Kevin “Tex” Bohlin, a longtime Ritual Coffee Roasters barista and United States Barista Championship competitor, has signed the lease on a former nail salon in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. His intent is to open “a specialty coffee bar and retailer focusing on relationally sourced coffees for a greater enjoyment of life from seed to cup.” The cafe itself will be big – with a lofted second floor that will house a training lab, office, and additional seating. The cafe will serve coffees sourced and roasted by Ritual Coffee exclusively for Saint Frank.
The plan is to work directly with Ritual Coffee Roasters to source coffees from small holders, and build relationships with individual growers. Kevin has traveled to source alongside Ritual Coffee Roasters' green buyer Steve Ford, sourcing small lots for competition. Through the years, they've developed a strong rapport. His connection with Ritual and Steve are one of the many reasons this kind of partnership is possible. The menu will have a rotating selection of small lot coffees.
“I'm coming into a new market and want to build appreciation for names and faces,” Mr. Bohlin says.
Sprudge.com recently caught up with Mr. Bohlin over a nice Kalita pour at Wrecking Ball Roasters. Turns out that Saint Frank is a project that's been four years in the making, ever since Tex started at Ritual Coffee Roasters. Mr Bohlin told us: “Being in an environment where there was such a strong value on the relationships with the producers and such transparency – I've never seen that before I moved to San Francisco. That just really shaped me and where I wanted to go with coffee. I said I wanted to start my own thing with a high value on relationship and community with the producers.”
His determination for this kind of producer-retailer relationship was evident during Mr. Bohlin's 2012 United State Barista Championship cycle, where producer Juan Luis Barrios Ortega played an integral role in his routine for Tex's competition coffee La Merced, a farm located in the very same region he had his first cup of coffee in Guatemala.
To start, the cafe will have an exclusive menu of coffees unavailable anywhere else. We spoke with Ritual Coffee Roasters founder Eileen Hassi on the phone, who expressed excitement for such a destination in San Francisco, and a genuine admiration for Tex. “Kevin's amazing. He's an incredibly charismatic person, incredibly passionate about coffee. He was a legend among our customers about always being so excited about coffee. I've always been excited about entrepenuership – he'll really be the first [Ritual employee] to open his own place.”
Ms. Hassi went on: “I'm also curious and excited to see how his model works out – because it's an innovative relationship with the producers – and to not be involved in the roasting process and trust us with that. If it works? We'll certainly try it with other people. I think it has a ton of potential.”
Sign up for updates on the build-out online, and follow @StFrankCoffee on Twitter for more info. Mr. Bohlin will compete on behalf of Saint Frank at this weekend's Southwest Regional Barista Competition, a complete schedule for which you can find here.