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Souvenir Coffee to Bring Third Wave to Berkeley’s Claremont Neighborhood

Espresso drinks and a living wage are on the menu

3084 Claremont Ave.
Ellen Fort

A sleepy stretch of Claremont Ave. in Berkeley will soon receive a jolt of caffeine, with the addition of Souvenir Coffee. The coffeeshop will move into the space formerly occupied by Semifreddi’s, which closed last fall and was a mainstay in the neighborhood for residents in search of coffee, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. The space also shares the block with Star Grocery, Jutta’s Flowers, and Dark Carnival (a science fiction bookstore), making it a hub for the ‘hood.

The new coffee shop and roaster will be a step up from Semifreddi’s, who offered coffee as a companion to their main business: bread and pastries. Souvenir owner Jeremy Bled is more interested in coffee, with accompanying pastries (purveyors TBD). As a Berkeley native and son of a French chef (formerly of Metropole Restaurant), Bled is hoping to bring back the “Berkeley spirit” to the neighborhood, but with good coffee. “We wouldn’t be here without Peets,” said Bled. “They made coffee accessible, and that’s what third wave coffee is missing.” To that end, Bled plans to offer daily cuppings (or tastings) of coffee in the shop.

And, Souvenir will serve a variety of roasts (not just third wave’s beloved and highly acidic light roast) which Bled roasts at a facility in Berkeley. “We want to be inclusive,” said Bled, who is keenly aware of the tastes of the surrounding neighborhood’s older demographic. “Think third wave, with second wave heart.” Espresso drinks will be the main offering, with pour overs offered during the less busy hours; cold brew, and nitro cold brew will be on the menu as well. Unlike Semifreddi’s, there will be no kitchen—prepared salads and sandwiches will be offered, plus some Semifreddi’s bread and pastries from a third party.

Additionally, Bled’s plan is to provide full-time employees with livable salaries and healthcare. “Our motto is ‘People first, then coffee,’” Bled told Eater SF. A background in tech at Kaiser Permanente has helped shape his plan, which he hopes to implement immediately.

Laptops will be welcome, but Bled says his intent is not to harbor a “laptop farm,” and hopes to foster a European-style cafe where guests actually talk to each other. Souvenir will debut in June, open seven days a week til 5 p.m. with plans for community events in the evenings.

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