There are more independent coffeehouses on the grid than Starbucks
When Insight Coffee Roasters opened in Southside Park’s downtown neighborhood last month, it wasn’t just another hip, specialty-coffee spot popping up on the “grid.” It was a changing of the guard:
There were finally more independent coffeehouses in Sacramento’s central city than Starbucks.
Very few area businesses, such as supermarkets, have been able buck the corporate mold. So, why coffee?
Insight co-owner Benza Lance chalks it up to Sacramentans’ hankering for natural, organic, “farm-to-table” culinary experiences. And indie-owned coffeehouse such as Insight, or Temple Coffee and Old Soul Co., often source their beans directly from farmers, use organic milk and embrace other eco-minded or “slow food” principles.
Unlike Starbucks, who according to Lance just buys up “as much cheap coffee as [it] can” and then roasts it so that it “tastes homogenous.”
Currently, there are a dozen Starbucks chains on the grid: six downtown, four in Midtown and two on Alhambra Boulevard.
Independent coffeehouses, meanwhile, are on the rise. The original Sacramento indie shop, Naked Lounge, now has two locations. Plus two Old Souls, two Temple Coffees, one Insight, one Broadacre Coffee, one Chocolate Fish Coffee, one Coffee Works, one Mondo Bizarro Cafe, one Espresso Metro and one Shine—that makes 13.
The rest of the country has even noticed Sacramento’s flair for cool beans. Recently, CNN named Temple Coffee one of the 17 best small coffee makers in the country.
“Sacramento might be a little bit more unique,” said Lance, humble.
He and his Insight business partner, Lucky Rodrigues, are both 27 years old but together boast 22 years of experience in the biz. Lance was head barista at Temple; Rodrigues has worked at Temple and Naked and also roasted for years at Old Soul.
Finally, in early 2011, they began courting investors for their own coffeehouse and, in less than a year, opened a shop at S and Eighth streets on December 7, 2011.
Insight manages a staff of five employees, who Lance says all earn a “fair wage.” They go through some 200 pounds of coffee a week and gallons of organic milk. Insight’s furnishings are made for local wood, mostly from West Sacramento and a fallen tree on 26th and E streets, and the theater seats in the back are from downtown’s Masonic Temple.
SN&R estimates that independent coffee in the central city is a $15 million to $20 million industry annually.