Best coffee at Cal? 1951 Coffee Company, where refugees serve up fine brew

Two men and one woman stand with a plaque in a coffee shop

Most of the baristas at 1951 Coffee Company are recent refugees or asylees. From the left, Aman (Eritrea), Rose (Eritrea) and Kazem (Afghanistan) accept their Berkeleyan Readers’ Choice award. (UC Berkeley photo by Hulda Nelson)

The best coffee spot near campus is 1951 Coffee Company, according to readers of the Berkeleyan.

More than 15 percent of the 658 readers who took our poll said the cafe, with locations inside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and two blocks away at 2410 Channing Way, was their favorite place for espresso, pour-over and batch brew. Readers might also have appreciated the nonprofit’s social mission: Many of the baristas are refugees and asylees who find work, community and job training at 1951.

Abby R. Kroken, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Optometry’s Fleiszig Lab, voted for 1951 Coffee Company and was one of five readers to win an “I’m A Berkeleyan” T-shirt by leaving her email address with her vote. Why 1951? “I genuinely think their espresso drinks are the best on and around campus,” she said.

Caffe Strada at Bancroft Way and College Avenue was a close second with 14.8 percent of the vote, and Yali’s Cafe at 1920 Oxford St. came in third with 8 percent.

The other T-shirt winners are:

  • Adrienne Ross, a retired campus administrative assistant who voted for Peet’s Coffee;
  • Student Jessica Hou, who likes the vanilla soy lattes at Yali’s Cafe;
  • Lyn Rivera, a fan of Yali’s and a graduate student affairs officer in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management;
  • Senior chemical engineering major Allison Green, who voted for Brewed Awakening at 1807 Euclid Ave.

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