Bica Coffee House is a charming little corner shop in the Rockridge district of Oakland. Though relatively unassuming, it is a solid coffee stop that posesses something unique; it carries multiple roaster’s coffees. Through my experience, this can be a double edged sword. Although such an unrivaled degree of variety gives customers tons of options, some stores are unable to regularly replenish their supplies to ensure freshness, maintain a consistent stock, or are generally haphazard in their approach to understanding their sourced beans in-depth. In short, this concept does not always work. Bica, however, works.
The store itself was very low key. Bright, quaint, calm, and relaxing despite operating in a busy city. My barista was charming, pleasant, and well versed in the coffee she was preparing. Furthermore, I was impressed by her depth of knowledge. It always irks me a little when I ask a barista about the beans and they reply with some moot, unintelligible or completely unthoughtout answer. The more I pry, the less I get, and the more disappointed I am. More often then I would like to admit, this sadly happens at places that do their own roasting. Baristas, you represent an enterprise and someone’s livelihood, please be educated about the product, it’s why we come. At a multi-roaster shop like Bica, it seems like this task is doubly difficult. However, my barista reassured me with her very thorough explanations. She also knew a lot about the roasters and why particular beans were used for their assigned purposes. And, she was exceedingly friendly about it. I feel confident letting the guys and gals at Bica make my coffee for this reason alone; they know what they’re talking about.
Bica features many famous from all over the country including Intelligentsia, Ritual, Temple FGC, Stumptown, and Verve, providing their customers with endless choices for their espresso and regular coffee. Despite the aforementioned barriers, this method is for the most part extremely advantageous; I love Ritual’s espresso and Intelligentsia’s S.O., now I can have both in the same visit. In fact, I am often torn between visiting shops, it largely depends on whether I want a cap or coffee. Bica solves my “first world” dilemma. I also appreciate that they carefully choose specific coffees to fit various needs: certain roasters blends are used as espresso while others are featured strictly as a pour over. The buyers know what works and what doesn’t, and having the ability to work between many roasters allows Bica to use what is “best” for their needs. Having this perception is unrivaled. It also gives them a huge advantage to offer a huge dynamic of flavors and the freedom to make drastic changes and experiment (beans rotate frequently and they’re quite fresh, I checked the dates on their retail bags) If they do this correctly, places like Bica should be a node for coffee enthusiasts who now have the ability to try a plethora of different coffees in a single space from a staff who understands the best ways to utilize these amazing beans.
Furthermore, I enjoy the fact that featuring multiple roasters illustrates a communal love of coffee and a sharing of passions. Rather than focusing on an image, rivalries, and the slow saturation of the market does create a certain bitter edge to the industry, a subliminal superiority complex, or some other off-putting business characteristic that detracts from the coffee itself. Let’s just not forget why we are here; we love coffee. Ritual loves coffee, Intelligentsia loves coffee, and we love all their coffee, so why not put them all together? This love of coffee without the politics behind the bean is really fantastic. Bica is about bringing the best stuff together and sharing the love.
My cap was made using Verve’s Street Level Espresso. I have had it multiple times and it was just as tasty as ever. The milk was rather wet but very presentable. The flavor was, as I expected, bright and balanced though the shot was pulled a little long and was a little espresso heavy. Pleasant and relatively mild, using a great bean to do a great job.
The concept behind Bica and other multi-roast shops is really attractive and practical. If one were to make a shop and source beans, why not feature the best of the best? Why not venture out and find what makes the best S.O. shot, the tastiest Guatemalan pour over, or an excellent cold brew bean? While the idea may have practical barriers in terms of freshness and consistency, Bica has alleviated these concerns and done a terrific job ensuring their beans are of the highest quality. Furthermore, with their wealth of bean knowledge and vast selection, they are utilizing these fine roasters in the best way possible.
- The fact I could get Ritual and Intel in the same visit
- Slow pace
- Their obvious commitment to their mission in ensuring quality and knowledge
Bica Coffee House
5701 College Ave
Oakland, CA 94618