Red Bay and Highwire vie for farmers market spot

Taste testing coffee at the Saturday Berkeley farmers market. Photo: Galen Panger/Twitter
Taste testing coffee at the Saturday Berkeley farmers market. Photo: Galen Panger/Twitter

The coffee options at the Berkeley farmers markets are in flux. Earlier this year, regular vendor Blue Bottle Coffee announced that it would no longer be selling its coffee at Bay Area farmers markets, saying that it wanted to make room for newer, upstart businesses.

In Berkeley, those businesses have turned out to be Red Bay Coffee Roasters and Highwire Coffee Roasters. We received a photo tip on Twitter that the Ecology Center was holding a taste test at the Saturday market between the two Oakland-based coffee companies. The Ecology Center’s Ben Feldman confirmed that both companies were indeed in the running. “Both companies make excellent coffee and we are excited to give one of them an opportunity to sell at our market,” he said in an email. “We expect to have a decision made soon.”

Keba Konte. Photo: Tracey Taylor
Red Bay coffee. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Both companies have a growing East Bay presence.

Red Bay, which was founded by former Guerilla Café owner Keba Konte, is currently raising funds for its first café location in the Hive complex in Oakland. Konte hopes that the café will serve as a model to help transform low-wage jobs where the workers keep all the profits. Meanwhile, it is roasting its beans in small batches in its Fruitvale coffee “dojo.” The whole beans are available at Berkeley Bowl, Mandela Foods Cooperative and OwlNWood. AlaMar, Miss Ollie’s and Speaker Box Café all serve Red Bay coffee.


Highwire by dopub:CC
Highwire’s Rockridge location. The coffee company is also on San Pablo Avenue in the former Local 123 spot. Photo: dopub:CC

Highwire expanded earlier this year when it bought Local 123’s brick-and-mortar café and Flowerland coffee trailer. Previous to the purchase, Highwire had one café location in Rockridge’s Market Hall. Its coffee is also available at the Flowerland Trailer at 1330 Solano Avenue, and can be bought online on Highwire’s website. It roasts its beans in Emeryville and also has a significant tea business.

While we await a final verdict from the Ecology Center, we want to hear from you: which coffee would you rather drink while shopping at the farmers market? Let us know in the comments.

Connect with NOSH on Facebook, follow NOSH on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to the free NOSH Weekly email which positively bursts with mouth-watering East Bay food news.