Last week I had the privilege to attend a tour of Oakland’s Food Industry. We spent the day visiting eight food businesses in Oakland which was a mixture of new and old.
Stop #1: Hodo Soy Beanery
Hodo Soy Beanery was founded in 2004 by Tofu Master Minh Tsai. Although I may have passed a Hodo booth at a local Farmer’s Market, I was not familiar with the company. Hodo makes soy milk, tofu, and yuba. I didn’t realize what yuba was before the tour, which is tofu skin. We visited the industrial building that was originally built in 1925 as a candy factory and now home to Hodo. The tour of Hodo consisted of an overview of the company, meeting Minh Tsai, seeing some production through a window, and sampling tofu and yuba. I really enjoyed the yuba salads and will look for it at the Lake Temescal Farmer’s Market.
Stop #2: California Cereal Products
California Cereal Products (CCP) manufactures and distributes rice flour, crisp rice, and corn flakes. The company has been operating in a building in West Oakland since 1994. Originally built in 1915 by the Shredded Wheat Company, the building was taken over by Nabisco in 1928 prior to housing CCP. With a long list of visitor restrictions including no cameras, no wearing of jewelry, must have sleeves and must wear hairnets, we received a presentation of the company and a tour of the plant. The building was pretty impressive designed with a gothic style building front.
Stop #3: Blue Bottle Coffee
Founded in 2002 by James Freeman, Blue Bottle is a coffee roaster who’s business model is selling beans within 48 hours of roasting. It currently resides in a brick building in the Waterfront Warehouse District close to Jack London Square. Our tour was guided by James himself who is pretty proud to be at its current location. It was a bummer that we weren’t given any coffee, but I guess we didn’t have the time for the entire group to have drip coffee. I’m glad our bus driver was able to enjoy a cup.
Stop #4: Numi Tea
I was pretty happy that Numi Tea was part of the food tour. I have been wanting to visit the tea garden for a long time. The brother and sister team Ahmed and Reem Rahim founded the company in 1999. We were able to see Reem pop in and out which shows how active she is with the company. The company is located in a brick building in East Oakland which used to house part of the cotton mill factories. We had a little time to sample some tea and make purchases in the tea garden. It’s worth a visit back.
Stop #5: Veronica Foods
Veronica Foods is located a block away from Numi Tea. The business imports, bottles, and distributes olive oils. We had several tastings of olive oil before we toured the plant. This business has impressively spanned three generations.
Stop #6: Premier Organics
Premier Organics is the manufacturer of nut and seed butters. Located in East Oakland on 81st Avenue, it used to be home to Mother’s Cookies. The founder gave us a presentation on the company and then we were led to a room to sample many of their products. Upon leaving, they were generous and gave us each a bag with more of their products.
Stop #7: Dreisbach Inc.
Not too far away in a residential area is Dreisbach Inc. The company offers cold storage for the importing and exporting of foods. This is another multigenerational business. The tour of the warehouse was impressive due to the quantity of what is being brought in and out.
Stop #8: Linden Street Brewery
The tour of Oakland’s Food Industry saved the best for last. We visited Linden Street Brewery in West Oakland near the Port of Oakland where founder and brewmaster Adam Lamoreaux welcomed us. Currently Linden Street is only one of two breweries in Oakland. He brews two beers and delivers to restaurants in Oakland and San Francisco. He means he. He is a one man show. About to launch a third beer he will only sell and deliver to locations he can get to on his custom built bicycle. He is also about to open a tasting room. Our tour ended with Adam pouring us his two beer which were both tasty.
I had a great experience on this tour realizing how important it is to have businesses in Oakland. It was fascinating to hear from all of the founders of these businesses and their passions. In order to support Oakland, I will continue to eat Oakland and I hope you do too.