Update, Sept. 15: Starting on Thursday, Sept. 21 Roaming Bean Coffee will relocate to the opposite side of the Berkeley Marina at 124 University Ave., near the Cal Sailing Club.
Original story: On a windy Saturday morning at Cesar Chavez Park, kites freckled an overcast sky and dogs chased each other as the owners of both were drawn to the newest addition to the park and Berkeley Marina landscape—Roaming Bean Coffee cart. The mobile business serving espresso drinks and hot chocolate opened in July as the first food or beverage vendor permitted at the park, according to the city of Berkeley, and has quickly garnered a fan base among the morning visitors strolling, jogging, and cycling by the bay.
Roaming Bean Coffee: The cart is open (weather permitting) from 7 a.m. to noon Thursday and Friday, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 124 University Ave., Berkeley. Check Roaming Bean’s Instagram or website for the latest updates.
Roaming Bean Coffee is a family affair. While the business is owned by Jasraj Singh Sangha, he’s joined every weekend by his sister, Kiran Kaur, and brother-in-law, Razaik Singh. On most weekends, their 13-month-old daughter toddles around the cart while they help serve drinks. Meanwhile, Jasraj and Kiran’s father, Kamaljit Singh Sangha, has assumed the role of “unofficial chief marketing officer,” deploying his natural affinity for chatting with customers.
“There are four generations, at times, hanging out here,” said Jasraj. “The whole family is behind the operation.”
Jasraj, who has a degree from UC Berkeley in public policy and economics, left his career in IT to start the cart.
“It wasn’t the hardest decision, but it was a leap of faith,” he said.
Aside from being interested in good coffee, Jasraj and his family wanted to start a business that allowed them to be in nature and serve other families.
“It’s become a weekend ritual, having a picnic and hanging out here,” Jasraj said. “We bring food and we just spend time together.”
He’s been making coffee at home for half a decade, and to prepare for his new venture he watched hours of YouTube videos on how to make the perfect cup. He also spoke with local baristas about their tips and techniques.
The small white cart shaded by a pop-up tent is just big enough to hold the sink, espresso machine and coffee grinder, along with other supplies. Jasraj serves a variety of drinks, including creamy lattes and frothy cappuccinos.
When choosing the beans and other products, the family focuses on quality, ethics and sustainability. They brew beans from Portland-based Coava Coffee Roasters, and also use organic milk from Straus Family Creamery in Marin County and Tcho chocolate from Berkeley. At the cart, they grind beans fresh, weigh each shot, and flatten the grounds into a puck, or instrument used to make espresso. They face unique challenges being outside, like wind and temperature, and continue to adjust their tent so it doesn’t blow away.
One customer, Daniela Calciolari, has come almost everyday since they started. She appreciates their commitment to using green products, and says the milk is amazing.
“I like to support their business, they’re such a nice family,” she said. “I take the coffee and I sit on the bench overlooking San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, and it’s like, ‘Alright, I feel like I’m on vacation.’”
Calciolari returns not just for the coffee, but for the interaction. She said visiting Roaming Bean reminds her of “the old times when people knew each other,” referring to a past when life felt less digitized and more personal.
The sentiment is in line with one of the goals of Roaming Bean Coffee—to connect with people and offer a more relaxed experience compared to a bustling cafe catering to the morning rush.
“We’d much rather be out here where people are calmer, chiller, happier,” said Razaik.
Kiran agrees, and says her favorite part of the job is connecting with people.
“We’ve made so many friends,” she said. “There’s a lot of great energy exchange and for that reason I really hope that we can continue doing this.”
While the family has set up shop in Cesar Chavez Park, they want to eventually expand to have more carts at different outdoor locations. True to the name and spirit of the business, the cart is also available for events like weddings and birthday parties.
”Staying in one place is hard,” Jasraj said. “We want to keep roaming around.”
As the morning moved toward afternoon, more strollers, walkers and hikers passed by, many shrieking in surprise and excitement at the sight of the coffee cart.
“Thank you for being here!” one called out.
They did not expect to make such great connections after just a few weeks, but it has made the experience that much better.
”Going to coffee for me was more than the coffee, it’s the vibe, it’s the conversation, it’s the first welcome you get,” Jasraj said. ”It’s definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”