Los Angeles and San Francisco are not the only cities in California with a hold on the specialty-coffee scene; Fresno can hold its own!
BY EDDIE P. GOMEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos by Eddie P. Gomez
Fresno is located on the flatlands of California’s Great Central Valley, a focal point of a vast agricultural region. The sprawling metropolis of nearly 600,000 people is known the world over for its contributions to literature; Fresno writers over the past century have illuminated American life with spellbinding poetry and prose. Fresno also has a specialty-coffee scene that keeps getting better with each passing year.
Here are five amazing drinks we found in Fresno.
The 608 at Two Cities Coffee Roasting, 608 4th St., Clovis
The Reeves have something special going on in Old Town Clovis, just outside of Fresno. It starts with a welcoming atmosphere for customers that pour into the café. Two Cities Coffee Roasters has been a family affair since a decade ago when Rick decided to turn his hobby of home roasting into a full-scale roastery and café featuring organic coffee. Rick, Yoli, and Chelsea, their daughter, started selling coffee at local farmers markets, and they thought it would be a good idea to start roasting coffee on-site. Yoli mentions, “We wanted (customers) to see and smell the beans as they were coming out of the roaster, to give them a reason to try our coffee.”
With a background in industrial maintenance, Rick did something out of the ordinary: He designed and built a portable coffee roaster, which they still use to roast their increasingly popular coffees. This same emphasis on craftsmanship inspires the café’s dynamic coffee menu. From pourovers to a line of flash-iced coffees to a bevy of espresso drinks, there are plenty of options at Two Cities Coffee Roasters.
The 608 is one drink that is nothing short of spectacular. It is a signature Gibraltar/cortado with an espresso-forward quality that features Two Cities medium-dark roast, balanced by an oat milk sweetness. The caramel flavors imparted by panela—an unrefined sugar sourced from Colombia—elevate the 608 to top-tier status. It does what a Gibraltar is supposed to do, and a little bit more thanks to the panela.
Espresso Tonic at Component Coffee Lab, 620 E. Olive Ave., Fresno
Component Coffee Lab opened in Downtown Visalia six years ago and quickly cemented its role as a destination for top-quality food and coffee (see the August/September 2022 issue of Barista Magazine for more). Jonathan, Greg, Miguel, and Mikayla continue to ride a wave of momentum that has led to the opening of a new roastery in Visalia and expansions into nearby Fresno and Hanford.
In the showy world of mocktails, too many ingredients can overwhelm the senses. The espresso tonic served at Component Coffee Lab is anything but that. How such a simple beverage can end so lip-smackingly delicious is a thing of beauty, especially since it’s made of only three ingredients: El Milagro single origin from Guatemala, Fever-Tree tonic water, and an orange wedge. A tasty shot of espresso and the right ratio of ingredients are key. Squeezing a bit of the orange juice into the drink and giving it a good stir is all it takes. The final result is a crisp and bubbly flavor burst of thirst-quenching satisfaction, which is perfect for a sunny day.
A Burundi Ngozi Pourover at Fulton Street Coffee, 2011 Tuolumne St., Fresno
Fulton Street Coffee in Fresno offers chill vibes in an increasingly trendy part of downtown. Their roasting facility operates next to the café, which means that freshly roasted coffees are always on offer along with an exciting range of coffee drinks. I was set on ordering a latte until a jar of coffee caught my eye. The morning sunlight landed on the lightly roasted coffee beans in a way that reminded me of a single-origin pourover.
Veronica, an accomplished barista, paid a great deal of attention to the pourover, resulting in an extraordinary coffee. The double-washed Burundi Ngozi possessed a subtle acidity that contrasted well with the cup’s sweetness. Notes of lime and raisin stood out to me, but an earthiness dominated in the best way possible, an experience that proved pourovers are in good hands at Fulton Street Coffee.
An Anaerobic Colombian at Kuppa Joy Grand Caffe, 8821 N. Cedar, Fresno
Kuppa Joy has been radiating outward from its original location in Clovis for over a decade, growing to include over half a dozen cafés in Fresno and surrounding communities. Each café features its own personality, carefully curated menu, and motto that champions “God, people, and coffee.”
The siphon brewing process, with its red-hot flame and gurgling hot coffee, results in a great cup of coffee, so I picked an anaerobic Colombian, La Esmeralda, to match. The full-bodied finish courtesy of the siphon highlighted notes of fudge, and a Jolly Rancher tang seized the moment. The anaerobic process also ensured a taste that is unusual but alluring. The experience helped me to understand why Kuppa Joy is a Fresno-area favorite.
A Baydani kettle at Bab Al-Yemen, 3173 W Shaw Ave., Suite 102A, Fresno
Bab Al-Yemen Cafe opened in Fresno in 2021 and has gained a loyal following ever since. Yemeni coffeehouses are springing up throughout the United States. They bring with them rich coffee drinks, community, and mouth-watering pastries. Although Yemeni coffee remains un-sampled by many, it is worth checking out.
The kettle of Baydani served at Bab Al-Yemen moves the spirit. The combined flavors of cardamom, ginger, and a light roast set the stage for magic. The ginger spice runs straight into a peppery cardamom finish and, voilà, a new depth of flavor. What makes this aromatic firebomb even better? Sharing it with friends in the café’s relaxed environment, elements that have been a tradition of Yemeni coffee for nearly five centuries.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eddie P. Gomez (he/him) is a freelance writer based in Modesto, Calif. When he is not substitute teaching kindergarten classes, he wanders from city to city, perfecting the art of the food and coffee adventure.