Q&A With Andrew Barnett About Linea Caffe in San Francisco

Andrew Barnett pictured back in the day in his original Ecco Caffe roasting space in Santa Rosa, California.
Andrew Barnett pictured back in the day in his original Ecco Caffe roasting space in Santa Rosa, California.

Andrew Barnett pictured back in the day in his original Ecco Caffe roasting space in Santa Rosa, California.

Andrew Barnett has been one of the specialty coffee industry’s brightest stars since I’ve been in this coffee world—back in 2002 was the first time I met him, at a dinner in Seattle. Andrew is perhaps best known for founding the amazing roasting company out of Northern California, Ecco Caffe. In fact, Barista Magazine featured Andrew in a “Master Q&A” feature in our June/July 2006 issue.

A lot has happened in the coffee industry as well as with Andrew personally since then, and now he tells me he is more excited than ever about opening a new retail space in San Francisco called Linea Caffe. The space, located on 18th and San Carlos, is set to open in May.

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After I got the press release about the cafe from Andrew, I really wanted some answers to specific questions. The press release gave me some generalities, such as:

• Linea Caffe will be a stand-up espresso bar, plans for outdoor seating, indoor space is 292 square feetphoto-1 copy(Above, an inside shot of the build out at Andrew’s Linea Caffe.)

• Official website will be lineacaffe.com (still under construction. More info can be found at ltwaffle.com and greensalads.org

• Andrew is particularly excited that at the launch of Linea Caffe, chef Anthony Myint (Mission Chinese Food, Commonwealth, Mission Bowling Club) will be on board to prepare food.

Linea Caffe 18th Street SF exterior shot #1

But I wanted the answers to some other questions—knowing what a stickler Andrew is for details, and what a truly passionate coffee professional he is—with a long history of sourcing amazing coffees, judging the Cup of Excellence, as well as the World Barista Championship, and now to open a retail space where Andrew’s roasts will be featured thus combining all of his talents. So I asked Andrew to share with us a little more about what Linea Caffe (and btw, Linea, the Italian word for “line,” emphasizes the direct line connecting coffee farmers and coffee drinkers) will be all about.

So without further ado, please join me in my chat with Andrew about this new and exciting venture:

So tell me, what kinds of foods do you imagine LINEA serving?

Anthony Myint, co-owner and co-founder of Linea’s to-be neighbors, Commonwealth and Mission Chinese food, respectively, is in on the venture. He’ll be offering Brussels-style sweet and savory waffles under the moniker Lt. Waffle and GreenSalads.org, salads tossed-to-order and complete with a manifesto (we are most in line with the “Good ranch dressing is awesome” decree) here’s a link with more about Anthony’s salad philosophy: http://greensalads.org/ (please note, $1 from the sale of every salad benefits http://350.org/.  Linea Caffe’s coffee/espresso program will also have a charitable agenda.)

In the press release, you say foods that will complement the espresso program — that sounds exciting! You also say that Anthony is the first chef on board — so is he your business partner?

Anthony is not a partner, however, he is overseeing Linea’s food program, designing the menu, and training the kitchen staff.
I’m a huge fan of  Anthony’s cooking and his charitable ethos. I’m chomping at the bit to taste his Belgian-style waffles.

Is he one of many chefs who will rotate in and out of LINEA?

There are no plans to bring in any other chefs.

I love that you’ve called the cafe LINEA, and I appreciate what you say in the press release about how it has to do with the line connecting farmers and coffee drinkers. But you do have a long relationship with La Marzocco, so the name begs the question: Will you have one of the new Linea PBs in the shop?

No plans to bring in a PB Linea. However, there’s always that possibility. Like a number of other La Marzocco Linea fans, I can’t wait to check out the new PB model!

What kind of equipment will you be using?

It’s highly likely that we’ll launch with a La Marzocco Linea (exact model and specs TBD). On a side note, my first coffee venture was the Western Caffe It was based in Sonoma County, CA. The Western launched with a La Marzocco Linea. I loved that machine (and still do)!

I worked on Lineas from 1994 to 2008. (In 2008, I transitioned to a  La Marzocco FB80.) Some of the best espressos I’ve tasted in my life were prepared on La Marzocco Lineas.

In addition, we’re planning to go with Mazzer E series grinders (either Robur  or Kony , possibly a combo), and at least one Marco hot water boiler. (There may be more than one Marco boiler in place for different applications.)

Also, are you roasting in the retail space?

The Linea Caffe SF space is way  too small for  onsite  roasting (it’s a 292 square foot space). Linea Caffe will roast at the Highwire Coffee facility in Emeryville. CA. It’s a real sweet set up. Love the crew over at Highwire. They’re some of my favorite people in coffee. We’ll be roasting on a vintage 1950′s UG-22 Probat. Couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario!

Will you be direct sourcing all your coffees?

In our first year I’ll be sourcing about  85% of Linea’s coffees. I’ve had long standing working relationships with the majority of these farmers. The quality of their coffees and the level of craftsmanship that goes into producing these  are truly magnificent. A few of these farms have won the Cup of Excellence award multiple times. Quite frankly, I’m elated about the beautiful tasting coffee that we didn’t source ourselves.
One reserve micro lot that I’m  particularly stoked about is an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe that Linea’s buying from Coffee Shrub. It’s one of the most beautiful Yirgacheffe coffees I’ve tasted in years.

Linea will launch with a minimal and ultra focused coffee menu. Linea may not have the largest selection, but what we offer, promises to be the best of the best. I’ve always loved restaurants that only have a handful of items on the menu, all of them delicious!

Will the name of the roaster also be Linea Caffe?

Yes, the coffee brand/roaster will be known as Linea Caffe. It’s a dream doing something I love so much. I’m extremely fortunate to roast exemplary beans from a number of the top coffee farms in the world.
San Francisco’s Mission District is one of my favorite neighborhoods, anywhere. It’ll be awesome walking to work every day.
I can’t wait to share these incredibly delicious coffees with our friends and community.

Thank you, Andrew! And congratulations on Linea Caffe!

 

 

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.