I had a few minutes yesterday before an event I was covering was supposed to start, so I made my way to Blue Bottle's Mint Plaza cafe for a quick espresso. I've been here before, during their opening day when the line went out the door and people were just ooohing and aahing over the cafe's super expensive ($20,000!) siphon machine imported from Japan.
The cafe is sort of tucked into a quiet corner of a SOMA plaza that has been spiffed up recently with some fancy restaurants for a beautification project. The cafe itself is light and airy, with huge windows, and a modern feel inside. Against the far wall are numerous glass globes, beakers and lamps connected with metal pipes. It looks like a science lab. You can sit at a bar facing these devices, or at a large communal table in the middle of the room. All the servers wear black and look well put together, unlike their Hayes Valley & Ferry Plaza stand, where baristas are more free-spirited in their dress.
Mint Plaza is just a cool place to hang out if you like coffee and espresso. They have two different kinds of espresso machines, an semi-auto and a manual lever. I ordered a single-origin Brazilian Camocim Bourbon from their Bosco Napoli two-head manual lever machine. My barista said Blue Bottle doesn't do direct trade with the farm. I found this link online with more info about what I believe are the same beans. She said it has "more of a savory, heavy body" than some of the other coffees they pull, which I took to mean their Ethiopian Misty Valley.
The shot was pulled tight and short, leading to a honeyed nose with high notes of woody fruit. The dark-brown crema lasted forever. In the cup, the shot was sweet with deeper bass notes, and hummed along my palate.
I couldn't spend much time at Mint Plaza, so I can't do a full review of the coffees and espresso offerings there, but it's definitely worth checking out, as it has become somewhat of a mecca for coffee geeks.