Coffee lovers rejoice: The old Sketch soft serve spot on Berkeley’s Fourth Street is now Catahoula’s Kaffeegarten.
The Richmond-based artisanal roaster is all about “high end coffee at a moderate price,” but takes its mission further: “We are about bringing people together and community. Not the ‘Third Community’ liquid culture of Starbucks, but an authentically local flavor where people from all walks of life… gather.”
Timber Manhart runs the business, and sells signature blends as well as single origin beans. He describes Catahoula as a “no char zone,” meaning roasts meant to draw out flavor are king.
Manhart, a 50-year-old Richmond resident, said Monday he’s been wanting to open a second location for some time.
“We kind of walked down the path, but it wasn’t a good fit, or it didn’t have the right feel,” he said.
He wrote on his shop’s blog that he has “been down this road so many times, but nothing panned out due to a variety of factors; not being the right space, greedy landlords and/or just not the right community-centric feel of Catahoula’s business model.”
He said the West Berkeley neighborhood, which some have dubbed SoFo — meaning Fourth Street south of University — has a “nice combination of everything”: a community-centric feeling and good street traffic.
“I see people walking, running, cycling all over the place,” he said. “It’s a little bit off the beaten track.… This is the local side [of Fourth].”
He said he knew of the space previously and had always “coveted” it. When he found out it was available, he jumped at the opportunity.
Manhart said the new space has a big kitchen, which he’s hoping to use, in part, as an incubator for other businesses looking for space. But he also says he plans to “stick to our core, what we’ve done and what we know.”
He described that as “basically coffee and pastries right now” — at prices that won’t break the bank for customers — but said he’d love to expand the food offerings further in the future depending on local demand.
Manhart said he takes most of his coffee roasts to the “Full City” level.
“It’s not so light you don’t taste the origin, but not so dark you can’t taste the roast,” he said.
One of his most popular offerings is the Lola blend. He said it’s a brighter espresso that “lingers” and also makes a great drip coffee.
You won’t find pour-over options at the Kaffeegarten; Manhart said he’s sensitive to the needs of customers who need to grab a cup and get out the door.
Catahoula — named after the owner’s favorite dog breed, according to the company website — opened first, in 2007, at 12472 San Pablo Ave. “Minimum hours” at the Berkeley location in September are listed as 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In an announcement on his blog, Manhart says he’s decided to “announce (possibly) the World’s First Kaffeegarten.”
According to Manhart, the new location will be similar to the original shop in Richmond: “We hope to provide a localized, friendly, albeit quirky at times, café. Our goal is to serve a great quality product without all the fussiness. Good value, fun atmosphere & local flavor.”
As far as community events, he said Monday he hopes to hold “customer appreciation days” in SoFo where people can come and get a free cup of coffee, and also wants to bring in outside vendors selling offerings like honey or pastries. Visitors might also, at some point, see a petting zoo outside.
“I’d like to look out on the patio and see an alpaca, and a bunch of kids running around,” he said.
The official opening on Fourth is slated for October, and he promises it will come more quickly than did his Richmond shop, which took three years to build out.
He said the West Berkeley location is, however, already fully functional, “if you don’t mind a little construction dust.”
“The machines are working,” he said. “We’re just trying to dial in the space to make it our own.”
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