Our very own Kat Adams was recently pictured in Barista Magazine: Degendering the Language of Customer Service by RJ Joseph. Kat is passionate about making the coffee community and industry more inclusive, and was thrilled to appear in the article. This article is a great guide to anyone wanting to create a safe, inclusive space for the community they serve.
Words by Chad Lanting.
Forward & Editing by Jessica Percifield Henry.
We just celebrated the 4th Annual Caffeine Crawl in January. If you missed out on the North Coastal Crawl, here's a few shops to be sure and hit up as soon as the rain departs and the lovely San Diego weather is back in full effect. Each shop shares proximity to San Diego County's iconic northern coastline. Sunshine, blue skies, palm trees, some of the best beaches in the County, and ocean breezes are a huge draw for slow weekend crawl'n between a few local coffee shops. For those who cannot wait for the next Caffeine Crawl, sign up for their newsletter and be the first to know when tickets go on sale again.
Lofty Coffee Co. (Cedros)
Lofty Coffee at 132 S. Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach lies at the northern edge of the Cedros Ave. Design District and fully embraces the pursuit of design. Coffee is crafted, not just served. The interior of Lofty Coffee is modern-rustic with its walls composed of concrete board and cinder blocks. The interior has an unattached bar area at the center of a relatively small room. White tiles wrap around the counter and a Kyoto tower setup is prominently on display behind the bar. A small amount of merchandise, such as Aeropresses and gooseneck kettles, is displayed in a corner, and on a nearby wall, coffee themed wood panel art hangs. Massive glass accordion doors open to allow the coastal breeze in succeeding in blending the indoor and outdoor space. The outdoor patio has plenty of tables with polished wood tops with a natural barrier of olive trees providing separation from the the stream of pedestrians shopping the design district. This is the third location for Lofty. Its flagship cafe, organic bakery and roasting facility are located just up the road from Ironsmith, with the beauty of their roasting facility making it a must visit on your way to Moonlight Beach, or when continuing up North in Encinitas toward Pannikin.
Lofty Coffee on Cedros offers espresso drinks as well as single origin espressos and filter coffees. On my visit, I opted for one of their specialty drinks, an iced salted caramel latte, which featured caramel made from scratch, and was served in a mason jar. It paired quite well with their oatmeal chocolate chip cookie which happened to be both vegan and gluten free. While I don’t typically choose gluten free items, I can attest that it was a delicious cookie. Besides serving baked goods, heartier options are offered for breakfast or brunch lovers. In the spirit of good design, Lofty coffee is certainly doing a good job with many of the variables of the coffee experience, such as quality coffee, delectable food, pleasing aesthetic, and comfortable ambiance.
Zumbar Coffee & Tea
Next stop: Zumbar Coffee & Tea. Recently, I picked up my first legitimate espresso machine. I have been using the Hummingbird blend from Zumbar roasters in part because of the description, and because I could conveniently pick it up at one of my favorite local spots, Escogelato. On my recent visit to Zumbar Coffee at 115 Chesterfield Dr. in Encinitas, I sampled Zumbar espresso and experienced its full potential. Zumbar used beans that were roasted that day. A trained barista pulled a beautiful shot from a La Marzocco espresso machine while dialing in all of the variables that a home enthusiast, such as myself, has trouble controlling. Adjectives such as “rich” and “buttery-sweet” now seemed completely fitting given this beautiful example of espresso. I left with a standard to compare my own home efforts to and to strive for.
In addition to the shot of espresso, I also sampled a delicious latte paired with an incredibly tasty walnut, chocolate chip cookie made by Opera Patisserie. Zumbar has a simple menu that features standard espresso drinks such as lattes and mochas as well as pour over coffees. The simplicity of the drink offerings can, if anything, be taken as a testament to a coffee shop which allows the freshly roasted beans to speak for themselves.
Next stop: Better Buzz. Arguably, there could be several ways to take the word “buzz” of Better Buzz, at 578 S. Coast Highway 101. Given the steady stream of customers, some of whom stay and some who take their drinks and continue their coastal stroll, there is definitely a buzzing atmosphere inside. With six different Better Buzz locations spread around the county, it seems there is also buzz in the community about the quality of their drinks. This location features large neon wall signs that indicate that you are in the right place to “Buzz” and “Get Buzzed." On my visit, I tried the Iced Mint Mojito which won’t produce that kind of “buzz” since it’s not the cocktail version of a mojito, but instead is a refreshing blend of espresso with muddled mint, cane sugar, and cream. The menu at Better Buzz also offers a number of other delightful coffee drinks, as well as smoothies, sandwiches, acai bowls, and various pastries.
Ironsmith Coffee Roasters
Next stop: Ironsmith. The name “Ironsmith” brings to mind a blacksmith of old carefully and skillfully crafting a product to be proud of. Ironsmith Coffee Roasters, at 458 S. Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas, may not literally be working with iron, but the image evoked by their name fits the vision of their approach to coffee. Drinks are carefully created and baristas take pride in their craft much as a craftsperson of old may have. On my recent visit, I sampled a latte, often my go-to drink, and watched cars drive under the arching metal Encinitas sign right outside the front entry. The rollup door welcomed the coastal breeze in as a Diedrich coffee roaster was in the process of roasting a fresh batch of coffee. The menu displayed simple visual recipes for the most common espresso drinks. One part espresso combined with four parts milk produces a latte such as the one that was made for me. A stainless steel kitchen rack hangs from chains immediately over the bar and holds the tools of the coffee trade. The handmade counters and shelves alongside the local art displayed on the walls added to the element of craftsmanship. Ironsmith Coffee Roasters, true to its name, is forging great coffee and a legitimate place in the San Diego craft coffee scene.
There are some buildings that seem to be woven into the character and history of San Diego County. Pannikin Coffee & Tea, at 510 N. Coast Hwy. 101 in Encinitas, is one such building. The iconic bright yellow building is a landmark of the area. Pannikin has been serving coffee and tea for decades now. The unmistakable structure sits proudly along the famous 101 and welcomes visitors to the area and locals back to their home. Prior to Pannikin’s tenure as a purveyor of coffee and tea, the building was the area’s main railroad station, dating all the way back to the 1880’s.
Pannikin Coffee & Tea
Next stop: Pannikin Coffee & Tea. San Diego's first coffee roasting company, established in 1968, by the late Bob Sinclair, which continues to be a family owned and operated local hub in the heart of Leucadia. When I visited on a recent Sunday morning, the building’s current use as a coffee, tea, and bakery seemed like a fitting link to the past. There were patrons sitting upstairs, downstairs, on an outdoor balcony, and in the spacious front lawn, and there was a line of customers stretching to the door, all of which created an energy that seemed to connect Pannikin back to its origin as a center of travel and commerce. Just as the former train depot in its heyday brought people from different walks of life to a single location, Pannikin creates a welcoming environment. I chose to sample a Mexican Mocha paired with a decadent cinnamon roll. The pastry case displays loads of mouthwatering options, and Pannikin's drink menu offers every caffeinated beverage one could desire. Freshly roasted whole bean coffee and tea are also available for sale. Pannikin, a Welsh word for small cooking vessel, is continuing to hold its own in coffee house history.
Some things bear repeating. That is the case with the name of Coffee Coffee, located at 970 N. Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia. With regards to coffee and espresso, Coffee Coffee has a drink menu that mostly sticks to the classics, i.e. brewed coffee, lattes, americanos, etc. with a few additions such as a Mexican Mocha. Beyond coffee, they offer a large selection of teas, some juices, and hot chocolate. Coffee Coffee has teamed up with Revolution Roasters in Oceanside to provide freshly roasted, delicious coffee beans for their drinks and for sale as whole bean coffee for home brewing. On my visit, I sipped a smooth iced latte as I meandered the interior of the shop taking in the open seating, antique roaster, and the view through a window of the coastal-themed mural on the alleyway wall. The patio was full of customers enjoying the classic pairing of delicious coffee drinks and warm southern California sun. Coffee Coffee finds purpose in providing delicious coffee. Wander in and have a coffee, or as the name suggests, have two.
Long live the Revolution. I am not only referring to the continued growth of the San Diego craft coffee culture, but also to Revolution Roasters at 1836 S. Coast Highway 101 in Oceanside. Revolution Roasters serves coffee and espresso that they have roasted at their own location in Leucadia. They make excellent use of the freshly roasted beans to offer a house brew, pour overs, cold brews, and espresso-based drinks. The beans are ground on site, and you can pick up a pound of whole bean coffee that was literally roasted earlier in the day. Beyond the standard drinks, the menu features some notable standouts such as a lavender honey latte, coffee soda, and a butterscotch latte, the last of which I sampled. I paired my subtly smooth butterscotch latte with a salted oatmeal chocolate chip cookie because I figured if I am going for sweet, why not go all in. Revolution Roasters also had a triple berry scone and zucchini bread made by Foodie Folk in Carlsbad. Both the latte and the cookie were served on locally made wooden serving boards. The interior strikes a balance between a simple modern aesthetic created with exposed rafters, a rollup garage door, and concrete floors and its own unique feel as noted by the succulent wall pieces, outrigger oars on the wall, and a boar’s head looking down over the bar. There is plenty of seating including a communal raised table in the center of the space. In light of the excellent coffee, delectable treats, and comfortable atmosphere, and at the risk of giving political advice, this is one revolution you may wish to join.
Sitting in Banana Dang Coffee at 115 S. Coast Highway in Oceanside with two ceiling fans rhythmically spinning in time with the Spanish language music, one could almost imagine themselves in an island cafe. Perhaps that is by design as Banana Dang started as a business in Puerto Rico. Banana Dang is a welcome addition to the San Diego coffee scene and to the bustle of Oceanside's businesses along the coastal stretch of the 101.
The “Banana” in the name is no mystery as the menu features seven different smoothies all featuring bananas with other ingredients that range from chocolate to green tea or acai. For coffee enthusiasts, the barista recommended adding espresso to the Nutty Dang smoothie which has the requisite banana plus peanut butter, chocolate, and vanilla. Banana Dang Coffee, as the name also implies, offers a selection of coffee and espresso drinks. I ended up trying the Sweet Latte which is made with condensed milk. It was delightful. The sweetness did not overpower the El Gaucho espresso from Manzanita Roasting Company. Banana Dang also offers a pour over, frappes including one that’s a banana mocha, and several other coffee drinks. While “Banana” and “Coffee” are self-explanatory, I learned from articles on the wall inside, that the “Dang” is taken from the last name of one of the co-owners, which I also learned is customary in Puerto Rico. While the name may say it all, get in there, and let the drinks speak for themselves.
Words & Photos by James M. Coyle
Public Square Coffee
La Mesa Village is quaint, charming and mellow. It’s almost as if the streets are speaking to you, telling you to be home by 4 p.m. It’s a little sleepy, there’s no denying that. But that has become their greatest advantage. La Mesa Village is making it cool to “cruise the village” on a lazy Sunday afternoon. After all, the main drag is now lined with contemporary restaurants that are the new home for several renown chefs, cafes that sell local specialty coffee, and shops that sell all things crafty like yarn, vintage lamps and woodcut signs.
But the coffee guys, that’s a whole different story. Like Public Square Coffee for example, they’re a game changer. They are the kind of coffee house that becomes the focal point of a neighborhood. The one that gives it the “Cool” stamp of approval. The one that restauranteurs crave to be neighbors with, and the ones that other local cafe’s aim to be like.
It starts with their coffee. Offering some of the finest speciality coffee roasters in the country like Olympia, Augies and Huckleberry, these guys are on track to take the coffee world by storm. Or the east San Diego county world by storm, at least.
To accompany those heavy hitters, you’ll find one of the more knowledgeable staffs in the county. In this part of San Diego, consider yourself lucky to be served by these fine folks. Even luckier if you have the chance to try one, or all, of their house butters. From maple cayenne to Nutella bacon flavored, lather them onto some house-made popcorn or a cinnamon roll and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Space wise, it’s a gem. The natural light coming in from the scenic Village landscape just outside their floor to ceiling windows casts beautifully onto their clean, white walls littered with hanging house plants. And the way the shop is laid out with the coffee bar in the back left corner, the self-serve station in the middle, and a sectioned off lab area in the front right corner makes for a well-balanced seating area. With plenty of 2-person, or ‘1 person, 1 laptop’ tables, there’s plenty of space here to get comfortable and talk, or of course, bury yourself behind your screen.
And when you’ve had enough, cruise the village. Craft beer, fine dining, thrift stores, you name it and it’s there. La Mesa Village after all—as some have said—could be the next 30th St.
Sheldon’s Service Station
I don’t know about you, but I like things that are old. Yes, coffee, something that dates back to the 15th century is one of those things. Oh, and gas stations too. Yes, I like old gas stations. An old American gas pump is as classic as a bottle—or the machine that it comes from—of Coca-Cola. I know what you’re thinking. What the hell is this guy talking about? Where’s the connection?
It’s not that complicated. Combine a 1930s La Mesa gas station—pristinely preserved with its original wiring, some rustic copper piping, a neat window with a view and the station’s original front door—with coffee (from Cafe Moto) and you get the present-day Sheldon’s Service Station.
At this vintage coffee marvel, you’ll find a small coffee counter with a large outdoor seating area overlooking La Mesa Village. They say the old gas pumps used to be right beside the patio. At first glance, you’ll notice the trendy garage-style doors with reclaimed-metal light fixtures overhead. Interior designer or not, this place is loaded with vintage vibes. Roll up on your 1970 Yamaha and you may even make the cover of a magazine.
Sheldon’s, a more family-centric café, offers a pretty straightforward coffee menu. Their cold brew hits the spot on a warm La Mesa morning, and for those with a sweet tooth, I’ve heard the Sheldon’s Sweetie will hit the spot. Then, you make your way to the breakfast and lunch menu. Loaded with locally inspired items like blue corn chilaquiles and a fat BLAT sandwich (thick-cut bacon, lettuce, avocado, sundried tomato pesto) for lunch, you can’t help but want to take a long lunch and soak in some east county sun on the patio. You will also find some other impressive menu offerings for a cafe, like their albacore-egg salad sandwich, quinoa salad with butternut squash, and breakfast latkes (a potato pancake) with vegan créme fraiche and an apple/pear compote.
Clearly, Sheldon’s Service Station is an impressive must-visit that is highlighting La Mesa Village’s recent influx of cafés, bars and restaurants. Be it their local coffee menu, their robust breakfast and lunch offerings, or their classic Americana theme, there is something for everyone at this shop.
S3 Coffee Bar
With local wholesale roasting powerhouses like Café Moto, and more recently, Global Coffee Trading Co. and The WestBean, independent coffee houses in San Diego are now more than ever able to get their hands on quality coffee, and quality coffee training. Like at S3 Coffee Bar in Mission Gorge (across the street from Kaiser Zion Medical Center), whose name refers to the “three sisters” that inspired this shop.
S3 is your typical neighborhood coffee shop. Its business banks on the foot traffic that comes in from the nearby hospital, a few schools in the area, and occasional students from SDSU.
Hidden away in a packed strip mall, between Souplantation and Subway, you will find them and their nifty coffee and food menus scattered across teal chalk boards and a classic brown butcher paper scroll. On them, you’ll find a rotation of local drinks like a cold brew from The WestBean (#drinklocaldrinkoften), and more speciality offerings like Mexican mochas, Vietnamese iced coffees, a blended banana nut drink with espresso, acai bowls, and local pastries. Most of their hot coffee comes from Global Coffee Trading via their custom roasted “Ka” blend, a medium roast that includes 60% Brazil, 20% Sumatra and 20% Sidamo. It’s also conveniently sold by the bag.
Though small, S3 Coffee Bar is intimate and is beaming with natural light, making you want to sit at the bar run by Claudia, her two coffee-loving sisters and their mother. Sit and enjoy the local art on the walls, or the thoughtful handwritten messages offering coffee grounds to take home as compost for your home garden.
S3 also has a pretty solid happy hour from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. On that menu, you’ll find buy-one-get-one-free pastries, $1.50 coffee (any size) and $1.00 off blended drinks. Doctors, families of patients, and students, this coffee shop is perfect for on your way to work, break times or your end-of-the-day cup!
So a guy walks into a bar…well, a coffee bar. And a staff member asks, “what kind of phone you got?” I told him, “uh, an iPhone Six Plus. Why?” He smirks and tells me, “check this out.” End of joke, because I am now in love. Yes, no punchline, no cackling. Just a man, his coffee and this awesome indestructible phone charger/dock that I never even knew existed.
As I sipped on my bottled cold brew from The WestBean, and listened to the tech guy rattle off the specs of the Titan iPhone cable by Fuse Chicken, which claims to be the toughest cable on earth, I knew I had found this weird but awesome coffee-tech utopia.
To start, let’s talk a bit about the coffee. The kinda of coffee that a tech outfitter would serve alongside of indestructible phone cables, waterproof cases, battery packs and even phone and mobile repair. One word: local. Again, this is becoming a theme in San Diego, and it’s really exciting for local coffee fans, and now, gadget geeks alike. On their shelves, you’ll find beans from Café Virtuoso, Swell Coffee Co., West Bean Coffee Roasters, and Revolution Coffee Roasters. And behind the counter, you’ll find everything from single-origin pour overs to pumpkin spiced lattes. You may question the concept for a minute, but upon one sip of their locally crafted coffee, the clouds will part and all will just make sense.
So broken device or not, head to Tech Outfitters in Point Loma for your daily dose of speciality coffee and yes, gadgets. Lots and lots of gadgets.
Ocean Beach, known simply as OB by local San Diegans', a genuine beach town where closed-toed shoes and sleeves will signal your visitor status. OBceans will tell you the place to go for coffee is the Lazy Hummingbird, a cafe that embodies the spirit of this beach town. Tucked away on Santa Monica Avenue just a couple block’s from OB’s main drag, Newport Avenue, you’ll find this humble café sharing a space with a local print shop. Its Sister location, referred to as "The Nest," shares its large open space with a clever gift shop offering cards and Urban Outfitters-like gifts and fresh cold pressed juices in addition to coffee. All just a few blocks from the beach.
Their flagship location offers just the right array of coffee drinks, such as the iced Vietnamese and “Santa Monicano.” Lazy Hummingbird blends coffee shop and healthy Ocean Beach café perfectly. Locals love their locally sourced kale chips, bottled cold pressed juices, or their famous acai bowl.
Why not enjoy your morning coffee and healthy bites on the beach just a few blocks down Santa Monica Avenue.
Coffee in a warehouse? Sure! The Nest, inside the same high-beamed-ceiling building as the Teter gift shop, will be sure to satisfy all kinds of coffee and crafty craziness. Order your coffee, then peruse the shop for all kinds of Urban Outfitters-like goodies.
And if you’re like me, you will order about five different things at once because the drink and food menu with names inspired by wanderlust looks so damn attractive. For example, cold brew and coconut ice cream! Uh, duh! A drink called “Aloe You So Much?” Punny and tasty too. Boasting a mixture of aloe, lime, honey, mint and soda water, which makes for a refreshing beachside concoction. We also ordered an espresso butter muffin that local bake shop, Bake Sale, makes.
"Aloe You So Much” isn’t the only standout out item on their robust, cleanse-centric menu. You’ll also have the opportunity to test your gut with other drinks like the “Golden Brick Road” where they throw in tumeric, coconut oil, cinnamon, almond milk and black pepper. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself looking up flights to Hawaii upon your first sip of a drink called “Take Flight” or “Golden Sunset.”
So if you have the time, and want more than just coffee (think craft goods and cold pressed juices), go to The Nest. Just a half block from the beach too. So it’s kind of a win-win go-to location.
Modern Times Lomaland Fermentorium Tasting Room and Café in Point Loma, is a craft beverage connoisseur's playground of dreams. The perfect marriage of craft beer and craft coffee with the recent addition of a full service coffee bar cafe. Modern Times is one of the few craft breweries that roasts their own coffee beans for their coffee-beers. It started with the company founders’ deep love for coffee.
True to the quirky larger-than-life mural on the tasting room's wall, the café has some eye catching features that won't leave your tastebuds unsatisfied. Just a few feet from their line of sixteen beer taps, the eye is drawn to a copper retro diving helmet from which floweth three different cold brews: choose their barrel-aged Black House Blend on tap, or a tasting flight trio of their daily offerings. And for the kid in all of us, they have a slushi machine that churns out cold brew horchata. Cold brew FREAKING horchata! The horchata is house made chocolate spicy goodness.
There's something for all craft coffee lovers. In addition to cold brew, at the Modern Times Café you’ll also find a pour over bar and a mini-mart to purchase your own bag of freshly roasted whole beans (as well as specially released beer too). With coffee and beer, you could come for breakfast and finish it all off with a refreshing early afternoon beer.