This cafe is next to my work place. I pass by on a daily basis, and I usually don’t stop. I’ve had an occasional cup of joe, and today since I neglected to get my shot of espresso from Blue Bottle, and also neglected to get enough of the freshest espresso from Moschetti, I figured I’d get a shot of espresso from The Coffee and Tea Leaf.

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf - San Francisco

A “small” shot is $1.75 and a “large” shot is $2.25. I decided to see what they could do with a “small” shot. As is my usual habit, I planted myself in a place where I could watch the barista do her thing. She loaded up the portafilter with a mound of already ground coffee from the grinder’s doser. Then she didn’t bother to tamp the coffee and just stuffed the portafilter into the Cimbali Espresso Machine. A paper cup was placed on one side of the dual spout portafilter and a shot glass was placed on the other side. The shot was poured and it was all of a 5 second shot. The paper cup was handed to me, and the shot glass was unceremoniously dumped.

I opened the lid of the cup and stared at a watery bit of espresso that had almost zero crema. I took a whiff and the espresso had little aroma, and the taste was bitter, and little coffee flavor. There was zero body to the espresso and no-silky texture. One sip and I threw away the cup with the remaining espresso. It was a crappy experience and I’ll not buy another cup of coffee or espresso.

The curious thing to me is that there’s always a crowd there, and I see folks who are regulars, and I wonder why.

Don’t bother getting a shot of espresso from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. They have no interest in quality coffee. It is obviously not fresh, since there is no crema, and I don’t think the baristas are up to the challenge of pulling a decent shot.

On an espresso rating scale of 1-5, they get a 1. Poor taste, poor execution.

I recommend that the owners, managers, and employees of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafe march down the street to Blue Bottle on Mint Street and experience what a good shot of espresso looks like, and tastes like. Then march right back to your cafe and practice until you can pull a good shot of espresso.

I am gathering up a list of San Francisco Bay Area Coffee Roasters. Why? Well, because I love coffee, and I want to try as much high quality micro roasted coffee as I possibly can. Here are a few I’ve tried and like.

San Francisco Bay Area Coffee Roasters
Moschetti Espresso
Moschetti is a Northern California Microroaster of the finest organic, and pesticide-free, shade-grown, fresh roasted coffee beans. Small batch roasting insures the freshest coffee and finest control of the flavor profile of each single origin coffee bean or blend of the world’s most fascinating coffees. Located in the North San Francisco Bay Area, Moschetti roasts coffee on a daily basis insuring the freshest espresso.
Moschetti strives for dynamic, sweet, earthy, balanced and complex flavors by carefully choosing coffee beans from the world’s
coffee growing regions. We love and respect coffee. Contact Fabrice Moschetti for all your coffee and espresso needs, whether it be freshly roasted coffee beans or top of the line espresso machines.
Blue Bottle Coffee
Blue Bottle Cafe is San Francisco Microroaster.
Pacific Bay Coffee Inc.
Pacific Bay is a San Francisco Coffee Roaster
Ritual Coffee Roasters
Ritual Coffee is a San Francisco Coffee Roaster
Rogers Gourmet Coffee & Tea Market
Roger’s Gourmet Coffee & Tea Markets a San Francisco Coffee Roaster
Graffeo Coffee Roasting Company
Graffeo is a San Francisco Coffee Roaster

Stopped by Moschetti Espresso on Saturday and got to sample a new lighter roast Moschetti Dolce Espresso. The espresso was roasted that morning, and so we got to enjoy the freshest possible coffee.

I was made the afternoon Barista, and I happily pulled shots for Fabrice and the crew from the Classic Conte Lever Espresso Machine. I love this machine. A few shots later I had the grind and tamp dialed in and we got to enjoy an intoxicating coffee that produces a huge aroma and crema and was sweet with a big burst of yummy flavor.

I also got to sample a just roasted batch of Guatemalan Espresso. This coffee has a more savory note compared to the Dolce Espresso, and has enormous chocolate and notes caramel and other wonderful flavors I’m still digesting.

Moschetti Guatemala Espresso

I patiently waited five minutes for my shot of espresso. Most days the wait is twenty or twenty five minutes, and this is usually around 7:45 in the morning, Monday through Friday. Yep, I take a Ferry into the city and I pass by Blue Bottle every morning. I’d be happy to start my day with a shot of Blue Bottle Elixir, but I have to make a living and dragging my fanny into work late because I’ve been standing in line for 25 minutes isn’t going to cut it. So most mornings I stroll by Peets around the corner and get one of their inferior shots or big cup of tasty Joe.

Blue Bottle Cafe opened their San Francisco Ferry Building Cafe a few months ago. Early on they struggled with the basics. That is, making coffee drinks in a timely manner and getting people in and out. At first they opened their side window, with three-group La Marzocco Linea early in the morning and their normal line at the Lever Mirage Triplette three-group manual machine. This was good. Two lines moved way faster than one line. Now however, they don’t open the side window until 10am. And so you have one machine, and a big line of folks. It’s easy to overwhelm a slow moving cafe.

Typically, on a Friday morning or afternoon, I like to pick up a couple pounds of fresh espresso beans for the weekend. I’ll be pulling a ton of shots and making Lattes and Cappuccinos non stop over the weekend, and I want fresh beans. Peets isn’t always so fresh. Blue Bottle is, but most Fridays they are out of beans. Totally. I mean no beans at all on the shelf. Or if there are beans on the shelf then they are not espresso roasts. I’ve suggested to the Blue Bottle folks that perhaps they could consider stocking the shelves Friday morning and taking advantage of all those folks heading home for the weekend. You can’t sell what you don’t have. Well Blue Bottle said I should order my beans online, and that way I get them fresh delivered to my door. Well at $15-$16 a pound plus another $5 or more for shipping, that’s an expensive habit.

I will say however that when I do hold out and stand in line for a shot of espresso, it is amazing. It’s as though an Angel has pissed on my tongue. The intensity, and complexity of the fragrant and floral overtones of Ethiopian and the deep rich undertones of earth and chocolate, leave me weak kneed.

Yesterday morning the line was short and I jumped into line. Looked on the shelf for espresso beans, 17 foot Ceiling or another offering, and as is usual there were none. Sigh. Placed my order and watched my lovely Barista pull five shots until she got one that was good enough for my indulgence. She reset her grinder once, and set a timer a couple times. Each pull was discarded until number five. I deeply breathed in that fragrance from the Heath Espresso Cup, and quickly filled my mouth with the 1/2 ounce of goodness. Every tooth got a coating, as well my tongue and mouth complete. I breathed in through my mouth and my nose and swished and swallowed, and was almost overwhelmed by the amazing flavor. I thanked my Barista over and over and I think I even bowed as I asked if it was ok to lick my cup.

Le’Lit pl53 Espresso Burr Grinder

After buying a Breville BCG450XL Conical Burr Grinder to grind coffee for my family’s Miss Silvia Espresso Machine, and finding out that it did not grind as advertised, I returned it to the store. I replaced this crummy grinder with a Le’Lit pl53 Espresso Burr Grinder.

I chose the Le’Lit pl53 Espresso Burr Grinder because of the good reviews and the price point. Mind you, at $230 + I don’t think this grinder is a cheap grinder, but compared to $300-$400-$600 Grinders I saw Coffee and Espresso Addicts using, I thought it might work.

Ordered the Le’Lit from 1st Line Equipment. There was a sale and free shipping which sweetened the deal. Got the grinder and filled it up with some stale beans I had laying around to try it out and to flush away any manufacturing crud. From the factory the grind was beyond even Turkish grind and it immediately choked Miss Silvia. After a bunch of shots I finally dialed it in to beyond 25 turns backed off. Replaced the stale beans with some fresh Mistral Espresso beans from Moschetti Coffee Roasters and set about to fine tune the amazingly infinitely adjustable grind of the Le’Lit.

Shortly I was pulling the best espresso shots I’d ever pulled. I was in hog heaven.

Since getting the Le’Lit I’ve gone through probably 15 or 20 pounds of various coffee roasts. While the grinder does a good job of grinding mostly clump free and very light and fluffy grounds it does have issues.

The first is the grinder is loud. The metal casing obviously contributes to the noise level since the stainless panels rattle and vibrate while grinding. My wife has moved my grinding facilities to the laundry room where I can close the door to grind coffee.

The second issue is that the plastic hopper broke after a couple months of use. Turns out that the metal surrounding the entrance hole for the hopper has a burr that slowly but surely scratches a line around the hopper mouth. Eventually the plastic mouth breaks off. 1st line promptly and cheerfully replaced the hopper under warranty. The service at 1st Line is very excellent.

The third issue is that the Le’Lit does not like oily beans. They quickly jam up and the grinder makes that runaway sound of an engine suddenly losing load. It’s annoying since you have rattle the grinder around and sometimes poke a bamboo skewer in the hopper to get the beans moving. This one issue is going to make me get rid of this grinder. It’s too much of a chore.

The fourth issue is that the parts of the Le’Lit do not fit all that well. This becomes very apparent as you take the grinder apart to clean it. The spout requires much effort to remove the thumb screw, and even more effort to replace it. The holes do not properly line up. This is also true with other stainless steel panels of the grinder. I’m contemplating replacing the side panels with some wood to quiet the grinder down and to get better fitment.

In the end I’m not sure I can recommend the Le’Lit pl53 Espresso Burr Grinder. If you need to get an infinitely adjustable coffee grinder that is reasonably inexpensive, that will grind fine enough for espresso, and you can deal with the noisy nature of the beast and its seemingly inability to handle oily coffee beans, then perhaps it will work for you.