Some cafes are never closed, open every day, rain or shine, global pandemic be damned. But on December 25th, 2022, The Coffee Movement—a specialty coffee bar in San Francisco, on the border of Nob Hill and Chinatown—shuttered its doors for the first time since opening in early 2019.
This isn’t another 2023 closure story, thankfully. The reason co-founder Reef Bessette and Bryan Overstreet chose to close this day was out of joyful practicality: the opening of their second location, a gorgeous new coffee bar on Balboa and 19th, in the heart of the Richmond District. “We can’t have only one person at each location,” Bessette says, sitting at the window counter of their new outpost. The new location is considerably larger than the first, an intimate, outdoor seating only space one block east the San Francisco Cable Car Museum, with trollies full of tourists rumbling by every 15 minutes. Here in the Richmond, a butter-colored Volkswagen van Overstreet bought and renovated in 2017 sits parked out front, a reminder of The Coffee Movement’s original incarnation as a mobile catering and pop-up concept.
Bessette and Overstreet met each other nearly a decade ago when the two crossed paths at The Mill, where Overstreet worked as a barista and Bessette had a brief stint in QC. They hit it off as friends and stayed in touch when Bessette went to Saint Frank Coffee, where worked as a barista, trainer, and in QC and built his base as a barista competitor. He’s competed previously in the both United States Barista Competitions and Coffee Masters, and still does under The Coffee Movement flag, most recently taking second place at the 2022 New York Coffee Festival. Overstreet is no slouch when it comes to competitions either. In his first year competing in 2022, he placed fifth at the United States Barista Championship.
The relationship with Saint Frank is still close—Bessette uses their coffees in competition and as The Coffee Movement’s house blend, a blend of natural and washed coffees that they serve as both espresso and filter. As a multi roaster, they serve three domestic roasters and one international roaster at a time, rotating their international roaster and one of their domestic roasters every quarter. Currently, they serve Manhattan Coffee Roasters out of Rotterdam, Madcap Coffee of Grand Rapids, and Onyx Coffee Lab of Rogers, Arkansas. In addition to a Modbar-based espresso bar, where customers order with their barista and are moved sequentially assembly-line style from right to left to the register as their drink is made, the coffee program here is based around batch brew. Borrowing the same system Bessette tested out at Saint Frank, and was inspired by G&B in Los Angeles, The Coffee Movement offers multiple single origin filter coffees on batch brew at a time, which is enabled by their use of glass insulated Zojirushi canisters, which they brew into directly.
“The thing I was always concerned about was waste,” Bessette says. “The system and equipment we use has helped us to minimize waste to almost zero.” By FETCO brewing directly into a vacuum-sealed carafe, their coffee doesn’t oxidize over time. “And because the contact is with class rather than metal, as long as you keep the glass clean, the coffee doesn’t absorb any weird flavors you get with a normal canister.” This means that The Coffee Movement is able to maximize the variety of coffee they serve in a given day while minimizing their footprint. At the Nob Hill location, they were able to do away with slow drip entirely, which was an important space saving measure in a cafe one-eighth the size of their location in the Richmond, where slow drip remains on the menu alongside expanded options from Song Tea and signature drinks like the currently-wintry ginger spice latte and espresso mule.
With the extra room, Bessette and Overstreet plan on opening a food program, starting with vegan cookies and breads and moving on to yogurt and granola. Bassette says he’s proud to have spaces that can be consistently relied on for the people who live in the neighborhood.
“If you’re not a barista, you don’t have to have a coffee set up because you know that the place that you go to is open all the time,” Bassette says. “I think it just gives it that extra Cheers vibe to it, where we’re a community neighborhood sort of coffee shop.”
The Coffee Movement slowing down at the end of this year, even for a day, is significant. “It feels weird,” Bessette says. “But I’m also tired. I’m ready for a little break.” On December 26th he—and the rest of The Coffee Movement—went right back at work.
Michael Light is a freelance journalist in the Bay Area. Read more Michael Light for Sprudge.