Mike and I have a tradition of going to coffee shops every weekend. There is something about sitting down at a café, sipping on a cup of latte, and talking about our biggest ideas and dreams. He cares more about the coffee, I care more about the vibe (and the company). Maybe it’s being surrounded by like-minded folk, early birds who prefer one-on-one conversations, or introverts working on their laptops or reading their books in cozy corners. Honestly, it’s a way to escape the everyday grind (pun intended) and to just unwind. Even today, we look forward to coffee dates on lazy Sundays, the perfect touch to sleeping in and staying warm under the covers. Needless to say, we have been to our fair share of coffee shops. I decided to list a few of my favorites in Southern California, and give them awards while I’m at it. (Warning: I had a very difficult time narrowing it down. Please forgive me.)
Los Angeles County
Two Guns – best coffee to go
Two guns espresso has a very small space, and usually, I would prefer to grab that cup to go, but don’t let that stop you from going in. This place sells arguably our favorite coffee in LA County! Definitely a must! And if you feel like enjoying your cup, feel free to sit on their porch. It’s definitely cozy.
Gum Tree Café – best place to grab aussie pies
Gum tree café is owned by an Aussie and his wife, Lori, who has a shop next to the café. They are absolutely adorable. Obviously, Aussie pies are available, but you’ll also catch me grabbing an avocado toast and a handful of mini muffins on the side. I have spent countless mornings in sunny Hermosa Beach at this exact spot, on the patio if I am by myself, and inside the café if I am with company. I have gone alone multiple times, I have to admit. The coffee is good, but the company even better. I love stopping by the shop to chat with Lori and I have bought many a girlfriend’s birthday, bridal, and just-because present from this store. Oh! And they host creative workshops on their patio. My dream is to host one of these one day!
Copa Vida – best place to get creative
Copa Vida is located in my favorite part of Pasadena. Not only is it next to an amazing art store where I would buy all the art supplies in the world if I could, but it is also just a great space with brick walls and beautiful tile on the floor. I found a cool spot in the back and my cousin and I stayed for four hours practicing calligraphy. They never kicked us out, or told us our laughter was too loud. Oh and their menu is also pretty good. One cortado and a croissant please!
The Source Café – best coffee for the health nut
Vegan? Gluten free? Want coffee, but hungry? No problem! They got you covered. This is probably your dream place to go. They even house veggie smoothies and juices, freshly made, as well as bottled and ready to go. Oh and they have a matcha latte for all you matcha lovers. Don’t let the VG, GF sign bother you, the apple donut is still amazing. You won’t regret it! Bring it out to the patio, or pick a drink up after taking a yoga class right across the street.
Urth Caffe – best place after a run
Okay, this award probably does not apply to anyone but us. But we used to always go to the Urth Caffe in Santa Monica (although I have also been to Beverly Hills and Pasadena) after a jog down Santa Monica boardwalk to Venice Beach and back. It was pretty much our reward. I love their large mugs of latte that I could guzzle down so that I could de-hydrate myself even more. Uhm, yumm! And the urth pudding is delicious. If I am craving a more measly meal, the brioche bread and jam does just the trick!
Portola Coffee Lab – most unique item on the menu
This has now become our go to coffee place in OC. I awarded it with the most unique item on the menu because its coffee beans are used to make Elixir Specialty Coffee. Looks like whiskey, feels like tea, and made from coffee. If that isn’t mind-boggling enough, the elixir is made from coffee beans …. using soundwaves?!?! Yeah, go figure! The first American company to actually be a part of this Elixir making process was Copa Vida. Today, there are multiple elixirs out there from this Australian company, all displaying a spectrum of light to dark hues, with a number 1-24 written on the bottle, to signify how many hours it took to do whatever magic it is that they do. Check Elixir Specialty Coffee to learn more.
Kean Bean – greenest coffee
Kean beans has earned certification from Rainforest Alliance, and is very conscious about conserving biodiversity. Protector of waterways, soil health, wildlife, the forest itself, they have eliminated toxic agrochemicals and GMOs from their farms. They provide worker housing, education, day care, clean water, and farm support to their employed farmers. They improve the livelihoods of their workers by providing safe working conditions without the dangerous chemicals, providing healthcare and insurance, prevention of child labor, and by simply giving back farm proceeds to the community enrichment projects. But on top of that, they produce my favorite coffee beans to take home. They have a huge selection of beans in store, with a variety of complex notes, and some of those bags are graded 95/100! Plus they have a selection of decaf coffees that I can now happily drink at home right before bed!
Hidden House Coffee – cutest tucked-away coffee house
The location of this place is just darling. Tucked away behind the railroad tracks in San Juan Capistrano along the cutest dirt path housing other similar cafes and shops, this must be what little Red Riding Hood’s grandma’s house looked like. The wooden patio is a perfect place to slowly wake up in the early morning. It is tucked away in the foliage, making this secluded spot a great place to get to know someone or catch up with an old friend.
Gypsy Den – best bohemian gathering hole
The décor of this place looks like the inside of a genie bottle. But I love the vibe and the music is very relaxed. This place really brightens my day and I would come here when I need a pick me up! It’s ideal for those who want a space to study or work on their laptops, because there is plenty of space to spread out and the wifi works great. And I should probably mention the delicious food. Chai tea latte with French toast would be my choice combo, just sayin’. Oh, and happy hour starts at 3pm.
Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders – best stop for home roasters
This award was granted by my coffee loving husband. I guess people can buy coffee beans and roast them themselves at home, and this place was voted top of the bunch. I am more of an ambience, vibe type judger, so I give them points for those huge glass garage doors that let in a breath of fresh air into the shop. Also, I am kind of biased because a high school friend works here. I like to pop in and see her face once in a while. As far as coffee goes, we pick up our cold brew here. We even have a howler to take home that we re-use every time. My sister’s favorite drink here is the matcha smoothie, and Mike tends to go for the Steampunk coffee. Me? I’ll take my basic latte, sometimes with mocha if I am feeling extra special that day.
San Diego County
Coffee + Tea Collective – most unique coffee notes
Mike and I have only been here a few times back when I was living in San Diego for an internship, but we can both agree that this place sells the coffee with the most unique coffee notes. All we remember is that we really enjoyed this coffee, a LOT. So I guess it goes first on the SD list because it is our favorite in this county. The space is small, minimalist, but welcomes in a lot of light, and doesn’t feel crowded. We took a few coffee bags home because we liked it so much. My favorite coffee tasted like citrusy orange, chocolate, and flower, all combined. I bet it goes well with those Orange chocolates shaped in oranges that you can crack and out comes slices…
Moniker Coffee – best place to shop
Moniker Coffee is a newly opened coffee shop in Liberty Station, and yes, the award is all about shopping at Moniker General. To be fair, the coffee shop and the general store are actually connected to each other. And I am biased about the shop thing, because some of the items they sell are created by either people I know or people I have met and talked to. For example, my wedding videographer founded Bradley Mountain Co and makes leather goods which can be found at this shop. Also, my hair stylist’s husband works for Moniker Made and he made the furniture in the coffee shop. Rose and Fitzgerald who I met and talked to at a convention in LA for ethical goods sells their home goods there. So yeah, biases everywhere.
James Coffee Co – most industrial creative space
I love Love LOVE the vibe of this place. We were introduced to this space by our two photographers Chad and Jenika. This is where we met them for the first time. Set in an old hangar, the place is made mostly of metal, with a very grungy masculine appeal. There are some shops that sell what I would consider hipster eyewear and clothes, and you can even get a haircut in the back of the hangar at a very retro looking barbershop. The male baristas usually have long hair and the female ones usually sport short hair. Almost everyone shows up wearing overalls, or grunge boots, or short sleeve button downs with awesome patterns in dark colors. I love it here. I don’t necessarily belong with the crowd, but I like them a lot. I like the freedom of expression and their creativity. I can sip coffee here all day and just look around. Oh and my future Dalmation or Great Dane can join me too!
Holsem Coffee – best location
Coffee houses are usually in the greatest spots. But I have to give Holsem coffee the best location award on this list. It is located in North Park, which is the more hipster part of San Diego. I loved grabbing a cup of coffee to go, and then walking with Mike down the street. We checked out old record shops and perused for deals. We walked into small creative businesses where everything was hand-made by the shop owner. Even stores smelling of incense with incantation books lining the shelves were great to look at. And I just ooh and ahh at the antique stores there too. There’s a Corepower yoga a few streets down, as well as our favorite stop in the area to get b-o-m-b mexican food, El Comal Restaurant. It only follows that Holsem coffee has a creative and b-o-m-b menu as well. I love their lavender latte and their La Vie en Rose Cappuccino (rose water, rose petal, honey, cardamom, and milk). Pair that with one of their paninis and I am golden for the rest of the day. I guess moral of the story is that I care about the food probably more than I care about the coffee… but I love my coffee shops!
And that wraps up this coffee post for the day. After talking about coffee so much, I am ready to go grab a cup myself! Anyone else?