Blue Bottle branches out into Berkeley

Jasmany Flores/Senior Staff

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Artisan coffee chain Blue Bottle Coffee is set to open its new Berkeley location Saturday.

The cafe, located at 2118 University Ave., will offer various coffee drinks as well as menu items such as avocado toast and poached eggs. The company sells and serves responsibly sourced coffee beans within 48 hours of roasting, and is known for its pour over coffee and New Orleans-style iced coffee.

Although Blue Bottle Coffee has locations as close as Oakland and as distant as Tokyo, this is the company’s first cafe in Berkeley — and a return to its roots. The company’s founder started his business selling coffee at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, according to Alexandra Chan, regional director of retail for Northern California.

“We feel we’ve come full circle,” Chan said. “There’s just a really strong connection to the neighborhood.”

Blue Bottle Coffee reached out to community centers and schools before opening in Berkeley and will continue to emphasize community relations, possibly hosting events such as latte art competitions and pop-up shops for local businesses, Chan said.

“Ideally we’ll become a place where people can gather,” Chan said. “Our best locations are the ones where you walk in and everyone knows your name and asks how your dog is. Both baristas and guests crave that connection.”

Architect Lincoln Lighthill said he specifically designed the Berkeley location’s interior to promote interactions between the baristas and the customers. The counter is divided into smaller stations to “increase the feeling that you’re getting something handmade,” he said, while the “engine block-sized” espresso machines are hidden beneath the counters so baristas can talk with customers face to face.

UC Berkeley graduate student Elizabeth Gilbert said during a preview event Thursday that she appreciated the Berkeley location’s many tables.

“That’s what students usually look for — where they can come and spend a lot of time,” Gilbert said.

Though patrons at the preview event said the cafe will be popular among students, campus senior David Tsai said that the popularity may only last a few months.

“People on Southside will say, ‘Oh, it’s not worth it’ ” to make the trek to Blue Bottle Coffee, Tsai said, and will instead choose somewhere “closer and cheaper.”

A small cup of coffee costs $3.50 at Blue Bottle, compared to $1.95 at Starbucks and $1.50 at Yali’s Café, which are both located on nearby Oxford Street.

For campus senior Travis Buckman, the higher price is worth it for a “unique coffee experience.”

“You can go anywhere and get a cup of coffee for $2, (but) when someone sits down and takes the time to talk with you about your choice, the different experience makes it more valuable,” Buckman said. “I don’t have high standards but I do understand and appreciate the process of making good coffee.”

Contact Lillian Holmes at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LillianQHolmes.