Coffee Tour – Peet’s Coffee and Tea

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before I love coffee, and if we’re honest I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to what coffee I like to drink.  

Let me take you back to 1969, it was the summer of love; or atleast I’ve been told.  I was not even a thought in my parents head, but coffee was.  At that time my mom and dad we’re both in high school and they would ride their bikes to a little known coffee shop on the corner of Walnut and Vine.

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My mom loves to tell this story – how she has been a true Peet’s fan from the beginning.  The history of the coffee company and the area of Berkeley now known as the “Gourmet Ghetto” can be found on their website Here.  For me I can remember taking treks up to the store with my parents, to buy pounds of coffee on the weekends (whole bean of course).  I remember the shop being dark, and there was always a line, I would amuse myself by looking at the different types of coffee – green (freshly picked) aged, light roasted, medium roasted and dark roasted (my moms favorite). On one wall there were different types of tea, and I always wondered how they got the Gun Powder Tea to grow in those little ball shapes.  It was always a great adventure for me to as a kid, I would dream of exotic lands and far away places while my parents waited for their coffee order. One Wall in particular held (and quite honestly still holds) my attention – it housed all of the coffee Accoutrements!  Measuring cups, and tampers, glass carafes, and cones, French press pots, in various sizes, and grinders and mills in so many shapes and sizes, my favorite was a wooden box with a drawer and a crank, I would pretend I was in the old west, and have to crank out coffee grinds for families to sell in our Old County Store.  Even growing up in Berkeley and Albany (as my husband puts it “Hippie Central”  we were one of the only families I knew that did not own a coffee pot, instead we had a grinder and a small cone filter for single servings and a large cone filter and a glass carafe for a crowd.  As far as my parents were concerned, it was the only way to make a true cup of coffee. 

Much to my parents dismay, as grew older and moved out on my own I didn’t really have the same adoration for coffee as my folks did, I spent years with a two cup coffee maker and a can of Folgers (just in case my grandparents came to visit) barely used on my kitchen counter.  Then in my mid twenties, as I was burning the candle at both ends, partying way to late, while working full time and raising two daughters, I learned to appreciate caffination in the morning to get me through the rough patches. And slowly from there, my mother lit the spark that is now my passion for good coffee;  I believe it started with a coffee grinder for Christams and a pound of Peet’s Holiday blend (still a favorite).  Then it was a conversation about how a cone filter and the “Pour over Method” is the only way to get all of the subtle flavors out of the bean.  And from there my passion grew, I branched out to try different beans from other regions (I personally love South American coffees, while my mother sticks with African blends) .  Even adding Peaberry’s or reserves to my circulation, but always, always always it has been Peet’s!

I give you this long winded history to impress upon you my utter delight to find that over the Summer, Peet’s for the first time, opened their doors to the public and offered limited tours of their roasting facility for those lucky enough to seen the advertising in stores and get tickets before they were sold out.   I felt like Charlie Bucket receiving his golden ticket when I was able to get reservations for both my mother and myself. Even more so on the day of the event, where we signed a confidentiality contract and had to leave all of our belongings, especially our phones with cameras in a locked room during the tour.  A group of 12 of us were ushered to a small observation area, where we were asked to don, very sexy, blue hair nets, booties for our shoes and for the men in the group with facial hair a lovely face bootie.  Then the tour began……..

I can’t tell you much about the tour, but I did learn a great deal,  like how a good roaster will know by the sound if the bean are ready, or how Peet’s contracts with coffee farms all over the world for their beans, and has been working with farmers over generations to  make sure they are supporting the local community as well.  For anyone that knows, coffee and chocolate are a lot alike, the best kind can only be grown in a small band around the world and can be plagued with plant disease and poor crop production.  In addition since most of the growing areas are in poorer nations around the world Peet’s has made sure they are advocating for ethical pricing of the beans, fair treatment of the labor force, and, consistent production.  (OK off my soap box for a bit)

Once through the plant we were invited into their “training store” where they train baristas, and create new drinks.  It’s also where they hold their barista contests every year. Around a long table we were taught how to taste coffee “correctly,” called cupping where they pour water directly over the grounds in a cup, and taste with spoon, slurping the liquid to allow for aeration and full, flavor distribution over the tongue. If nothing else it was amusing to watch (we were allowed our belongings back at that time as well).

My mother was not pleased I was recording her – lol

From there we learned about their beans and the difference between single origin (one farm or region), Reserves (usually single origin and a special bean) and blends.  


Finally as a perfect ending, they send you home with a half pound of beans, that were roasted on your tour and a measuring spoon to make sure use the appropriate amount. 

We had a wonderful time on the tour and if it’s offered again we will definitelely go, I would strongly advise anyone one that likes coffee or local Bay Area history to take this tour.  The hosts are knowledgeable and personalable, and you’ll have a great story and gifts to take home with you.


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