On the heels of a colorful packaging redesign, we chat with Linea’s Andrew Barnett and longtime friend Scott Callender from La Marzocco.
After a 2018 full of shenanigans mixed with some serious insight, Kandace and Ray are back for a brand new year of Unpacking Coffee. First up in the 2019 season is Linea Caffe, the San Francisco-based roasting outfit with a small but world-class cafe in the Mission District. – Daily Coffee News
Ray: I’m Ray.
Kandace: I’m Kandace.
Ray: Welcome to Unpacking Coffee. This week …
Kandace: … Linea out of San Francisco.
Ray: We’ve actually already covered Linea.
Very much like the graphic, feel free to chime in at any time, Kandace. These are roasted. It was time to go back and revisit Linea for at least two good reasons. One, we didn’t actually get the founder on the show last time.
Kandace: This time we did.
Ray: This time we did.
Meet the Fellas
Andrew: Hi, I’m Andrew Barnett. I’m the Founder of Linea Coffee Roasting, and we’re based out of San Francisco.
Ray: They’re even in residence at the La Marzocco Home Café.
Andrew: Test. Testing one, two, three, four.
Ray: Thank you, Scott. I could tell, this is not your first rodeo.
Scott: Not my first rodeo… Hi, I’m Scott Callender, and I am from La Marzocco. I’m the Vice President of Marketing and Consumer Strategy.
Ray: Andrew and Scott have worked together before at Ecco, the experimental coffee company.
Kandace: I don’t think Ecco is experimental.
Ray: No, that’s what it stands for, Experimental Coffee Company.
Ray: How do we start this story? Take it away gents.
Andrew: When I was a young man, I trained to be a dinner chef. In my neighborhood coffee shop, I thought, “Well, I can use my cooking skills.” The coffee shop said, “can make espresso?”
I really wanted this job. I’ll said, “I can learn.”
They taught me. They had a two-grip lever machine. That brought me great joy, making espresso. That was 1977.
In 1994, I opened my first café in Sonoma County, California. I was an aspiring wannabe coffee owner, café owner, and I asked a mentor of mine named David Schomer. I said, “David, What espresso machine should I buy for my café?” And David just said, “Buy a La Marzocco Linea.” So, I did. That was my first espresso machine. My first café was a Linea. My current café has a Linea. I love this machine.
This is the 25th anniversary of my love affair with La Marzocco, so it’s apropos that this company, Linea, is doing its roaster in residency program.
The Meaning of “Linea”
Linea literally translates into line. And, when you go to origin, when you pick a coffee cherry, the fruit around it, when it’s ripe, when it’s hit its peak of maturation and you were to bite into that fruit surrounding the seed, it tastes really good.
The best tasting coffees I’ve ever experienced, are from really sweet ripened fruit. Just like making great wine, you need good tasting fruit to make delicious coffee.
Scott: One of the things that first attracted me to his coffee, is this idea that he’s so obsessed with the flavor, and getting everything right.
Andrew: I’m a bit if a Virgo. That’s my sign. I obsess on things. I actually dream about coffee. I think it’s kind of my blessing and my curse.
Scott: We would have these long conversations on the phone about all of this obsession, all of this roasting to a certain level, and finding the perfect fruit, and all of those things, is anyone going to be able to tell? And he would always say, “Can you tell when you bite into a perfectly ripe Frog Hollow peach, that this is something unique?”
And I’d always be like, “Absolutely, it’s one the most beautiful things in the world.”
And he’s like, “That’s what we should be striving for with coffee.”
Andrew: What I’m attracted to is inherently sweet flavors in expressing what’s already there in the nature, and in capturing that, and getting that into the cup.
Scott: Moments that I’ve had, that are some of my highlights, of all time best coffees of my life, have been with Andrew, tasting one of those coffees, that’s just like mind-blowingly sweet.
Andrew: So I thought part of the Linea, our shop, is the continuation of these different aspects. Not only the sweetness of the fruit in the cup, but also that relationship.
Kandace: That’s right. It all just comes together.
Ray: No don’t.
Kandace: No, see, I said don’t.
Ray: How can Ricky Gervais get away with that and I can’t?
Kandace: He doesn’t.
Linea’s Roasting Style
Ray: Andrew Barnett roasts in an Italian roasting style from a very specific region,
Andrew: I happen to like a style of roasting which some people describe as a northern Italian style. You further to the south, the coffee typically is roasted darker-
Andrew: And as you move up Italy, the coffees are roasted ligher. Trieste, Italy is an area that Linea Caffe and my former company, Ecco, pays homage to. It’s a style of roasting that’s, it’s not oily on the surface. It’s not a super bright coffee, but it’s lighter than most.
On the Packaging Redesign
Kandace: They just redesigned their packaging.
Ray: Oh yeah! There ya go! Classic humanist type faces. Influenced by the writings on color of Josef Albers and also by the classic design of Penguin Book Covers.
Kandace: In the past, the bags were craft bags, and they had their logo on the front, but it was really hard to tell what coffee was in the bag without shelf talker or turning around. I think they’ve solved, actually, a lot of issues that they had originally. Now you can see what’s in the bag, just kind of exciting.
Ray: Mm-hmm (affirmative). The same on the shelf, which is great, but I think they basically had maybe two different colored stickers now.
Ray: Now it’s the actual belly band.
Kandace: The logo is simplified too.
Kandace: “Caffe is” gone.
Ray: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kandace: I mean there is still a café.
Ray: That café is adorable. It’s tiny, and the coffee’s good, so if you’re ever in San Francisco …
How to Say the Name
Kandace: Do you say, “Linea,” or, “Linéa?”
Kandace: Because I, asked Andrew to get very specific about the answer to this.
Andrew: For people that say, do you say “tomayto tomahto”, and it’s like “potayto potahto,” so, Scott could probably tell you how Linea is said in Italy. Is it “Linea?”
Scott: So, it depends on what part of Italy. This is like a big debate Andrew and I have had for years.
Andrew: This is all we argue about.
Scott: Yeah, yeah. Hey do you want to talk about that Linea/Linéa thing again? So there’s part of Italy where they say Linea. There’s a part of Italy where they say Linéa, so it just depends, and then it also brings up this weird debate around, how do Americans say foreign words. Should they say them in the mother tongue? Should they attempt that, or should they say them like Americans?
Always when I talk to someone from the Bay area, they say Linéa, and I think, for the most part, we call our machine the Linea mini, or the Linea classic. We don’t say Linéa, so …
Ray: The correct version is the one that I’m saying.
Kandace: What are you saying?
Ray: No. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying Linea.
Ray: Why do you keep saying that? That’s not what I say!
Andrew: If our guests walk in the caffe and I say either is correct; however, my wife, she’ll probably hate me for saying this, but she’ll say, “You have to say which is the right way, you can’t just waffle on this.”
Andrew: But I’ll continue to waffle.
Andrew: So Scott and I have been working on something.
Kandace: I was actually wondering if we should make it into two episodes. One about the …
Ray: No. (PS We are)
Ray: Linea Caffe, of San Francisco.