JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,461 Location: Berkeley, CA Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -... Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -... Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup Drip: CCD, Chemex Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Fri Jan 11, 2013, 7:58am Subject: Great Espresso in Oakland: Monkey Forest Road on Grand Ave.
First mentioned (albeit briefly) in this post within a thread on another, now-defunct café last January (2012), which I missed, I had reason to be on Oakland's Grand Avenue and literally stumbled upon this place inside of an old bank. (If not for an open parking place on a notoriously parking-is-difficult-to-find street, I never would have seen it.)
Monkey Forest Road bills itself as a "Coffee Bar + Indonesian Art Gallery." It's a large place, as befits a former bank, and actually has a good sided outdoor seating area with tables. Inside is a counter with seats against a window, and several rows of chair-table-chair combinations (think airport departure lounge) in a room crammed with Indonesian art. That said, it's light, airy, and visually stunning, with large windows that open in warmer weather.
Monkey Forest utilizes a three-group LM Strada, with both a Mazzer Robur and Anfim Super Caimano, using Verve Coffee from Santa Cruz. (Yes!) They also make press pot and pourover (with individual Clever drippers), with a Mahlkönig Guatemala Lab grinder, using a variety of coffees including (seasonally) S.O. beans. A wide selection of tea is also offered.
All their baked goods are done in-house from scratch with many being gluten-free and there are vegan options. (OK, yes, this is California, and reasonably close to Berkeley. What can I say?) Food offerings increase on the weekends. (NOTE: I didn't have any.)
I ordered a double espresso "for here" and a latte "to go." The espresso was great -- served in a solid-feeling demitasse, it was as good as anything I've had at Verve, and better than any other espresso I've had in the entire East Bay. Seriously. The latte was velvety smooth, flavorful and darned near perfect. Truly. Excellent.
Most of us regulars here know that our own espresso -- the stuff we make at home -- is, at worst, better than 98+% of the drinks we get in cafés. This is a place that I will definitely be returning to.
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