Outside Stonemill Matcha on Thursday, a line of patrons spilled down Valencia Street, occupying the half-block between the cafe’s entrance and 16th Street.
The line, according to those waiting in it, could take anywhere between two to three hours — longer than it takes to get a new iPhone or driver’s license.
Instead, patrons were hoping for matcha drinks, pork katsu sandwiches, cream cakes, and some of the other fare that has made Stonemill Matcha a staple for more than five years in the Mission.
With temperatures in the city soaring above the average, the heat hasn’t put a dent in the resolve of Stonemill Matcha’s last few customers. In fact, an icy rose-matcha latte may be the perfect reward after baking on the sidewalk for a few hours.
The shop opened its doors in May 2018, bringing authentic Japanese flair to a street primed for new openings — and at a time when matcha-flavored beverages exploded in popularity across the country.
This makes the closure a surprise and a mystery: In July, the establishment announced on Instagram that it was shutting its doors, without citing any reason.
As the days wind down to Aug. 27, its last day, customers have offered their own theories on the decision.
“It was slow to open back up after the pandemic … I wonder if that’s the reason,” mused Nayef, who waited in line with two friends.
Mostly, customers just waited for their favorite item on the menu.
Sheryl, a regular for years, who sat comfortably in a camping chair, said that would be the “chicken katsu sando.”
“I came here yesterday and waited for hours. I just couldn’t bear it, and left. I told myself, ‘I’m going to come early, and sit down with my chair and my earphones in,’” she said.
Amid the nearly 100 people waiting in line Thursday, you could find diehard fans like Sheryl and a fair number of curious newcomers, who figured they might try a neighborhood delicacy while they still could.
“When something is a scarcity, people tend to get excited,” explained Maple B., a longtime customer. “For those who have loved it for so long, they just need it one more time — and those who haven’t, need to try it.”
Indeed; Jai and Ashleigh, a young couple, drove all the way from Marin County to try Stonemill Matcha.
When asked what they were excited to try, Jai responded without hesitation. “Whatever she chooses,” he said, gesturing to his partner.
Ashleigh said she was definitely going to try the classic iced matcha, but was also considering the pork katsu sandwich.
“No, we’re not going anywhere else after this,” Jai said. “We’re going to try this, and go right back.”
The couple that willingly drove an hour and some, just to wait for twice that time, said they saw the farewell post on Instagram and knew a visit was in order.
One of Nayef’s friends had never tried Stonemill Matcha, so he was sure to bring her before it was too late. “It’s always been a great place. The perfect place to just chill,” Nayef said.
His friend, Gianna, with curls pulled back in a colorful yellow scarf, tugged at one of her dangly earrings and said she, too, was excited to try the food.
Maple B., who arrived over an hour before the cafe opened, now stood at the very front of the line, two hours later.
“Everything is made with love here, and it shows through the presentation,” she said. “I’m going to miss their seasonal treats.” Maple loves the matcha cream pies.
Maple had some advice for those in line for the first time. “The go-to here is definitely the pork katsu sandwich.”
She spoke fondly of the culinary execution at Stonemill Matcha.
“In Japanese cuisine, you don’t see the same items on a menu year-round,” she said. “It’s their beautiful way of letting no ingredients go to waste.”
And with that, she politely excused herself, stepping into the shade and up to the window, ready with the last order she would make at Stonemill Matcha.