MARTINEZ -- Mountain Grounds is the new barista in Martinez and owner John Cassidy is selling award-winning Revel Coffee with a style and flavor that has customers demanding more.
"I come in every afternoon," said Jackie Austin, who is an ICU nurse at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. "I got addicted to the chocolate croissants and his lattes are so smooth."
"It's great coffee," said Martinez native and independent garden and sales representative Mary Hatch. "I like their lattes."
She raves about the specialty coffees such as the latte crème brule that is set afire before being served, and the S'more with its nod to the renowned campfire dessert.
Cassidy changes his menu on a whim saying he is like the chimney sweep in "Mary Poppins."
"I do what I love and I love what I do." he quotes.
What Hatch likes most is the shop's convenience and hometown ambience provided by Cassidy.
On Sept. 14, the Montana native hung his Mountain Grounds sign at 3750 Alhambra Ave. and began brewing and selling Guatemala Acatengango Gesha, roasted in Billings, Mont., by his longtime friend Gary Theisen.
Then in December "Coffee Review" released a list of its first effort to rank the top 30 coffees it had reviewed in 2013.
quality (represented by overall rating), value (reflected by most affordable price per pound), and a ranking of other factors that include distinctiveness of style, uniqueness of origin or tree variety, sustainable certification, and general rarity," Kenneth Davids noted in Coffee Review on the "Top 30 Coffees of 2013."
Revel's Gesha scored 95 points and was ranked 12 in the country and number two in California after the top-ranked Ethiopia Yirgacheffe ECX roasted and brewed by Temple Coffee and Tea in Sacramento with its score of 96.
"Gary sent it in," Cassidy said. "We sent it off hoping it would do OK. It cupped and scored at 95 ... and was still up there with top scores at the end."
Cassidy says he also wants to give his patrons great service and provide a hometown place to learn more about coffee.
Part of his innovative service includes a special feature that encourages customers to avoid the long lines during commute by texting their order.
This caught on and it is common to see cars drive up and Cassidy or his wife Danielle run the hot coffee out to the driver. Cassidy recalls one rushed patron texting in her order, then driving up and slowing down jut enough to reach out and grab her morning latte.
Cassidy sees himself on the front line of brewers and roasters of specialty coffees interested in educating consumers about espresso-based drinks and how they are made.
He eagerly talks coffee with anyone, and any late Thursday afternoon hosts a "Latte Throw Down."
He teaches the art of making a latte, including the all-important flower drawn on top of the beverage. Cassidy says latte art learned by baristas shows how perfectly the coffee was pulled or made.
The coffee and milk temperature have to be just right and the liquids poured at the same time to get that perfect flower and cup.
"If people want to try doing it, I let them," he says enthusiastically.
Mountain Grounds is also looking to rack up more awards.
Revel and Mountain Grounds are entering the 2014 best coffee competition with another roast and Cassidy is planning on heading to Washington State to compete in a "best" barista competition.