Picture this: a high-end cafe serving specialty coffee in the embrace of a hip, up-and-coming neighborhood. Not hard to imagine, right? And rightly so, as the relationship is almost symbiotic: a great cafe, like a cool restaurant or classy bar, can be the catalyst for neighborhood change, and give urban dwellers an excuse to explore parts of their city whose paths are not commonly beaten. Piccino Cafe in San Francisco’s once dismal Dogpatch neighborhood is a great example of this, and chances are your town or city has one, too.
Conversely, a great neighborhood can be a honey-trap that draws the specialty-coffee flies, and in this day and age, specialty coffee—in myriad quality and form—can be found almost everywhere. Marc and Mari Callado, the co-founders of Shift Local (an organization dedicated to helping grow the buy-local movement) and proud residents of Oakland, are looking to show you nooks and crannies of the Bay Area coffee scene you might not yet know about with the introduction of the Indie Coffee Passport.
Priced at $25, the Indie Coffee Passport (or ICP) allows consumers the opportunity to try a “free” coffee or tea from 22 participating cafes located in eight East Bay cities stretching along Interstate 580. Marc Callado first discovered a similar program in Toronto while researching “disloyalty programs” (rewards programs based on customers visiting a collective of independent shops) and knew that he wanted to bring it back to the Bay Area. With the philosophy “making a cafe a destination is a wonderful thing” in mind, Callado reached out to every cafe he could think of in the East Bay area, and received 22 participants in return.
Oakland and Berkeley are the cities most people think of when they think of coffee in the East Bay region of northern California. The Callados want to expand that vision by including coffee shops in more out-of-the-way places (like Hayward and El Cerrito) as well as spots in Oakland and Berkeley that are less-visited, far from the better-traversed areas like Rockridge or Temescal.
The coffee shops featured by ICP are cultivating communities all their own. Places like Barnstormer’s Coffee in Dublin, the Catahoula Coffee Company in Richmond, and éko Coffee Bar and Tea House in Hayward—these are cafes we've never featured before on Sprudge. Some may be a bit old school, but they've got ardent fans and regulars. The Callados want to help people, in their own words, “discover their own coffee community in their own backyard.”
Not every coffee shop can be a Blue Bottle or a Four Barrel; not every coffee shop can have a prime location on Telegraph or Temescal. That's a good thing! Diversity in cafe experiences and locations is part of a robust and vibrant coffee scene, which the Bay Area has and then some. The Indie Coffee Passport is helping to shine a little light toward the East Bay, and in doing so, showcasing just how big and how diverse a community it is.
Noah Sanders is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in San Francisco, and a contributor to SF Weekly & The Bold Italic. Read more Noah Sanders on Sprudge.