How did Ritual get started?
Ritual opened on Valencia Street in 2005. It was the first cafe in San Francisco serving coffee in the style that San Francisco is now world famous for. We opened on a Thursday and there was a line to the corner by our first Saturday! Some people were familiar with the style of coffee from having lived in the Pacific Northwest and wondered why it took so long to come to SF, and other people couldn’t understand what we did to make the coffee taste so good!
When I moved to San Francisco, no one was roasting coffee in the style that I had gotten used to living in Seattle. So instead of just opening a cafe, I decided to open a café and roastery.
What about you, Eileen? What’s your story?
I grew up working in small businesses, all owned by women! The first and most influential was my sister’s shop, which is a gourmet food store and catering business in Rye, New York. It’s kind of funny how long it took me to realize that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, even though all of my make-believe games as a child were about running my own business! I eventually sought out places to work where I was mentored by amazing women small business owners.
“Like the denim of Levi Strauss, fresh sourdough, or Anchor Steam Beer, Ritual has a local flavor with a global appeal . . .”
At Ritual, in addition to the cafes, we wholesale coffee to other cafes and restaurants. I love being able to be involved in other peoples’ small businesses and helping them be successful.
What makes Ritual coffees special?
Seasonality is a huge part of what makes Ritual’s coffee exceptional. We receive the unroasted “green” coffee directly from producers we work with as quickly after harvest as possible, and roast in a way that showcases the natural characteristics of the coffee – from soil to processing method. We are best known for coffees that highlight brightness, sweetness, and clarity. Like the denim of Levi Strauss, fresh sourdough, or Anchor Steam Beer, Ritual has a local flavor with a global appeal – we’re another San Francisco original!
Can you give us a few facts and numbers we don’t know?
We have six cafes and 75 employees, but here is more:
• Only four people roast all our coffee, using one roasting machine
• We roast 32 pounds per batch
• Our coffees come from 45 coffee farmers and 17 co-ops in 13 countries
• 30% of our employees have visited coffee farms that Ritual buys from
• Sometimes we taste 60 coffees to find ONE that belongs on our menu
• We taste a coffee five or six times before it’s ready to leave the roastery
What are the main products you offer?
We roast four coffees: a single origin espresso, a seasonal espresso blend, single-origin filter coffees, and one delicious decaf! But because they are seasonal, they are changing all the time, so you can always look forward to a newly arrived, fresh coffee.
What does the future hold?
My dream is to have Ritual be an iconic San Francisco institution, somewhere between the Swan Oyster Depot and Anchor Steam Beer.
Why manufacture locally?
Roasting in San Francisco is part of what has made Ritual who we are – there’s such an incredible ecology of art and innovation, an incredibly diverse array of people who make the best employees and appreciative customers.
Interviewed by Pierre Coeurdeuil