As sunlight streamed into Chocolate Fish Coffee‘s third cafe that opened its doors earlier this month in a 1,500-square-foot space in the Land Park neighborhood of Sacramento, California, it marked a reawakening of the company’s New Zealand roots. The new cafe presented an opportunity to reimagine fresh, local and healthy food offerings, with a beer and wine program also on the way.
The company’s owners, Edie and Andy Baker, had hoped from the beginning to transplant a more faithful rendition of Kiwi coffee culture when they moved from the islands to the States over a decade ago. As Andy is a born-and-raised Kiwi and Edie lived there for eight years prior to the couple’s relocation to California, the inclusion of cuisine alongside excellent beans and extractions seemed like an important detail, but was one they were advised against pursuing in the beginning.
“Over there you go to a cafe and there are more food options, for sure,” Edie Baker told Daily Coffee News. “We wanted to do it when we first started years ago, and we were taking classes at the SCAA and everyone there said, ‘Don’t do food! Don’t do food!’ So we just did coffee. Now here we are ten years later, and we’re going, ‘Yeah, let’s do some food.'”
Developed by California chef Kevin O’Connor, whose work with olive oil company Cobram Estate also sends him frequently to Australia and New Zealand, the toast menu that has already debuted at the company’s East Sac Cafe & Roastery is being carried over to the new shop where it will feature such items as a thick-sliced bread topped with almond butter, honey, banana and cocoa nibs, and of course an avocado toast topped with dukkha, an Egyptian nut and spice blend Baker says is popular in New Zealand.
A gleaming white La Marzocco Strada espresso machine is flanked by three white Mahlkonig Peak grinders on the new cafe bar that’s fronted with lively tile work Baker that said is both an intentional departure from the earthy reclaimed wood and hot-rolled steel of earlier Chocolate Fish interiors, and an effort to embrace the style of the new neighborhood.
“We wanted each of our shops to reflect their neighborhood,” said Baker. “This neighborhood, Land Park, is one of our older neighborhoods in Sacramento.”
Two hand-painted murals on the walls of the new shop were created by a New Zealander artist friend of the Bakers who flew in and spent roughly 30 hours on each. The images are of New Zealand landscapes, and in one there appears an homage to the Bakers’ beloved and recently departed Springer Spaniel, Molly, depicted as a puppy.
“She was from New Zealand so he added her to one of the posters,” said Baker. “A little sappy, but it meant a lot to us.”
The Chocolate Fish Diedrich IR12 at the East Sac production plant continues to turn out coffees for all CFC cafes, as well as for wholesale, with plenty of capacity for future growth. In the coming weeks, the back bar at the new shop will be completed by the arrival of Curtis Seraphim pourover brewers, after which, as business settles in, the plan is to extend the hours and introduce the beer and wine program, including charcuterie by a local-focused butcher and salads and other items using local produce.
The new Chocolate Fish Coffee location is open now at 2940 Freeport Blvd in Sacramento.
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.