Chromatic Coffee: Roasted in San Jose, Retail in Santa Clara
At first glance, one thing that sets Chromatic apart from other third wave roasters is their unique stamped foil packaging. For a relative newcomer to the Bay Area scene, Chromatic is doing big things. Their two-year anniversary celebration, held in early October at their flagship café, drew well over 200 people.
Even though everyone behind the scenes at Chromatic met through coffee, the team accurately describes their downtown San Jose headquarters as “half art studio, half roaster.” Not only are all of Chromatic’s coffees sourced from farms where green buyer Hiver van Geenhoven has developed close relationships, they are also roasted and bagged in-house.
Chromatic tunes and modifies nearly every piece of equipment, from a roaster retrofitted with fans so that it can roast and cool at the same time to an espresso machine with three distinct pumps and water lines.
The concept for this modded espresso machine came about after comparing different roasting styles around the world with the mineral content of the water. “People are quick to dismiss water as a variable” says Patrick Martin, “but roasting in Scandinavia, for example, is typically short, fast and light, and their water is a lot less minerally than water here in the South Bay. We wanted to play with mineral content in water and roasting styles to bring out different characteristics of coffees.”
Many drinks on the menu are designed to combine the water, roast and terroir to bring out the acidity and enzymatic qualities of the coffees. The menu of all single-origin coffees stays away from milk, and all drinks have the crema (the foamy layer on top of a shot of espresso) reserved. Some of the drinks even incorporate such unorthodox components as soda water, drinking chocolate, peach leaves and Lactart, a lactic acid product traditionally used by bartenders.
If you’re not feeling particularly adventurous, fear not: The café also offers a solid selection of classic espresso drinks and pour-overs as well as a monthly “artist takeover” featuring a limited-edition run of artist-designed coffee bags, an exhibition of the artist’s work and an opening reception the first Thursday of every month.