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A shared love for San Francisco’s underground dance parties connected Bradley Katz and Greg Pescheret, but in recent months, another shared passion is taking them to a new stage of their working relationship — coffee roasting.
In 2017, Katz and Pescheret met at the Folsom Street Fair while working the stage for Honey Soundsystem, a beloved San Francisco DJ crew that hosts queer underground events. Katz — who moved from Ashland, Oregon, to Oakland in 1996 — ran an audio company called Waveworks, designing, installing and servicing custom sound systems for nightclubs, restaurants and bars, as well as renting sound equipment for outdoor parties and events, including the ones thrown by Honey Soundsystem. Pescheret, who also lives in Oakland, was working as Honey Soundsystem’s stage manager, dealing with logistics and production.
“Brad and I bonded over pulled pork sandos and an impeccable day of top notch music and sunshine,” Pescheret recalled of that day.
The two found that they worked well together, and in January 2020, Katz asked Pescheret to join his company to help with events operation, which included doing administrative work, managing employees and helping with rentals. It was a welcome change for Pescheret, who along with his late hours working with Honey Soundsystem, as well as DJing at and promoting other dance parties in the city, worked early morning hours running a pop-up cafe in San Francisco’s Financial District. Pescheret quit his cafe job for the new gig.
But a few months later there were no more dance parties and no more events. With restaurants and bars closed due to the shelter-in-place orders, Waveworks was struggling to stay in business.
“COVID shut off everything but a trickle of installation work,” Katz said. He knew he had to turn to something else, and quickly.
That something turned out to be coffee.
A hobby becomes a professional pursuit
Katz remembers being a kid, and trying coffee for the first time, likely a cup made from canned grounds of Folgers or Maxwell House.
“I remember downing a cup early in life, getting ready for school and puking, nuff said,” Katz recalled.
But his opinion about and interest in coffee developed over the years, first, when he was in college in Ashland and had his first sip of Peets, then later, while living in the Bay Area but visiting a friend in Portland, where he tried his first taste of Stumptown.
“I was so amazed with all the flavor in that Stumptown latte that I asked them if they knew where I could find anything comparable where I lived,” Katz said. “They told me about their friends who were starting Ritual and how they were working on opening a cafe on Valencia Street in the Mission District in SF.”
Katz was fascinated by the array of flavors he tasted in these third-wave brews. “The third wave is all about fresh, light roasted coffee where you can taste a variety of unique notes including citrus, dried fruit, and even candy. Purchasers seek out individual farms and have trained co-ops to sort and grade the beans for best profile and terroir notes,” he said.
When Ritual opened a few months later in San Francisco, Katz spent a lot of time there. He talked with the baristas to get as much information about brew methods, particularly to learn how to perfect his pour-over technique.
Katz eventually started to roast his own coffee, and got so good at home roasting that he preferred his brew to those from his favorite professional roasters. Bay Area CoRoasters, or CoRo, in West Berkeley, became one of his new haunts, where he found a community of coffee enthusiasts and professionals, who shared their knowledge and expertise. Katz daydreamed about owning a cafe and roasting professionally, but it seemed like something he could pursue down the road.
That career transition came sooner than later with the arrival of COVID-19. Suddenly, he had more free time to “research and start roasting on a commercial level,” he said. Encouraged by his buddies at CoRo, he started Bassline in May 2020, and tapped Pescheret to once again join him in his new endeavor. (Bassline’s third employee is live sound engineer Aaron Ballard, who helps on packing and shipping days.)
As noted earlier, Pescheret ran a cafe before joining Waveworks, but this wasn’t his only experience in coffee. He worked for 16 years, “slinging coffee” at various cafes, from mom-and-pop shops to Starbucks and Blue Bottle “back when they were a local operation.” But it wasn’t until joining Bassline that he was able to work the production side of the business. Bassline currently roasts its coffee on Tuesdays at CoRo.
“It’s been a trip seeing this side of the business and learning roasting. This side of the industry always felt gate-kept to me, so it’s nice to be back in the mix with a fresh perspective. All of this was a nice lucky, little coincidence!” Pescheret told Nosh.
Standing out in a crowded marketplace
Both Katz and Pescheret know that the Bay Area is a “crowded marketplace of great coffee,” but they feel Bassline stands out with its offerings, which focus not just on roast levels but bean notes.
“There’s not a lot of roasters doing different roast levels with the flavor of what I feel are the best coffee beans available. We are new and learning, but at the same time, can offer something for every kind of coffee lover with a truly unique cup,” Katz said.
Third-wave coffee lovers, who lean towards bright, fruity flavors, will appreciate Bassline’s light roasts. Its Bali Organic roast, for example, has notes of macadamia, strawberry and Kit-Kat, while its Derikocha, Oromia roast has notes of Rainier cherry, Daiquiri and almond.
Old-school coffee drinkers, who often favor richer brews, will enjoy Bassline’s dark roasts. Beans sourced from Buesaco Community in Nariño, Colombia, have hints of chocolate, candied citrus and hibiscus, while those from Bella Vista Women’s Group in Chiapas, Mexico, have notes of cocoa, marshmallow and Swiss vanilla.
And for everyone in between — including yours truly — Bassline offers medium roasts, which are still full-bodied and have hints of fruits and spices, but are balanced and not too overwhelmingly bright.
Bassline offers decaffeinated coffee, too. Its Colombia Las Montanas is made with the Ethyl Acetate (EA) Natural Process, to remove the caffeine from beans while they’re still green. But the lack of buzz doesn’t mean less flavor. Upon tasting this roast, the only way to tell it was decaf was that I wasn’t up all night after drinking a cup in the afternoon, as I would after drinking regular coffee late in the day.
“It’s very important to us to please both the coffee snobs out there and the people that are over Starbucks,” Katz explained. “Our goal is to bring the top-level, barista-quality cafe experience straight into the home and keep our bean lineup super interesting like a favorite mix-tape or DJ set.”
Bassline Coffee is available for purchase online. Prices vary from $17-$20 per 12-ounce package.