On Wednesday I visited Ritual Coffee in San Francisco. The first thing I noticed about Ritual was the long line out the door. I’ve never seen a line out the door at a coffee shop before.

I decided to go for a latte. We were short on time so we all ordered cups to-go (and then we ended up staying). The latte I had was absolutely stunning. There is no comparison to anything that is produced locally. The milk was frothed to a point where the drink had an intensely light feel, and the espresso was very good. No noticeable bitter taste at all. Ritual does have a roaster in house, which they use for some of their specialty coffee. The other coffee comes from Barefoot in Portland. Although that’s up for debate.

In a number of ways though, I found my particular visit to be disturbing. The slogan on the door reads “We Take Coffee Seriously, Not Ourselves” and only the first part is true. They are 100% snobs and not in a good way. They reacted strongly when I took a few photos. I think it was because I was taking photos of my companions, and they didn’t know I was with them. Later, after we had been there for a good 20 minutes, one of the staff even took my picture with his cell phone (he did not succeed in doing it subtly, as he obviously tried). Odd.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

I wouldn’t choose to hang out there. I even got a bad vibe from the customers. It just felt weird and a few of my companions from the Viddler team felt the same way. How strange it was, too, because I had higher expectations. Maybe it’s a San Francisco thing.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

But the coffee was very good. I can’t stress that enough.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

They have the simplest of cups. They stamp their logo on the cups, which looks cool.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

The counter.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

The long line stretched out the door.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

The Ritual “Flag”.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

They have a menu of sorts, which lists all of the coffee beans they sell.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

All of the coffees are stored in glass jars.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

They have two clovers. I didn’t see anybody use them.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

Laptops were everywhere (free internet access). I’d wager half of the people there were using a laptop. Maybe more.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

As you can see from this blurry photo of Rob’s latte, the foam is very well done and covers much more than the very top of the drink. It’s really good.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

The flag outside.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

The menu board is simple, and they don’t have flavors. So making a decision is super easy.

Ritual Coffee San Francisco

My latte.

All of the bad vibes aside, Ritual is a really great coffee house. The main take away is that they do focus on quality coffee beverages and have a very loyal following. A lot of times we see coffee houses cut quality ingredients in order to cut costs. Cutting corners doesn’t work well, unless you have a high traffic location with new customers every day (like an airport). I understand they have a second location in the works, so congratulations to them for expanding.

Arizona Coffee

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  2. I’m sorry they were snobs. It happens sometimes when a shop is very good, and very successful, right off the bat. They’ve not even been open for an entire year, and they’re already expanding to a second location.

    The coffee they use(d) was Stumptown, not Barefoot. They are working on their own espresso blend, which I believe they are using now, but have not branched to roasting their own single origin just yet.

    The new location is expected to be much more relaxed in comparison to the line-out-the-door bustle at their prime location.

  3. Okay, this is from yesterday, posted by Chris Baca.

    Today was the kick off day for our new location! Known as Ritual Gardens, this pony is located at 1634 Jerrold at 3rd St. inside Flora Grubb Gardens (a brand new kick ass nursery)…it is beautiful! Green and clean it seems likes it’s going to be mellow and chill, quite a departure from the tidal wave of customers we see on Valencia St.

  4. That’s awesome! I didn’t know they had only been open for one year. That’s interesting. They’ve definitely hit the ground running then. The garden location sounds cool.

  5. Ryan


    Go into any coffee shop and take photos of your drink and the equipment in the shop and you’re bound to get strange looks. Do you introduce yourself to the owner and the workers as a coffee enthusiast who runs a coffee website? If I was shop owner I would think you were a health code inspector or someone trying to open their own shop, by just snaping random photos at your drink.

  6. steve kessler

    I love the stamped cups. That goes to show that with a little creativity, you don’t have to have pre-printed cups. Thanks for doing a review on them and I forgive you for not calling me back (haha).

  7. Chris you lucky dog. I wish I was touring coffee shops in SanFran!

    I’ll try to explain away the snobbiness: it could just be a bad mood from hours of listening to customers ask for triple-grande nonfat lattes. From your review, it sounds like Ritual is a place for ordering real drinks, so I imagine that the baristas there get frustrated from the combination of long lines and frou-frou orders.

    Are you heading to Cafe Trieste at all? I visited it once, and I think it’s one of SF’s originals. It has a very established look to it, and the patrons I saw looked like they’ve been in place for years.

  8. Pierce

    Very interesting (and not entirely surprising either) about the ‘vibe’ of the folks @ Ritual Coffee.

    I lived in the Bay Area many years ago and there is a definite ‘tension’ about the place which is not good.

    It seems very intolerant if one does not fit the local definition of a ‘Liberal’. Note that I have Liberal/Libertarian leanings myself yet by SF standards I am a ‘Redneck’ 🙂

    In fact I felt a similar vibe at a coffee house near 29 Palms, Calif., a sense of ‘outsiders’ not being accepted———–sad because the decor was flat gorgeous.

    OTOH: there is another coffee house named the Water Canyon in Yucca Valley…………..it was great! Relaxed and laid back in the Old School sense.

  9. Did anyone catch the “barista at large” column in this months Barista Magazine? It follows a great barista from Ritual.

    Nice read if you have a minute..

    ..be bold

  10. Steve Kessler

    That was a great article by Baca. I laughed at “the Black Cat does a wonderful job of restoring my equilibrium after the hot dog attack”. Good issue. The Vein had a write up in this one as well.

  11. Steve

    I was just at Ritual last month when I was in the Bay Area for a conference and I have to disagree with you about the staff’s ‘tude. They were really friendly. I tried come cups from the Clover and the barista was more than willing to explain some of the nuances of the Clover process. I think it is a great place to get some work done too. It apparently is known for being an office to many San Franciscans. Might not be the best hang-out cafe, but I think it is a fun place to play hipster bingo , work, and drink some great coffee. The Blue Bottle kiosk in Hayes Valley is another great SF coffee spot, in case you didn’t get to check it out.

  12. Ivan Pavlakovic


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  14. Keith Fitzgerald

    Sooo.. I’ve been working at Ritual for a few months now. I’m really sorry if any of you had a bad experience with our customer service. It is a bit harrowing dealing with a line out the door from six in the morning till eleven at night (I musta made about 200 drinks this morning alone and I only worked bar from 5:30-10 today). It’s a whole nother game when dealing with that kinda volume. That being said there is no excuse for bad customer service. We are now roasting all of our coffees in house. If you, or pretty much any coffee geek/gourmand find themselves in SF for a few days hit me up and I’m sure I could set up a tour of the place (you could probably even sit in on one of our cuppings). Much love from SF.

    oh and P.S. we celebrated our two year anniversary recently and the Ritual Gardens location is pretty much a friggin paradise. stay tuned for more Rit-ro news.

    Kindest Regards,
    Ritual Barista (damn spell check still doesn’t know what a barista is, it always suggests Batista!)

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