Caffeine runs in the Tower District look a little different now that two new coffee shops have opened.
One, Olive Avenue’s Component Coffee, has changed its menu but is still familiar to fans of its predecessor, The Revue.
The Alchemist Coffee Lab has opened in what used to be Hi Top Coffee on Wishon Avenue.
Both are local owners. However, each has its own atmosphere and its own way of looking at coffee, and the menus vary greatly.
Here’s a look at what to expect from each and which drinks set them apart.
The Alchemist Coffee Lab opened in mid-December. The coffee shop is the son of Hamzeh Mahmoud, one of the owners of his Fresno-based Q29 Roastery. The company roasts beans from all over the world and he has been selling coffee for three years at Farmer’s Market and Coffee Shop.
At The Alchemist, we focus on coffee. Think espresso and pour-over flights, Turkish he coffee served in small copper pots, and different brewing methods designed to bring out the best flavors.
One eye-catching method is siphon brewing. This is a method he’s been doing since the mid-1800s, using equipment that appears to have been brought over from a chemistry lab.
When the water in the glass bulb is heated over an open flame, it is forced up into another glass beaker-like container containing the coffee.
Like pour over coffee, this process can take several minutes. But if you’re just looking for a quick cup, Alchemist has drip-hit coffee available until around noon.
The menu also includes lattes, cappuccinos, iced teas, and matcha.
“What we don’t do is frappuccinos and whipped cream,” Mahmood said. “I want my coffee to shine”
When asked to speak with him, Mahmoud is poetic about his love of roasting coffee beans with his senses rather than machines. He listens for beans crackling and checks for aroma and color.
He said he deliberately chose the Tower District for his café because he thought people here would be most receptive to the type of coffee he makes.
A graduate of Bullard High School, Mahmoud’s background is Arabic, specifically Palestinian.
“It’s a big part of my culture,” he said. “Making coffee shine is part of me. I’m a purist.”
Alchemist also offers barista-baked scones, cookies, and other food. His bowls of avocado toast, oatmeal, and yogurt are also on the menu.
Facts: The window logo looks like a cup of coffee with artistic swirls, but those swirls actually spell out the word Alchemist in Arabic.
Details: The Alchemist is located at 1306 N. Wishon Ave. Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday 7am-5pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-4pm.
Stepping into a coffee shop that used to be a revue on Olive Street, it doesn’t look like much has changed at first glance.
A few things have been moved, the couches are gone, but the overall vibe is the same.The same employees slinging espresso drinks. An endless line of strangers still chatting outside. The revue sign is still there, hanging in the overgrown back room.
Visalia-based Component took over the coffee shop this month after Revue’s owners decided to focus on their businesses (including Ampersand Ice Cream) and careers.
Component Coffee Lab has been operating a coffee shop on Main Street in Visalia for over four years. The Fresno location dropped “Lab” from the name.
The Fresno location has been selling component-roasted coffee for years, so that hasn’t changed.
But the menu is a little different.
Gone are the waffles and the whiskey caramel latte. Limited food options are currently available, but more options are available.
Drinks are basically iced coffee, hot coffee, cappuccino, latte such as lavender, matcha, and chai.
There are some interesting new options that co-founder Jonathan Anderson encourages people to try.
If you’re a vanilla latte fan, try the sweet latte.It’s sweetened with raw organic sugar for a hint of caramel flavor.
Revue’s Mexican Mocha has been replaced with Aztec Mocha. The Aztec version is spicy, with cayenne and chili pepper flavors.
Want something different? Try the espresso tonic.
An iced drink made by pouring espresso into tonic water. Squeeze a wedge of orange into the drink to remove the espresso edge and add a little flavor.
According to Anderson, this is “polarizing.”
“You either love it or you hate it,” he said.
So far, the change doesn’t seem to have surprised customers. Coffee shops are always busy.
Another space behind the coffee shop that used to host special events, The Backroom Events, isn’t continuing its lease this year. (Don’t confuse it with a component backroom full of booths and plants. It’s still there, with some new lighting.)
The Component’s name was inspired by the component stereo system in Anderson’s parents’ garage. And it’s a metaphor.
“We want to be part of your neighborhood,” he said.
We want it to be a place where people can hang out and relax.
“I know it’s a change for people,” he said. “I am thrilled to be there and prove to them that we are part of the community and can make great coffee.”
Details: Component Coffee is located at 620 E. Olive Ave. Hours of Operation: Daily from 7am to 4pm.