San Diego Joe

a coffee blog


San Diego Caffeine Crawl January 25, 2014!

Yes. The rumors are true. In an earlier interview with Caffeine Crawl founder, Jason Burton, he indicated that plans for a San Diego Caffeine Crawl were, then, underway. Now that we have a date, momentum is building! Can you feel it?!?! I can. Oh, wait. I was sucking awfully hard on my iced coffee just then. May have just been a rush of cool caffeine hitting my frontal lobe…

According to The Espresso’s John Rippo, there are over 428 cafes and coffee houses in San Diego County. It would be impossible to crawl to each of those in one day, so Caffeine Crawl does their homework looking for artisans of coffee, tea, soda and chocolate who are as excited to bring the full industry tasting experience to the public as they are. Yes, that’s right tea lovers. It’s not just about coffee. I’ll turn around and let you break into your happy dance. It will be our little secret…

So, mark your calendars my little caffeine lovers because come January 25th, your beverage experience in America’s Finest City is about to be amplified. Tickets, I’m told, will be available in November. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop on updates as they come.

In the meantime, happy coffee-ing! Cheers!

Concerned About the Local Economy? Buy Local Coffee.

If you’re like me, and most likely you are, since you happen to be reading my blog, you spend a god-awful sum on coffee each year. It’s okay, break out the calculator and let the lower jaw relax and give into the reflexive drop it’s about to do.

If you look up the average price of espresso calculated by, it is clear they buy their espresso at gas station machines because I’ve never purchased espresso for that little in 2008, much less 2013. 

Let’s get real. If you take the price of a grande anything espresso drink at Starbucks, the average price hovers just above $4. So to calculate this number, I used $4, the demand for what you like to drink during the work week (5 days), considering you buy your own coffee and brew at home 2 days a week (this cost not included). In fact, some of us brew at home, then get another while at work if we’re being honest, am I right? And I’m not talking about drinking the sawdust wanna-be coffee your company provides. Gag.

Without figuring in the cost of K-cups or whatever you brew yourself at home, this puts total cost of your espresso loving habit at $960 a year [$4x 5 days x 4weeks x 12 months]. Higher if you count the afternoon pick me ups and coffee dates on weekends with friends or while you’re out shopping. I’m just going to round this number to $1000 for simplicity. For college students, this number may be admittedly higher.

Let’s just assume a very conservative number of you behave this way. So I’m going to take 1000 coffee lovers in the Greater San Diego area and multiply that out. That’s a 1 MILLION DOLLAR impact. This is a very conservative number given that the total population of San Diego County is brimming just above 3 million people. Now imagine what that money could do for our local businesses, if you chose to spend it locally?

There’s a growing list of stellar coffee cafes, coffee houses and coffee roasters from which to choose from in San Diego. In fact, if you like a particular Roaster, such as Bird Rock, voted 2012’s Micro-Roaster of the Year, ask them where else there coffee is served.

They have loyal customers that make the trek from East County to buy their beans. Bird Rock, like many other Roasters, train cafe owners near you to deliver the same quality espresso you can expect when ordering in-house at their location. Many of the cafes and coffee houses that work with local roasters, also concern themselves with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, like chocolate for syrups and organic milk.

The increase in demand for local coffee keeps those funds here and ultimately helps grow San Diego’s burgeoning coffee culture, which needs workers, roastmasters, baristas, sales, equipment, delivery, IT, software, etc., etc. to grow and thrive meaning more funds ultimately stay in San Diego. Not too mention more places pop up where you can get reliably yummy local espresso.

Below are a list of local Roasters. I want to challenge you, as a consumer, with the power you have in your own pocket to effect change, to seek out these Roasters, their affiliated cafes and make “Change.” Pun intended.

Until next time, stay classy by tipping your Baristas San Diego! Happy Coffee-ing!

Cafe Virtuoso (East Village)

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (Bird Rock & Padre’s Stadium)

Caffe Calabria (North Park)

Coffee & Tea Collective (North Park)

Zumbar Coffee & Tea (Sorrento Valley)

The West Bean (Sold at BGCB, Kensington Cafe & Lofty Coffee Co.)

Dark Horse Coffee Roasting (Normal Heights, pour over/french press)

La Costa Coffee (La Costa/Encinitas)

Ryan Bros Coffee (Barrio Logan)

Cafe Moto (Barrio Logan)

Revolution Roasters (Cafe Ipe in Encinitas/Leucadia)

Pannikin Coffee & Tea (Encinitas, La Jolla, Del Mar)

James Coffee Co. (Poway: Online Whole Beans)

Divine Madman Coffee (Hillcrest Farmer’s Market)

When people ask me how I make money blogging about coffee, I say, ‘Look, was Van Gogh’s art valuable before he went crazy, cut off his ear and killed himself?’

—San Diego Joe

It’s A Small World.

While on my travels North, we met up with an old buddy of my Baby Sister’s for drinks our last night in Seattle. It turned out that he had been working for a local small batch roaster nearby for many years by the name of Fonte Coffee Roasters. Small world because I happen to blog about local coffee in San Diego, and also like to share my experiences in coffee when traveling too. Well, a few drinks later we had a VIP invitation for brunch and the full coffee tasting experience was on…

Nate Hull of Fonte rolled out the red carpet, and it turned out to be a small reunion of peeps from my little known home town of Walla Walla, WA. Even the Barista that day, Jamal (pictured above), hailed from our dinky college town in the far Southeast corner of Washington State. The cortado he whipped up was good, but I was blown away by the Turkish Coffee. More cardamom than cinnamon, sweet, but not too sweet. I would recommend if you’re down on 1st Ave near the pier, that you walk a block (at most) to sip what the Baristas at Fonte are pulling. Nate also had freshly pressed selections from their current whole bean inventory, and it was exciting tasting everything from Ethiopia to an Indonesian and noting the differences in body, taste and aroma.

This was my Sisters’ and Brother’s first time coffee tasting, so it was really exciting seeing their response to what they were tasting. In fact, we all went home with beans from Fonte. My brother, Jon, and his wife Selena are huge fans of K-cups. They wanted to have this coffee experience again and again, so they found the Keurig My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filters. This Hario lover didn’t even know they existed. What a brilliant innovation and a green one too.

After our tasting and yummy breakfast at Fonte, Nate took us on a tour of their roasting facility. One of the things I found most interesting about talking with Nate, is that he revealed to me for the first time that there are clear regional philosophies regarding coffee roasting. He is a strong Northwest believer in the dark roast, and isn’t as fond of the light roasts popular back East in New York that have also gained traction in the Southwest. I should have known that roasting would have its factions, but it didn’t dawn on me until this moment. I didn’t get to ask him his feelings on blends v. single origin coffees, but I’ll have to save that question for the next time I’m up in Seattle. He was patient and extremely resourceful regarding coffee grind, storage and preparation. Ultimately, we shared the same philosophy regarding taste; it is in the palate of the beholder.

Nate also explained why small batch is superior to large batch roasters like those used by the mega-coffee giants, Starbucks, McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. Once you get beyond seasonality, the larger roasting machines have the roasting accuracy of a standard clothes dryer. Say for instance you’re drying a load of laundry. The clothes on the outside get dry, but those socks in the middle are still wet. Larger roasters, according to Nate, have less control when it comes to the large batches they roast, which means less control in overall quality. On the small batch machine, each bean is roasted and inspected. There is just more control, which means, better quality taste for the customer.

I definitely got a Northwest education while visiting. Thanks Nate at Fonte for your hospitality and for taking the time to eat, drink and get buzzed with me and the Fam.

The Coffee Made Me Do It.

Two Days of Goofing Around in Seattle with my little Bro, Jon, and his sweet wife, Selena, my baby Sis, Ash and always crazy, middle Sis, Ann. Nate of Fonte Coffee Roasters and Ann were caught photo bombing me. Something Ann is extremely good at. It’s almost like she has a sixth sense about your desire to get a photo right and BAM! Bombed again… Oh, and yes, I realize Doctor Evil doesn’t wear pink scarfs and has more of a fondness for hairless cats than I do, but the chair commanded that it be done… and only crazy people argue with chairs.

Tour of Fonte Coffee Roasters coming soon!

(I promise Nate! Don’t send the heavies after me just yet…)

Rumor Has It…

Bellingham, WA (First Leg, Part II):

I took some amazing photos while visiting Bellingham’s Boulevard Park down on Bellingham Bay after visiting Woods Coffee, but local buzz around town is, and I have to agree, Woods Coffee is a little too “Charbuckian”. (Yes, I realize I’m not Shakespeare, but I’m a blogger, so I fully embrace random word creation should I not find one that suits me, so there!) Although Woods coffee offerings were similar to the mega-chain, I was thankful to find a gluten free blueberry scone that was more than edible. It was delicious. But Bellingham residents, being full of vehemently loyal local business loving sorts, allege that the City didn’t give any other coffee houses the option to bid on the prime real estate in Boulevard Park along the Bay. Dun-dun-dunn!!! Rumor also has it that Woods not only allegedly greased the palm of local politicians to score the plot, but also that they do not pay the city taxes for the space. It is hard to not be drawn in by this amazing location, but many local coffee loyalists have been up in arms about Woods alleged dirty dealings grabbing up the best local real estate for their storefronts. So, out of loyalty to my friends who are still Bellinghamsters, I’m keeping the pics of Woods on the Down-low.

My suggestion, should you find yourself in The Ham, is that you start your coffee journey in Old Fairhaven at Tony’s Coffee. Their vegan pumpkin bread is to die for and their coffee, both whole bean, and espresso is divine (oh, and their chai tea is pure spicy goodness fyi). I spent many an afternoon day dreaming out that window over Political Theory books in college, and Tony’s was always there to help me stay focused. If you’re hungry, the Harris Avenue Cafe connects to Tony’s, so you can grab some grub while you get your coffee fix on. Another great worth mentioning has recently moved to The Market on Cornwall: Stuart’s Coffee. It’s mainly just a coffee bar now, but they’re still rock’n the good stuff. Also, if you like “fu-fu coffee”, The Bagelry on Railroad has a mocha that is one of my old faves. Instead of mixing chocolate in milk, they steam chocolate milk. It is a creamy semi-sweet dream. And if you run out of your Tony’s coffee on the inter-urban trail from Old Fairhaven to Downtown Bellingham, The Wailing Goat makes a charming pit stop. Finally, in charming walkable downtown Bellingham, I recommend finishing your coffee adventure at The Black Drop Coffee House. They use Maniac Roasting and their espresso is delish. Took their Costa Rican to my Brother’s in Eastern, WA. My Sis-in-law put it through her aeropress. It was amazingly smooth. That’s the first time she ever drank her coffee black it was so good.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for the second leg of my journey up North. Sadly, I was only in Seattle for two nights, but through a friend of my baby Sis, we scored a grand tour of a small batch roaster and I learned a few things about the difference in regional coffee roasting philosophy. I think I’ll have to write a book now called: The Politics of Coffee (don’t hold your breath).

The First Leg: Bellingham, WA. 

I recently returned home from an unplanned, last minute jaunt to my native Washington State to catch up with my Baby Sis on her return to the States from teaching in China. She had planned to visit me in San Diego, but sadly due to the cost of returning to renew her visa, she was not able to, so… I met her in Bellingham, WA.

It all worked out. Not only was my Bestie from our days at Western Washington University in town for a few days, but I also got to hang with my good friends, Elena and Justin, before my Sister’s arrival. Not only that, but I was finally able to realize a lifetime dream of staying on Bellingham Bay at The Chrysalis Inn & Spa. And for the first time EVER, it didn’t rain on the 4th (Exhibit A: 4th of July sunset on the Bay above). Oh, and thanks Keenan’s a the Pier for your gluten free menu options and turning me on to drinking crisp Muscato on warm, sun drenched bayside terraces… I’ll give my creditors your number ;).

I recommend when visiting Bellingham, wearing great walking shoes because you can truly walk all over from Fairhaven to downtown. If you don’t own a pair, just head to Hilton’s Shoes and they’ll hook you up. They know their stuff and have been in the comfort shoe biz for two generations (tell the owner, Joe Hilton, or Sandra, ‘curly top’ says hello. They’ll know what you mean).

Boulevard Park provides a nice rest stop between Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham. The views along the Bay are wonderful with the San Juans visible in the distance. The trail is graveled and shaded by trees and when the blackberries are in season, they are a cool reprieve from your inter-urban trek.

A couple musts while in Bellingham, besides staying at the Chrysalis and drinking muscato: Pepper Sisters (their fresh sopaipillas with honey butter are to die for; damn you gluten intolerance—damn you to hell!); Taco Lobo (still THE best cheese enchiladas I’ve EVER had. My Sis and I couldn’t wait to have them again); Tony’s Coffee in Fairhaven; Black Drop Coffee (they serve Maniac Coffee Roasters; downtown Bellingham); Bellingham Community Food Co-op (Best place for diet restrictions ever from gluten free yummies to vegan treats); Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro (also a great outdoor music venue); Village Books & Colophon Cafe; Finally, the Little Cheerful Cafe (and if you’re not gluten intolerant, The Bagelry, both near downtown shopping on Railroad Ave.).

These are just a few of my favorite haunts still going strong in The Ham. Whether a day trip (just 1.5 hours North of Seattle on the 5), a stop over on your way to Vancouver B.C. via Ferry, or a Northwest getaway, Bellingham is a little known jewel of the Northwest. Don’t let all that talk of rain scare you away ;).

Bellingham coffee pics coming up next, stay tuned for Part II.

Bird Rock Coffee breaks new ground at Petco Park in San Diego as the first specialty coffee offered at a ballpark.

If you’re wondering where they are located, they are at field level between the Western Metal building and the Ballast Point Beer Garden. They are full service offering everything from a pourover to espresso.

Coffee fans, a’hem, Padres' fans were rumored to be singing, “Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd, buy me some coffee and cracker jacks, I don't care if I ever get back, let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don't win it's okay… For it's one, two, three shots you're buzzed at the old ball game!”

And now you know why I don’t get paid to do this ;).

Happy Coffee-ing San Diego!

Meet me at CBGB? BCBG? No, BGCB!!!

This Spring and Summer have been a whirlwind for me with home projects, travel and house guests, but I was happy to make time to swing by Broke Girls Coffee Bar (BGCB) in Normal Heights, which is a clear nod to the former New York City music venue, CBGB.

BGCB immediately took me back to my childhood with The Ramones and Blondie Concert posters displayed above the bar. Let’s just say Joan Jett was the only reason I took up the guitar and any other instrument I sorta played for a little while during my “I wanna be a singer songwriter rock star” phase, which really only ended a few year ago, but I digress. No nod to 80s rock is complete, in my mind, without acknowledging this woman. Blondie is pretty awesome too, but Joan Jett…she was bad ass.

After hearing they were using The West Bean, a local micro-batch coffee roaster, I was even more intrigued. Knowing the reputation of other places that source their beans from The West Bean, such as Lofty Coffee Co. in Encinitas and Kensington Cafe, I had high expectations. Expectations that were not dashed by any means.

It is clear that these Broke Girls meant business and put a lot of their heart and soul into creating a venue for serious and fu-fu coffee drinkers alike. Just ask them how they created the beautiful warm wood paneling on the exterior and interior bar. No detail was spared. Speaking of details, among their sweet offerings is a gluten free carrot cake that really rocked my world. Finding gluten free treats I can eat with the perfect cup of coffee while I’m out is so rare, it actually brings tears of joy to my eyes. Mmmm carrot cake with cream cheese frosting…

So, where was I after that minnie food-gasm? Ah yes, so if you like fu-fu coffee drinks you can certainly get what you like, but the difference is the coffee, whether a cold brew, espresso drink, shot, or pour over you can bet high quality is the aim. And with lots of ample seating on the front covered patio, side patio and in the back, they definitely invite you to stay a while. I hear their wi-fi is pretty fast as well for those who like to get a little work or studying done while nursing a beverage and having a nosh.

More than a new great place to get a quality cup of coffee and a consciously crafted shot of espresso in San Diego, the owners, April Walsh and Malakiah Hammers have given special thought to the value they can add to their community.

According to a San Diego Uptown News Article by Morgan Hurley, the two women, both sober, 14 and 16 years respectively, plan to offer “Sober Football” when the NFL Season begins.

In addition, according to their Facebook page, they offer suspended coffee! This is where, should one like, a coffee is purchased that is “suspended,” so that someone less fortunate who asks for a cup of joe can receive a cup of joe. Think of it as a small act of kindness.

Finally, they have quickly made themselves a hub for music artists and bands booking out shows months in advance. And they definitely have the patio space for it out back. Check out their Facebook page for a calendar of upcoming bookings.

Between Dark Horse Coffee and Broke Girls Coffee Bar (BGCB), Normal Heights is giving all those that visit and live near downtown some great local coffee options.

Until next time my little coffee lovers! Happy Coffee-ing! 

Getting cozy with ice coffees at the Walla Walla Roastery. Fabulous toddies.

Getting cozy with ice coffees at the Walla Walla Roastery. Fabulous toddies.