When 20-something entrepreneurs Eileen Hassi and Jeremy Tooker opened their Valencia Street coffeehouse in May 2005, they named it Ritual Coffee Roasters because they intended to roast their own beans. Initially, the bustle of opening a new and immediately successful business put that on the backburner.
“It was crazy,” Hassi said. “Within two weeks, people were complaining that they couldn’t get a seat. It’s still our No. 1 complaint.”
This month, their goal will be realized. They’ve borrowed a roasting machine from their role models, the nationally renowned Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, Ore. With the device comes a chance to see real profits. It also means advancing on their dream, wholesaling coffee to fine restaurants and upgrading San Francisco’s palate one cup at a time.
Both believe in a certain coffee purity. They like medium roasts that preserve flavors better than dark roasts do. They believe beans must be used within a week of roasting. They insist on careful, perfect espresso-preparation technique from their baristas, who design leaves in foamed milk.
“At every step of the way, we decided to focus on quality. It almost seems too simple, especially in the context of a business plan,” Hassi said.
The partners came to this meeting of the minds from opposite ends of the country. Hassi grew up in New York, graduating with her bachelor’s in religious studies at Brown University before talking her way, without experience, into a coffee-manager job in Washington, D.C. She moved to Seattle, where she spent four years managing at Torrefazione Italia cafés.
Tooker also worked at Torrefazione after returning to Oregon from Detroit, after stints at Java Man and Starbucks. Of the pair, he’s the machinist, concerned with the technology that makes ideal coffee.
Torrefazione transferred them to San Francisco, where they resolved to open a café together in the Mission. Downtown, Tooker said, “The people would come in,
wouldn’t get off their phones and point to the biggest cup that we had. It’s much better to know that people are enjoying their coffees more.”