Ritual’s Roastery Tour
This time I went to Ritual’s Roastery in San Francisco with my friend Christine. We were looking for a sign of the location on Howard Street — it was supposed to be red.
I was surprised to see the founder of Ritual there. Eileen gave us a brief history of why and how she started Ritual. It sounded more like a personal story than if someone else introduced it.
“They were not roasting/making coffee the way I like, that’s why I decided to start my own coffee business!”
— A typical motivation for new and legendary brands in coffee.There are already so many great roasters doing fabulously according to their own values, but people never stop creating and carving out their niches. I love this creativity and stubbornness. Eileen mentioned that back then very few started to roast lightly and Ritual was the first third-wave shop to open sitting-down space. Blue Bottle had kiosks at that time, and they would recommend people to each other’s shop to check out the coffee. Again, it was a relatively small world of excited coffee people. I couldn’t help but compare her description with the coffee scene in the Bay area today — definitely a much more inclusive world of people lining up, and many of them for single-origins.
When they started there was the new vision that San Francisco would be known for gooood coffee — I smiled because that was precisely one of the attractions for me.
After Eileen’s intro, our lovely and knowledgable guide went through some history of three waves in coffee. Meanwhile we were tasting the two drip brews they had — Manyana, Rwanda and Los Sobrantes, Honduras.
I didn’t do much research about Ritual before this tour and my only previous experience was a well-rounded Columbia single origin I had at their “box location”. The Honduras smelled pleasantly floral and in my mouth it was very tea-like…almost too rushing to finish for me. The Rwanda one lingered longer and brought out more sweetness in body, which I preferred in coffee.
So their signature was Light Roast (shortly after first crack). And Clarity of the cup. I am not a fan of dark roast but I don’t embrace the characteristic whole-heartedly either. (Going back to personal preference again.) :-) However, I appreciate that they hold their own standard of style and devote a lot of attention to it. For example, choosing Latin America and African beans and roasting lightly. That was indeed a spirit of innovation and boldness. Regarding quality control, they also test the roasts with procedures like cupping and sample roasting, meanwhile ensuring the time from harvest to roast, from roast to transportation are both short. Fresh coffee~
Comparing Intelligentsia and Ritual, I see some leading patterns in specialty coffee work: focuses on seasonality, direct sourcing, attention to quality from packaging to roasting, scientific roasting complemented by sensory roasting, distinct style that attracts its own customers.
The roaster machine, by the way, stood there in the middle like a work of heart. With a cute contrast was a sophisticated computer screen showing two curves next to the vintage-looking giant. It was Temperature vs. Time curve and the derivative of it. Good to know, but I wasn’t that curious into maths to ask more.
P.S. They are in their 12th year already. And opening a new location soon.
Touring roaster is so fun I don’t know when I would get tired of it.