There is so much good coffee in San Francisco, but only one Black- and immigrant-owned shop specializing in Ethiopian brews. That business would be Sextant Coffee Roasters, the SoMa cafe and roaster opened in 2014 by Ethiopian-born Kinani Ahmed. Now, after almost a decade, Ahmed will open his second shop by the end of October. It’ll move into a classic Mission District location: the former Arinell Pizza space at 16th and Valencia streets. “I’ve lived here for the last 33 years,” Ahmed says. “I was born in Ethiopia but have lived here most of my life. I’m a part of the community, and I want to be a part of the Mission community, too.”
The new shop will offer plenty of primo Ethiopian coffees — with a few Brazillian and Colombian coffees sprinkled in here and there — with seating available for a work remote force hungry for space to post up. There’ll be treats from the French Spot’s pastry chef Vincent Attali, fresh juices, and open-faced breakfast toasts. Signature drinks exclusive to the location, featuring house-made syrups, will be available including matcha lattes — useful since fan-favorite Stonemill Matcha closed up the block at the end of August. Ahmed roasts his own coffee and says he’s proud to bring in efficient, smart technology such as Marco SP9s for pour-overs and the James Hoffman-designed Eagle One for espresso.
Ahmed says his reliance on sharp equipment as a person from a coffee-producing community qualifies his work as fifth wave, an admittedly contested term. In 2021, coffee magazine Drift detailed up to six waves of coffee, describing the fifth as the “commercial scaling of boutique coffee.” Coffee news blog Sprudge describes the theoretical predecessor fourth wave as getting coffee into the hands of historically marginalized communities. By those measures, Ahmed’s new cafe will land somewhere in that foggy intersection. He built his business off of third-wave interests, meaning attention to light roasts and consumer knowledge, and says he still works to educate and train his community back home. To that end, he’s in direct contact with family members in Ethiopia who are producing coffee for Sextant. “Sadly I have seen few people from my part of the world do coffee,” Ahmed says. “It’s just me doing it. I’m the only fifth-generation, crop to cup, Ethiopian American in San Francisco.”
Getting this second location together took some time. Ahmed says he was looking for a second space before the pandemic, as he had two other businesses — he also owned Tenderloin businesses including Jebenah Coffee and Tea on Polk Street and Geary Boulevard — that he wanted to consolidate under the Sextant name. Throughout the last few years, he kept his eyes open, working with agents to scout ideal locations. Now he’ll join the Valencia Street corridor, an area that’s had a bumpy time throughout the pandemic’s worst impacts. Of course, what part of San Francisco hasn’t, and business owners on the commercial corridor are feeling optimistic about the state of play in 2023. With Barberio Osteria opening up the street and fellow newcomer Cauliflower just around the corner, the area is due for a zip of caffeine to keep things booming.
Sextant Coffee Roasters will open at 539 Valencia Street by the end of October.