Ritual Roasters

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The Ritual Roasters Kiosk in Hayes has really set a new standard for me in terms of quality, customer service, and passion for the craft. Hayes Valley is synonymous with good “snobby” coffee, so our group decided to stop by the new-ish kiosk. These high-end kiosks that Ritual and Blue Bottle are doing throughout the city are incredible. I won’t dwell on specifics (check out my BB Hayes review for a chat on kiosks), but these are really great spots.

Even though the Hayes location it is not a formal cafe, it is an impressive space none the less; immacualte, cleanly designed, and thoroughly decorated with Ritual’s red color scheme. The fully functional kiosk features a pro-level bar offering pour overs and espresso from Mazzers and a La Marzocco. I liked how “formal” the space appeared despite the fact it is just a kiosk. I also fancied the display for their bean offerings with thorough explanations of sourcing and flavor profiles. The atmosphere fits the professional demeanor of Ritual Roasters and the open space offers a very mellow coffee experience for those who care to hang around. The barista never pressured us to order. Instead, she engaged us in conversation for quite some time while we hung out at the bar.

In many cases, the barista can really make or break the image of a store; they are the one’s creating and presenting the final product. Let’s just say, the coffee industry is a place for “characters.” While there are many outstanding bar techs, it is undeniable that a bad “character” (either lacking in skill, professional knowledge, or common social skills) can sully the entire experience. The barista at the Ritual Kiosk was one of the most professional and compassionate employees I have run into at a service job in the last few years, period. I would go out on a limb to say that her approach had less to do with training and more to do with the fact that someone on the Ritual hiring staff hires “good characters.” I’m not fawning, promise.

What’s more, it was clear that she loved her job. Lots of baristas are skilled and friendly, but she had something that many others lack, honest passion. What I mean is she had an uninhibited display of how much she loved coffee and the craft without letting an ego diminish that. As we were discussing the offer sheet (a series of El Salvador beans), we asked for a suggestion. She offered us any of the S.O.s or blends a shot or a straight pour over. When we inquired about the flavor profiles, she literally entered a 3 minute “mini-lecture” about each bean in amazing detail, everything from sourcing to personal cupping notes (not what the offer sheet stated). Best of all, she did it in the most non-pretentious manner.While it is hard to really explain how this enhanced our visit, let’s just say subtle references, terms, and grueling details only a coffee nerd would (or should) care about demonstrated the level of training at Ritual. Atleast, I hope think this was the result of Ritual’s training. Biased, a friend of mine also works for Ritual. Though I have never seen him on bar, he was shown me this same characteristic. Ritual seems to empowers its employees with knowledge so they can have total command over the space and understand the product to a degree of intimacy that is difficult to surpass. The Hayes location was a winner even before I tasted my cap.

I was immediately blown away by my cap. I told her it was one of the best I have ever had, easily top 5, and I meant it. Even though this was my third/fourth drink of the last hour, it was unbelievably good and stood out above the rest. The flavor was incredibly well defined and very pronounced. While most stand out either because of the milk or espresso flavor, somehow this one was able to emphasize both. One minute, I was raving about the espresso and the next, I was convinced the milk made the drink. The texture was phenomenal, the temperature was spot on, and everything felt was incredibly balanced in a way that let me savor every element. The aftertaste, strangely enough, stood out prominently. Most of the time, espresso is very fleeting, especially in complex blends. Your pallet reads 5 different flavors over the course of 2 seconds, and then vanishes as you absorb the body. This cap left a wonderful tapering flavor. Making an A- cap is easy, getting an A+ is a rare occasion. All this went through my head over the course of about 15 seconds, and the barista simply replied, “thank you, I am glad you like it.” Class.

All of the sudden, we were told, “today is the 1 year anniversary for the opening of this kiosk, so you guys get cupcakes!” As if from no where came a full plate  of chocolate cupcakes with little Ritual flags. Wow, awesome on so many levels. At this point I was so caffeinated and sweet-ed out from snacking around SF that I couldn’t handle it. Out of courtesy, I shared one with my buddy. Even though it was pure luck, it’s nice to know that even a small kiosk isn’t overlooked and will go lengths for the customer. Very nice

Overall it was a great experience service-wise and certainly because of the cap. It would have been hard for me to take sides with red or blue during the Hayes coffee battle. For me, Ritual sets itself apart from its competitor in many obvious (the young, cool, hip, personal customer service and image) and other subtle ways (differences in espresso and brewing methods). I think their approach to coffee in a more individual-empowered manner contrasts a lot with the “we’re very professional and mature about coffee” image of Blue Bottle. If I want to sit and engage in coffee talk and knowledge as well as enjoy a more dynamic cap, I think I will go to Ritual.

I liked:

  • Their care of coffee
  • Space and over the top “red” decor
  • Cupcakes
  • Phenomenal cap
  • The apparent training methods of Ritual
  • The commitment to a knowledgable staff
Ritual Kiosk
432 Octavia
(between Fell St & Linden St)
San Francisco, CA 94102

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