January 30, 2019 was a special day. It was a day that was forecast to bring an inch of rain to the Bay, but as the day started there wasn't a cloud in the sky. While the saying, "Well, we need the rain" has become commonplace in this part of California, the sun was a welcome sight, as we knew that this was the day that Caffe Strada in Berkeley was celebrating their 30th anniversary. With the Cal Marching Band scheduled to perform, lines expected to wrap around the block, and free coffee being served all day, this year's January 30th was the perfect day for a celebration.
Our relationship with Daryl Ross and Caffe Strada reaches back to the late 1980's when the cafe first opened. Daryl took over the old Cafe Roma location on the corner of Bancroft and College Ave., just across the street from the UC Berkeley Campus. Before opening, Daryl had to find a coffee roaster. One of our long time customers, Bette Kroening from Bette's Diner, made the initial connection between Caffe Strada and McLaughlin Coffee. She met with Daryl and told him that he had to use McLaughlin Coffee as his roaster.
Once the connection was made, Daryl and Mike started what would become a great relationship. Daryl and his family came to the roastery and as a group the Ross family and McLaughlin family set out to make a custom espresso that would be the cornerstone of the Caffe Strada experience. Mike reflected on the process "We did a lot of tasting to make sure it was the right strength as an espresso and to make sure it was especially good through milk." The resulting espresso was everything that the team set out to create...great as a straight espresso and one that cut through milk in drinks like lattes and mochas perfectly.
In talking to former Berkeley students, Strada, Blondie's Pizza, and Top Dog were the places to go in the 80's and early 90's. And Caffe Strada is in the unique position of touching so many lives. Stories like this article in last year's Daily Californian, are commonplace, as so many students have fond memories of their times at Caffe Strada. And new memories were made Wednesday at the 30th anniversary celebration.
The cafe served free coffee from 6AM to 6PM, but that was just the beginning. The staff had a free prize wheel, where everyone got a chance to spin the wheel for prizes. Free stuff is always a treat for college students, and many happy students walked away with t-shirts, water bottles, and gift cards. As the clock ticked to noon and the Campanile chimed it's first of twelve bell tolls, the sound of drums began, and the California Straw Hat Band began its march up Bancroft toward Caffe Strada. The crowd in the outdoor seating area was treated as the band lined the northeast corner of the cafe and put on a show.
It was an outstanding 30th anniversary celebration. It's so much fun to celebrate three decades of a wonderful partnership and reflect on how coffee can touch people's lives in such a meaningful way.
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