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Something's Brewing in Martinez

Apr 04, 2016 01:09PM ● By Alison Clary

By Alison Clary

If you’re a coffee aficionado and care about sustainability or you just want your caffeine fix, explore Martinez for these independent coffee establishments. Each one has its own personality, but they’re all in step with consumer preferences and trends in coffee culture.


Barrelista owner Arash Pakzad contends, “Before anything else, we are a proud coffee shop,” but the Wakin’ Bacon Panini with killer housemade sriracha aioli is worth the trip alone. He says, “When you come in, your only option is to have all organic dairy, all natural, antibiotic-free meats, fresh baked and local pastries, award winning, fair trade, single origin coffees (from award-winning roaster Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco), and friendly hospitality. We employ local, we are owned local, and all revenue generated stays local.”  


Barrelista is known for serving to-go iced espresso drinks in reusable, take-home glass mason jars (with 50 cents off future drinks). They have used and reused about 35,000 such jars and hope to quadruple that number next year. Barrelista is also proud of their house made chai, over 20 organic teas, and nitro coffee (a cold, steeped brew infused with nitrogen and served on tap like beer, with effervescence and a foamy head).


Mountain Grounds’ owner John Cassidy spoke of their dedication to building a stronger community, both locally and afar. As of this writing, John is in Costa Rica “fighting hand in hand” with migrant farming communities to stop the recent coffee “rust” fungus in Central America by planting resistant hybrids.


John says the trend in coffee is “consumer awareness in every aspect of the coffee chain. Not just for the customer, but for workers, farmers, exporters, importers, owners, sourcers, roasters, managers, baristas, and the cup it goes in.” A huge advocate for Martinez, John says, “Statistics say that money spent locally stays in your community three times longer.” I dropped by this friendly small-scale shop and savored a cup of Sulawesi, described on the chalkboard as “a fully washed Indonesian blend with fudgy, cedarwood and honey flavors.”


States Coffee and Mercantile occupies a renovated brick building and fans say it channels a hip, industrial “Portland” vibe. It features a sleek open room with large windows, a shiny cement floor, mid-century furnishings, and upscale, American made gifts identified by state of origin. States’ owner Keith Gehrke designed the KONE coffee filter for the Able Brewing Company, and they use it to brew each cup before your eyes. The reusable, stainless steel filter saves hundreds of paper substitutes and, to my delight, its tiny holes grant access to more flavorful oils. Currently, States features coffees from Java, Papua New Guinea, and Columbia, and manager Justin Gomez says, “Whether customers ask or not, we always share the origin and tasting notes of the coffee they order. Since the coffee cherry is a fruit, that depends on the season and what meets our standards.”


I spot a fridge filled with longneck bottles of cold brews, a popular new trend, and Justin points out the varieties, “including our signature 1849 blend, the year Martinez was established.” A separate roasting room is around the corner and Justin tells me that bi-weekly, small-batch roastings occur on-site, “literally 15 feet away from where the coffee is brewed and served. ” With one large central table surrounded by barstools, this immaculate room is primed for public tasting and education. A future goal is to make the coffee trade, from bean to beverage, more accessible.


Whether you’re in for a connoisseur experience or a “regular cuppa Joe,” the friendly baristas at these three spots walk the talk when it comes to the evolving coffee market.


Barrelista, 736 Main St.

Mountain Grounds, 3750 Alhambra Ave.

States Coffee and Mercantile, 609 Ward St.