumed when you are young because it will stop you from growing. What silly things like this do adults tell children in your country?
- Go to Yelp.com and read the reviews of these cafes. Which ones do you agree with?
- Read this article on Forbes.com about the Starbucks Christmas cup controversy. Discuss this in class!
- Write your own review of one of your favorite cafes and post it to Yelp.com!
- Write an argumentative essay where you agree or disagree with the following prompt: “Food trends are silly and the best foods are those that are traditional.”
Watch this video “How Coffee Is Made” and note how they use the Passive Voice to describe the process.
For some practice with the British English accent, watch this video on Coffee Shop Secrets.
Watch these TED Talks about coffee!
“What You Didn’t Know About Coffee” by Asher Yaron
“The Culinary Art of Coffee” by David Schomer