Coffee Bar in downtown Redding has a remarkable sense of self. The roasters know where every bean comes from. The décor is streamlined and features a single theme, rather than a rotating buffet of different mediums and styles. The menu is simple. The staff is obsessed with coffee, and the coffee is so good it would probably be obsessed with itself if it were conscious. In fact, Coffee Bar is so focused, it’s even on a one-way street. Theirs is a brand so fully realized you can taste it in the exceptional smoothness of your drink; even sans beverage you’re still going to enjoy being there, because there’s something unmistakably pleasing about being somewhere that knows exactly what it’s doing.
Coffee Bar was conceived and is owned by Innovations Housing, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to fostering natural and human habitats for living, working and playing, with a special focus on the needs of the economically disadvantaged. They built the Terry Topolski-designed Pine Street building to help revitalize downtown Redding. It’s a mixed-use building: apartments upstairs are rented to low-income individuals and the Innovations Housing office uses half of the lower level, which left the remaining space free to use for fundraising. As Coffee Bar manager Jim Koenigsaecker explains it, “Nonprofits do lots of things to try and make money for their cause. We thought, ‘Well, let’s run the numbers and see if we can do better (with a coffee shop) than what we would charge a renter.’ This place is making us more money than leasing it out, which has been really positive.” All of the bar’s profits go directly to Innovations Housing.
Coffee Bar does more than provide some financial benefit to the organization: it gives Koenigsaecker and the other staff a place to completely geek out on their coffee passion. The centerpiece of the bar is an Italian-made La Marzocco Strada — one of the finest espresso machines in the world and the only one between Portland and the Bay Area. “When I tried to order it, they wouldn’t sell it to me at first because I was an unknown,” Koenigsaecker says. The company is very protective of its reputation, and understandably so. “It’s a really high-end machine that makes far better coffee. It’s manual, and gives you a lot more control than any other espresso machine.”
In addition to its prize apparatus, Coffee Bar feature coffees from some of the best artisan roasters, working especially closely with Keith Hamrick of Northbound Coffee Roasters in Mount Shasta to source the best organic coffee beans from around the world. In fact, Koenigsaecker is heading to Kenya soon to visit the coffee farms himself. Coffee Bar also serves coffees from Handsome Coffee Roasters in Los Angeles, Case Coffee Roasters in Ashland and Sacramento’s Temple Coffee, as well as a small selection of teas and snacks.
And why stop at the beans and grind? The coffees are paired with Clover organic milk products, which play no small role in a quality latte experience. “It’s a huge component to the drink,” Koenigsaecker explains, “and the ability to stretch that milk to where it has a really yummy sweet flavor… you just can’t do that on other machines. This really brings out the quality.”
OK, so hand-selected coffee beans, world-class espresso machine and organic milk. Got it all covered. Well, they also make an organic dark-chocolate ganache every morning for mochas and hot chocolates, and they use a whole Madagascar vanilla bean to make the syrup for vanilla lattes. Oh, and a Giesen coffee roaster is being custom made for them in the Netherlands. Suffice it to say, Coffee Bar is proudly a part of the artisan movement and the burgeoning embrace of craft appreciation.
Another part of its personality is the celebration of café culture. Coffee Bar encourages conversation. “We tried to create an environment where people would want to hang out and chat,” Koenigsaecker says, “so we don’t have a lot of outlets and we don’t have free Wi-Fi. I didn’t want it to look like a library, where it’s just all people on computers.” Stop in at 10 am on most days and the chiming of people and energy will prove infectious, even as you’re waiting for your morning coffee to kick in. Koenigsaecker is excited to continue a tradition: “Coffee shops have a long history of being hubs for the exchange of ideas, even for revolutions, and I like that,” he says. “We have all kinds of people coming in here and talking passionately about things.”
One frequent subject of passionate discussion is motorcycles. Coffee Bar’s commissioned artwork, original designs by Michael Tersieff, features vintage bikes, and in the tradition of café racer culture, the bar also hosts Coffee Runs the second Saturday of every month. Café racer culture started in the 1960s in London, when members would ride 100mph between the cafés of London. Buzz in the motorcycle community, along with positive reviews on Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, Coffee Geek, etc., have made the Coffee Bar and its sponsored rides something of a destination. Motorcyclists from Australia, Seattle, Los Angeles and the Bay Area have stopped in for a cup of coffee. They’re often passing through or have come to the North State to ride State Route 36 or Highway 1 and heard about the bike-friendly coffee place in downtown Redding. Dozens of riders on all makes of bike – from vintage Vespa scooters to new Harleys – participate in the Coffee Runs. Members of a Bay Area BMW motorcycle club even rode up to join in on one of the trips.
The rides usually feature a coffee- or bike-centric destination, such as Heritage Coffee Roasters in Mount Shasta, and they attract all demographics of riders. “The people are totally different,” says Koenigsaecker. “Often, they’ve never met before and they have no common interest beyond motorcycles.”
Participants in the Coffee Runs don’t see themselves running out of road any time soon, and with a ready supply of great coffee, they’ll be fueled up for the foreseeable future. But biker or bookworm, there’s a seat for everyone at Coffee Bar.