12 questions with Bob L. of Burnside Coffee

A graphic that reads "Q+A: Introducing Bob L."
Bob L. of Burnside Coffee is one of Sac's newest tastemakers. | Photo provided

Sacramento is not lacking in great local cafés — Chocolate Fish, Camellia, Temple, Pachamama + Milka are just a few that come to our minds. That makes this next claim all the more special: we don’t think there’s any place like Burnside Coffee.

We asked its creative mastermind + co-owner Bob L. — who launched the city’s first-ever licensed café cart with his partner Haley back in May at 1515 19th St.  — 12 questions about his approach to coffee (which we ourselves think is a  “molecular marvel”), his specials for Drink Up Week, and the state of Sac’s coffee scene.

Heads up: Burnside Coffee’s hours are currently Wed.-Sun., 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

Q: The word “origin” is used a lot in the coffee industry, which is leading us to wonder — what’s yours? 

A: Coffee has been a passion of mine for almost 10 years. I found I had a knack for extracting amazing flavor out of coffee beans from around the world. Being an entrepreneur and looking for what’s next, I thought I could impact the industry to show what more can be done with coffee. I noticed options were more limited for espresso at many coffee shops, so I wanted to provide an experience with options like what you can find at breweries + dispensaries.

Q: We’d never tasted a chilled espresso before Burnside, but now we’re converts. Can you explain why you specialize in iced beverages?

A: Instantly chilling espresso really brings out the natural flavors of the coffee. Through extensive research, I found that shaking the espresso with ice brings out these flavors even more. If you really want it, I will make you a hot drink — but first I’ll push you to try it cold.

Q: Can you tell us about the specials you’re running for Drink Up Week, as well as how people can use your free milk upgrade?

A: This week we are featuring the Buttery Martian, which is a blend of Ethiopian and Guatemalan coffees roasted locally by Juno. We also add our signature sweetener — brown sugar + grass-fed butter. Also, we are featuring free milk upgrades for Drink Up Week. We want everyone to try our special A2 milk infusions. If s’mores isn’t your thing, try our vanilla bean/Golden Grahams-infused milk, or our vanilla/strawberry-infused milk! The discount will automatically apply to each order.

A hand holds a paper cup with a foamy liquid inside
The Buttery Martian, a Drink Up Week special | Photo by SACtoday Staff

Q: With white wine-fermented beans + others featuring notes of raspberry purée, can you describe your method for sourcing your coffee? How integral is each roast to establishing Burnside Coffee’s identity?

A: We definitely do things the hard way and we look for roasters + farmers who also push the boundaries of what can be done with a coffee bean. When I shop for beans, I look for crazy, interesting flavor profiles that really come through with espresso extraction. I take the time to master each bean and extract the best flavor possible. At Burnside, we love creating blends and different combinations of coffee + milk. With our evolving and extensive bean menu, we want to give people options to fully customize their own cup. You wouldn’t want to go to a brewery and only have one option for a brew on draft.

Q: Similarly, the milk you feature is distinctive — something called A2 milk. Can you describe what that is + how you landed on flavors like s’mores?

A: A2 milk is basically what milk was like before industrialized farming. This farm, Alexandre Eco Dairy Farms located in Crescent City, CA, is the first certified regenerative farm in the U.S. The milk comes from cows with the A2/A2 protein — compared to the A1/ A2 protein, which is what hurts most peoples’ stomachs. The A1 protein found in today’s common milks destroys the human gut microbiome + causes inflammation throughout the body.

Milk absorbs any flavors it comes into contact with, so that allows us to create seasonal and unique milk infusions such as our summertime s’mores chocolate milk. We stay away from using syrups so the coffee is still the focal point in your cup. Keep your eye out for new flavors + processes like smoked milk — still working on that one.

Q: It’s hard not for the mind to wander — thinking about what’s next for your coffee cart — with the big open space behind you. Can you tell me what your plans are for the business over the next few years?

A: We are very excited about the future phases at Burnside. Right now, we are small and mobile, but soon we will move the cafe inside the old Zuda yoga studio. As we continue to grow and hire employees, we will be working closely with the Sacramento Workability program to provide jobs + opportunities for young adults with disabilities who are transitioning out of high school. This is a huge passion of ours. We feel these amazing kids can provide an experience unlike any other coffee shop or cafe, while also bringing awareness to the true capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Our hope is to widen the opportunities for those in the Workability program and that other companies will follow suit.

Q: And we’re burning to know — why is it called Burnside Coffee?

A: We want the aesthetic of Burnside to be very different than most cafes + coffee shops. We love the look of burned and scorched wood — our logo is actually burned into the hexagon tiles of our current mobile cart. The idea really came together on a coffee research trip around the country. Being a young + broke entrepreneur who was working on starting his life over at 30, I found inspiration walking up the stairs to the Burnside Bridge in Portland, OR. It was there that I ultimately decided to share my passion and unique process for making coffee.

Q: Could you describe Sacramento as a coffee order?

A: Sacramento as an order: The Stout Latte with S’mores Milk. These beans — like Sacramento — are unlike any other. The s’mores milk is incredibly layered with flavors. With the farm fresh milk that goes straight to your cup, this drink is fun + unique and is something that everyone can enjoy.

A beverage with lots of different colors sits on a stump
There’s a galaxy of color in the Cosmic Rose Tea from Burnside Coffee | Photo by SACtoday Staff

Q: What do you wish Sacramentans knew about the café business?

A: By showcasing roasters + farmers who break all the traditional rules of coffee, we hope to show Sacramentans that the future of coffee is here.

Q: How would you describe Sacramento’s coffee culture in the length of a tweet? (280 characters)

A: The coffee industry is booming in Sacramento. It almost seems like there is a coffee shop on every corner. I feel the options are still a bit limited for espresso, but we hope to change that.

Q: With your outer space-inspired drinks, we’re curious to know: If you moved to Mars, which local business would you bring with you? Why?

A: Devil May Care. What pairs better than ice cream + coffee? We love the idea of adding affogatos to our menu and we have always gone to DMC for our frozen fixes. It’s been really cool to watch them push the boundaries of ice cream flavors over the years, and they’ve inspired me to do the same with coffee. It would be fun to see what crazy, interesting combinations we could create on Mars!

Note: While the ice cream parlor closed just last week, it plans to return in the future.

Q: Lastly, is there anything else you would like to share?

A: We really hope to keep impacting the local coffee scene, and we have a lot of big plans to bring coffee shops and people closer together. Soon, we hope to work more closely with local roasters to create beans you can only find at Burnside. In the near future, we hope to feature the same bean roasted by several different local roasters, to show how different and unique each roast can be.