Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Roast Coach | Coffee & Tea Collective | Dark Horse - North Park

While there's certainly no shortage of coffee bars in San Diego, until recently there's been a bit of a shortage of good ones.  Three lovely new spots in the urban zone are helping with that.
You'll find the Roast Coach girls at their hand-built wooden stand in front of Sea Rocket Bistro on 30th near Upas and their brand new second location downtown at 330 A Street.  They do pour over coffee and delicious iced drinks like the "Southern Hospitality" pictured here - a blend of cold brew, fresh mint, chicory, sugar and cream.  Check out the menu here.
Most days they also do fantastic Aabelskivers - round pancakes cooked on a special gas griddle right there on the sidewalk.  There is always a sweet one and sometimes a savory - these were filled with lemon curd & blueberries.  They have a few pastries available from a local vendor, but I seldom get there early enough to get a good one.   The pour over coffee is like rocket fuel. Their Ethiopian Sidiamo actually prompted me to switch to pour over brewing at home and I haven't looked back.
A few blocks away on El Cajon Boulevard, Coffee & Tea Collective is upping the bar for espresso in the area... most of the time at least.  Though all the pieces are there, the coffee sometimes isn't as good as it should be.  The cortados and macchiatos are often a little too milky and not hot enough - but the espresso itself is good, the cold brew is delicious and they are pros at the pour over technique.
The space is lovely and the people are very nice - I keep going back because I like the environment so much.
This was a macchiato - a good one.
I especially like their ever-changing art exhibits.  The work is interesting and usually for sale  for reasonable prices.  Funny story - I bought something from a recent show and it turned out they had already sold it to someone else - they had to tell Jora to tell me to bring it back.  At least I got a free coffee out of it.
I have also enjoyed the beans I've bought from them, especially the Bolivian Yanaimo. (I may be spelling that wrong.)  All of their beans are medium roast and have great full flavor.  Since I personally like my coffee a smidge on the darker side though, I've been buying my beans at Dark Horse Roasters on Adams Avenue.  They opened just a few months ago in a tiny space on Adams near the post office in Normal Heights.  They sell their own house-roasted beans and serve pour over & cold brew and a few pastry items - including vegan donuts.  Their Sumatra is my current jam. :)
If the hipster scene at these places just isn't your thing - there is always Peet's in Hillcrest.  It was my mainstay for years, and pretty much the only place I would order an espresso.  It had slid a bit in recent months, but they have a new barista there who made me the best coffee I've had in as long as I can remember the other day.  It was a good thing, seeing as how it was a quadruple macchiato. "Yes, quadruple."  For some reason I always have to repeat that.   It was syrupy, not the slightest bit bitter, with good crema and just the right amount of foam. Most importantly, it made the drive to work immediately afterwards a pleasure, not a chore.  I'm sure the lovely chat with Vince and invigorating morning workout helped  - but there's just nothing like a perfect coffee to get your day going in the right direction - which is why I'm so glad to see these places popping up.
Camp Confab 2010 I also want to give a shout out to a couple of other great local coffee options: Dave Wasserman's  Joes on the Nose coffee truck appears at most of the local farmers markets and does catering gigs too.  He makes a great cup and some delicious island themed iced treats like the Aloha mocha with coconut whipped cream.  He's also a really nice guy, and was the first person to give me a cup of brewed coffee that tasted good without cream.  Paul and James of West Bean appear at local events (like the Camp Confab, pictured above), supply local restaurants and run an online store, though they have yet to open a cafe.  I need to try their beans again now that I have the proper apparatus for brewing.  The old percolator just doesn't extract the full flavor from their freshly roasted beans!


  1. Quick note that I've found West Bean beans for sale at The Lofty Bean on the coast road in Encinitas. Also worth checking out in the vicinity are the beans from Revolution Roasters, which they sell at Cafe Ipe on the coast road in Leucadia. San Diego is no Portland/SF/NYC as far as coffee goes, but the options have certainly improved in the past year or so.

  2. I second the recommendation for trying The Lofty Bean if you're in the Encinitas area. I love their Turkish Lattes with almond milk.

  3. This post was right up my alley, thanks! Loved it :)

  4. Welcome back!

  5. I kind of want to move to California solely for the coffee scene.... Boston is seriously lacking, so I make do with my subscription. These places look awesome!


  6. Thanks for the coffee bean recommendation. We are always looking for new roasters to try.

  7. Now I want to know... how does this compare to Blue Bottle in the Bay Area (it's at the Ferry Plaza)? (I don't drink coffee, but I'm curious if Blue Bottle is as good as they say :-). I do love visiting coffee houses anyways so thanks for adding more to my list!

    1. Blue Bottle is pretty darn good - better than just about anything down here, at least for straight espresso. I also like the coffee at the Frog Hollow stand at the Ferry Building when the line at BB is too long.

  8. I've visited most of your recommendations (and I threw in the Treehouse in la Mesa). I drink decaf. The Roast Coach was my favorite! Peet's was a strong finisher as well. Roast Coach now have Bread and Cie providing their pastries as their baker is now working at a Whole Foods.

    Dave's drink truck is super too; I swear they make the best hot chocolate I've found so far (am I the only person who likes hot chocolate for breakfast in the winter?)