Are you looking for a place to meet friends in a relaxed atmosphere and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea? Or maybe you’re seeking a comfortable place to study or surf the internet? Would you like to enjoy good live music on the weekends, or have a chance to share your performing talents with the local community? If you answered yes to any of these questions, check out East Bay Coffee Company located on San Pablo Avenue in Old Town Pinole.
Bill and Lisa Ancira opened East Bay Coffee Company to serve and give back to the community, both financially and in other ways. As the name implies, it is a coffee house, but it is also place that fosters a love of the arts, community gathering and civic involvement. It opened in April this year, and is already popular among many in West County and the surrounding area.
The owners have spent most of their lives in the music industry. Bill is a jazz pianist, originally from Richmond, Indiana. Lisa is a rehearsal pianist for ballet and musical theater, and is originally from Toledo, Ohio. They moved to California fairly recently to be near family, and with the idea to establish East Bay Coffee Company. After interviewing with the top ten coffee roasters in the area, Bill and Lisa signed on to learn the business from Mr. Espresso, a long-time, Italian-run coffee business located in Jack London Square, which has trained many nationally-recognized baristas. Over an eighteen month period, they learned the art and science of coffee production and coffee preparation, and developed discerning palates for different blends of coffee.
East Bay Coffee Company hails as a “Third Wave” Coffee House, a movement which aspires to culinary appreciation of high quality coffee so that one can distinguish subtleties of flavor based on the types of beans used, the roasting process, and other factors. East Bay Coffee Company procures its coffee through Mr. Espresso, the only local roaster that still roasts coffee beans over an oak wood fire (rather than gas). This process gives the coffee a unique and robust flavor.
Upon arrival at East Bay Coffee Company, my guest and I were warmly greeted by Bill. Our eyes feasted upon a counter display of sumptuous bakery items, made by a local pastry chef, Karl Fong. Directly behind this display is a long coffee bar. The ample kitchen area toward the back has openings to the coffee bar section, as well as to a large seating and performance area, which can accommodate up to 110 guests. In addition to tables and chairs, there is a long “computer bar” near the front window equipped with electrical outlets, and plush chairs occupy a rear section of the room. The interior décor of the business may appear unfinished; however, it is actually consistent with that of other Third Wave Coffee houses, with such features as concrete floors, exposed metal and wooden beams, and repurposed wood. There is an art gallery feel to the seating area, which is equipped with hardware to display paintings and artwork from local artists.
The drink menu offers a full selection of espresso drinks, hot or iced mochas and lattes, hot or iced teas, hot chocolate, and regular and decaffeinated drip blends. The dark, bold drip is made from Bolivian coffee beans, and the lighter choice on the day we visited was Colombian. Though I am not a coffee connoisseur, I can attest to the pleasant, rich flavor of the drip blends that we tasted. My guest and I were also treated to cups of espresso, which, when served, were accompanied by shot glasses of sparkling water. Bill explained that the water was to clean our palates before partaking of the espresso.
East Bay Coffee Company makes their own syrups for drinks, including Vanilla, Carmel, and Guittard Chocolate syrups. For those who prefer something other than coffee or tea, they offer a Green Smoothie, made from kale, spinach, apples, ginger and lemon juice. Also available are bottled waters, juices and sodas.
As we continued our visit, my guest and I were treated to a sampling of pastries, and yet a third coffee option. I had the iced Vanilla Chai Tea, and my guest had an Iced Caramel Latte, both of which had excellent flavor and were not too sweet. Of the desserts and pastries we tried, my favorite was the Crème Brûlée, which is honestly the best I’ve ever tasted! A close second favorite was the Lemon Curd tart, which tasted just like a marvelous home-made lemon meringue pie.
We also sampled four of the nearly dozen flavors of French Macaroons that are offered, including: Ube (pronounced U-bay), a purple delight that tastes like coconut, made from Ube root; Green Tea Chocolate, Pistachio Raspberry, and Maple Bacon. My favorite of these was the Pistachio Raspberry, but I must admit that the Maple Bacon was intriguing—down to the bacon bits on top! There are numerous other cookies, pastries, and desserts available, including a Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake.
East Bay Coffee Company is still a young business with four main goals:
Be a great coffee house
Provide a music/arts driven menu
Be a community meeting Place
Provide an atmosphere where people can grow spiritually
Bill and Lisa are well on their way to meeting these goals. For example, you can listen to live music by the house band, Bistro Rex, on Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30–9:00pm. There is no cover charge. Thursdays are Open Mic nights from 7:00– 9:00pm, and those interested in performing can sign up at 6:30pm. On Sunday nights from 7:30–8:30, there is a live worship music sing-along. Other planned performances include poetry readings, comedians, jugglers, vocal groups, and Broadway Musical sing-alongs.
East Bay Coffee Company invites groups, such as nonprofits, school groups, and clubs to enjoy the spaciousness of their seating area for informal meetings. Bill and Lisa have established connections with the local community through the city council, the Rotary Club, and the Pinole Artisans group. And in the spirit of giving back, they have already provided financial support to local establishments such as the Bay Area Rescue Mission and the Pinole Community Players. They continue to seek opportunities to raise money for other local charities.
East Bay Coffee Company has something for almost everyone and continues to add features. New items coming soon include “grab and go” lunches featuring California bistro fare prepared by a former chef from Chez Panisse! The drink menu will be expanded to include a special “coffee soda” (courtesy of the same chef), as well as Italian sodas. There also are plans to make tapas available during evening activities.
Bill and Lisa run the business with assistance from their sons, Billy and Trent, and several other family members. There are plans to add a parking lot and outdoor seating area in the near future. When you have an opportunity, stop in for a coffee or a sweet treat, and enjoy the comfortable and pleasant ambiance of the East Bay Coffee Company. You may become a regular!
2529 San Pablo Avenue in Pinole | (510) 964-7827 | EastBayCoffee.com
Hours: Mon-Fri 6:00am-9:00pm; Sat-Sun 7:00am- 9:00pm