Charlie May Coffee and Tea House
11200 Golf Links Rd. (at Grass Valley Road), Oakland
The grand opening is Saturday, December 3 from 10 am to 5 pm
What started with a bucket and a bag of beans in a home kitchen, in just two years, became a flourishing business for sisters Arianna and Analyssa Cruz. His company, Charlie May Coffee and Tea, has developed a reputation for serving up some of the Bay Area’s most unique cold brews, and will officially open its first location in Oakland’s Grass Valley neighborhood on December 3.
“We started at home during the pandemic, making about a pound just for ourselves, which grew to five pounds once we started making it for our friends,” Analyssa said. Ella (She learned the cold brew trade after working at coffeehouses, including Berkeley’s Artís Coffee). After effusive praise from their friends, the two decided to turn their cold beer hobby into a solid business called Charlie May, an amalgamation of the names of their grandmothers (Charlotte Ann and Ana May). Soon the sisters were on hold at Bay Area markets and pop-up stores.
Armed with two coolers and bottles of cold beer, the duo would get up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. five days a week to make their drinks and promote their concoctions. “One day we would be in San Jose and the next we would be in San Francisco,” Arianna said. As their business grew, the Cruzes moved their production to a space in Oakland’s Forage Kitchen, where they had more space to better prepare their spirited drinks.
What makes his caffeinated cold drinks stand out from the rest are the flavors influenced by his Guamanian and Filipino backgrounds. “Before we started doing the popups, we went to Guam for a month for inspiration and to realign where we wanted to go as a company,” Arianna said. Eschewing the cane sugar and dairy products de rigueur in most American cafes, Analyssa and Arianna decided to make “sauces,” as they call them, to add to their drinks.
Want a sneak peek at Charlie May? The fledgling venue is quietly open Thanksgiving week from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving Day, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday through Sunday. After its official inauguration, the hours will be from 7-1 from Tuesday to Friday, from 8-2 from Saturday to Sunday, closed on Mondays. Watch for changes to that schedule in 2023.
Their popular champorado cold brew ($7), based on a Filipino chocolate and rice porridge, uses rice milk, coconut, and chocolate as a sauce. And their latiya cold beer ($7) is a riff on a Guamanian dessert of layered vanilla custard and cinnamon-dusted yellow cake. “It’s a gift that we would normally get when we were kids,” Analyssa said. “We always expected a family member to come with a big frying pan as they walked through the door.”
As their cold brew business took off, the two dreamed of opening a physical business at some point in the future. In five years, maybe? Maybe more? Luckily, and to their surprise, the sisters secured a spot in less than two years after brewing their first batch of coffee in their kitchen during the pandemic.
When the store opens next month, customers will also be able to enjoy classic cold brew ($5), lattes ($4.75-$5.25), cappuccino ($4.50), cortado ($3.90) or a double espresso ($3.60). And, if you need to, you can get old-fashioned hot coffee ($3.75-$4.50). Champorado and Latiya sauces can be added to almost any drink for an additional $1. Charlie May roasts his beans using Berkeley’s Bellwether Coffee, a zero-emissions, all-electric coffee roaster. They brew Colombian beans for their happy coffees and espressos and Nicaraguan beans for decaf options.
In addition to cold drinks, which are steeped for 24 hours, Charlie May also offers teas, including a chai milk tea ($5.25 – $6.25) that, unlike the cloying drink you can find at chain coffee shops, is lightly sweetened with agave but heavy. in the spice
“It also has a bit of vanilla powder in it, but mostly, it’s very, very spicy,” added Arianna. She doesn’t miss her popular Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea ($6) of hibiscus petals, green rooibos, and spearmint. “That drink really took off during our pop-ups,” she said.
Another highlight that customers can expect at Charlie May’s new store is a store layout that, by intention, stands out from the antiseptic, gleaming white decor found in so many local artisan cafes.
“We wanted to get away from the traditional white walls and white countertops, so we have a lot of black in there,” said Arianna, beaming over the advanced textured black corrugated metal wall that anchors the space. “That’s our favorite part of the design.” And although they had planned to replace the old roof with a new one, the renovation process exposed beautiful wall-to-wall wood slats.
The new store means fewer pop-ups about the future of the Cruz sisters, but it also means Bay Area born-and-raised women will have a place to plant roots, greet regulars every day, and even sleep past his previous 4:30 wake-up call. But too much. “Now it will be a little easier,” Arianna said, “because we can wake up at five o’clock to open the store.”