Sprudge Maps Spotlights is back! Our worldwide compendium of incrdible coffee bars helps grow the incredible resource that *is* Sprudge Maps, presented in partnership with Pacific Foods and La Marzocco and part of our ongoing work with Apple Maps. It’s the world’s foremost free compendium of excellent coffee bars large and small, new and old, all over this coffee-loving earth. And today we’re taking a look at a particularly cool new cafe that actually has a ton of history—it’s both old and new at the same time, imagine that. This is Round House Cafe by Equator Coffees, a gorgeous new interpretation of coffee culture housed inside an historic building at the foot of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. We spoke digitally with Equator Coffees’s Director of Coffee Culture Devorah Freudiger to learn more.
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Introduce yourself to our readers—tell us about your cafe!
Equator Coffees is a queer woman-founded coffee company that’s been roasting in the Bay Area since 1995. We operated a wholesale-only business model until 2013 when we opened our first cafe. We now have nine cafes in the Bay Area. We always look for unique locations, and our goal with cafes is to become welcoming community hubs. Our latest cafe is an international hub, located at the most iconic place in the Bay Area, the San Fransisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge at the Round House Cafe. This cafe initially opened on May 27, 1938, one year after the bridge was completed. It’s an honor to continue the legacy of this historic location. The Golden Gate Bridge attracts millions of visitors each year, many on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to San Francisco. It’s so exciting to offer them an exceptional coffee experience.
What equipment do you use in your shop?
We are long-time fans of Ground Control brewers and were one of the first cafes to install one of their machines, so of course, we decided to brew our batch coffee option using their Cyclops brewer. We feel this brewer makes the best cup of coffee in town, and we always have Equator Blend hot and ready whatever time you come in. Our espresso bar is a La Marzocco Linea PB with Simonelli Mythos grinders, which allows us to serve hand-crafted, high-quality drinks very quickly. We offer a wide range of drinks, from all of the classic espresso-based drinks to our refined take on sweet options. In addition to our Tigerwalk espresso blend, we always have a unique single-origin espresso rotating on the bar each month. Anticipating large crowds seeking other specialty drinks (chai, hot chocolate, pour-overs, tea, etc.), we installed a separate specialty drink station with a Marco Friia and Modbar steam wand.
The Golden Gate Bridge is often totally covered by Karl, SF’s iconic fog. People here on their summer vacations find this part of town much colder than anticipated, so we serve a lot of large coffees and teas to parents and hot chocolate to their kids. This led us to come up with hot chocolate and mocha options unique to this cafe. We call it the International Orange Hot Chocolate (or International Orange Mocha, depending on your age and caffeine preference). International Orange is the color of the Golden gate bridge, so our play on this is to make an orange syrup in house. When building a drink to honor this location, we incorporated Guittard Chocolate, a brand whose San Francisco history predates even the bridge; they’ve been doing business in our foggy city since the 1850s! We make a sweet dark syrup with their ground chocolate and top this drink with chocolate whipped cream. It’s sure to warm you up after a chilly bridge walk.
Which roaster or roasters do you serve?
We’ve been roasting in Marin County since 1995; we currently operate two Lorings and a Petroncini small batch roaster. We offer a wide range of blends and seasonal single-origin coffees. We like to have consistent and long-term sourcing partnerships and have coffees on our menu from farms and cooperatives that we’ve been featuring for years.
What is the neighborhood like where you’re located? What’s some other cool stuff nearby?
There are so many perfect days that can start or end with a coffee at this cafe! We had to write up a whole blog post about it! You can hike any direction from the Roundhouse and head into the Presidio, down to Baker beach, or along Chrissy Field. Or, you can walk out across the bridge for breathtaking views of the open ocean, the Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, and San Francisco. Just be sure to pack a sweater! It’s local knowledge that you can tell the tourists in San Francisco because they wear shorts and brand new hoodies.
Did you close during a mandated Coronavirus shutdown, and if so, for how long?
California has had strict COVID protocols throughout the pandemic. We shut down even before it was mandated. We felt the need to cautiously learn how to best proceed in order to protect our team and customers. All our cafes were closed for two weeks (our teams were paid) before reopening to app-only outdoor contactless pickup. Since then, we’ve gone through many iterations of not taking cash, letting folks order at the register through plexiglass, and eventually reopening our lobbies. Our two downtown San Francisco locations are still closed due to a lack of office workers, one permanently, one we hope to reopen sometime next year.
How has Coronavirus impacted daily work at your cafe?
Coronavirus has affected every part of our everyday cafe life. From instituting glove, mask, and social distancing protocols to changing protocols around ordering and pick up to ensuring our teams knew when they were vaccine eligible. One of the most significant changes was a shift to online and app ordering. We resisted this technology at first because we love the interaction between our staff and guests, but embracing this technology has allowed us to serve people quickly and safely. We now have designated pickup spots for orders, those placed in person or via our app.
What’s something cool or unique about your cafe you want folks to know?
Since opening in 1938, this space has gone through many iterations, morphing from a full-service lunch counter to a photo booth to the cafe and survived several earthquakes. It’s seen countless people walk through its doors and welcomed generations of visitors to warm up and gaze out the panoramic windows. We wanted to create a welcoming space that is an homage to the almost 100 years of hospitality present, so we enlisted the very talented architect Sarah Fucinaro for a light remodel. She preserved the feeling of the space while making it a very functional specialty coffee bar. We have hung historic bridge photos in the windows, and you’ll notice our space still features the vintage pendant lights.
Is there a community organization or charity you’d like to shout out as part of this feature?
Since 2017, when we opened a cafe on the Fort Mason campus, we’ve joined the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in their mission to preserve our National Parks and enhance the park visitor experience. Folks can become a member of the Conservancy here. We recently released a sweatshirt (and t-shirt coming soon!) with Parks Project who has donated over a million dollars to National parks through the sale of merchandise, and coordinates volunteers to support and clean up parks. We love this organization. We also have a year-round fundraising blend and artist collaboration called B’cause that has a giveback component. Currently, we are featuring a Miir tumbler, and tote from artist Lucy Kirk that has a giveback to It Gets Better, who supports queer teens with messages of hope.
Want your cafe featured in a Sprudge Maps Spotlight? Register your shop for Sprudge Maps, our user-driven compendium of coffee shops around the globe. It’s completely free. Sign up today!
Sprudge Maps is presented by La Marzocco and Pacific Barista Series.
Photos by Equator Coffees, used with permission