O.C.’s coffee story begins in the early 1970s, in a ’63 Volkswagen van in Antigua, Guatemala. The driver is Martin Diedrich’s father, Carl. His passengers? The handpicked beans he’s hauling home to Costa Mesa. The aroma of these beans roasting in Carl’s garage stopped locals in their tracks back then, and eventually led Martin to found Diedrich Coffee. Today, the county booms with a new wave of innovators and coffeehouses. Here are our favorites, along with the creative men and women who keep them running.
Portola Coffee Lab
Flagship at 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 714-884-4714, with locations in Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Orange, Santa Ana, and Tustin, portolacoffeelab.com
In 2011, Portola burst onto the scene and boldly introduced its third-wave coffee to Orange County, opening a shop and roaster—and some might say, a coffee laboratory—at OC Mix in Costa Mesa. Owners Jeff and Christa Duggan offered brewing methods unknown at the time in other mom-and-pop coffeehouses: the Hario V60, the Kyoto cold brew, and the Bunn Trifecta. They also introduced Theorem—a concept coffee bar using coffee as an ingredient rather than just a beverage. All six of their locations offer room for group meetings and relaxing spots to get lost in a book. The mocha and the Kyoto cold brew are the most popular drinks, but what keeps the crowds returning is the consistency of the roast.
➤Did you know? In 2015, Portola earned the title of Microroaster of the Year from Roast Magazine.
3400 Via lido, Newport Beach, 503-862‑8243, honor.coffee
Opened in December, Ken Schultz’s sleek and welcoming flagship screams community hang for Lido Marina Village. The native Portlander roasts on-site—his shiny Diedrich roaster will be the focal point of the main room. When completed, a fireplace sitting room with banquette will offer space to chill. Schultz, who moved here eight years ago, dreamed of a coffeehouse in a great location. Done. Now it’s all about notable espressos and upscale ambience. He sources his own beans, makes his syrups in-house, and plans to offer baked goods from gourmet patisseries, with the goal of bringing “the soul of Portland to Newport Beach.”
➤Did you know? Owner of a creative agency, Schultz is working on a state‑of‑the‑art app for easy ordering as well as an Honor Bar, where hurried patrons can pour their own coffee and pay with cash using the honor system.
428 W. Katella Ave., Orange, 714-771-8556; 8163 E. Kaiser Blvd., Anaheim Hills, 714-851-2326, bodhileafcoffee.com
Bodhi Leaf is a heavy lifter on the O.C. coffee scene as it’s also an importer that provides green beans to roasters across the nation. This means owner Steve Sims and staffers meet directly with farmers to cup coffee at origin, then carefully select which beans make the cut. They began importing specialty beans in 2009 and opened their first cafe and roastery in 2015. The shop offers a slew of brewing methods but is perhaps best known for the “steampunk”—a precise brewing device that’s as elegant in its process as the cup it produces. The Bodhi folks are approachable and ready to answer questions about the java’s long journey to your cup.
➤Did you know? Bodhi Leaf also carries all the perfect gear for a home brewer.
618½ Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, 949-482-0618, bearcoastcoffee.com
The dreamy white-and-wooden cafe that sits across from San Clemente Pier easily takes the “best location” prize on our list. Owner Jeff Clinard opened Bear Coast in May 2015, and it quickly became a favorite hang for everyone from out-of-towners to barefoot surfers. Clinard offers coffee from roasters across the nation, such as Colorado’s Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters. But perhaps the most unique aspect of his shop is its sense of community—the baristas are as savvy about how to brighten your day with friendly service and good-natured humor as they are about beans. Bear Coast also offers award-winning pastries as well as breakfast sandwiches and kombucha.
➤Did you know? There’s a good chance the sense of humor shown here is inspired by Clinard, a former comedian with the Upright Citizens Brigade.
Hopper & Burr
202 W. Fourth St., Santa Ana, hopperandburr.com
Owner Truman Severson transformed his downtown Santa Ana pop-up coffee bar into a gleaming, white-walled, brick-and-mortar shop. Now the multi-roaster can cater to a wider base of fans with roasts such as Madcap from Grand Rapids, Mich., and Portland’s Heart Coffee. Hopper & Burr maintains a warm and inviting culture, a full tea program, fantastic pastries, and a good selection of non-coffee drinks such as fun sodas, egg creams, and phosphates.
➤Did you know? Severson says naming the shop for two parts of a coffee grinder—instead of incorporating the word “coffee” into the tag—leaves him free to explore and play with his drink offerings.
29100 Portola Parkway, Lake Forest, 949-667-2824, patchcoffee.com
This little slice of home opened its doors to the Lake Forest community in July. It’s a multi-roaster, serving coffees from some of the best in the U.S., including San Francisco-based Four Barrel, Nashville’s Steadfast, and Austin’s Cuvée. Owner Deborah Clark offers many brewing methods, including espresso, pour over, standard batch brew, cold brew, and an authentic Vietnamese brew. Her solid selection of teas includes blends from American Tea Room in L.A. and Spirit Teas from Chicago. You’ll find ample seating in this space that champions creativity, whether it’s along the oak tables, in the small sofa chairs, or even inside the charming, refurbished storage container decorated with twinkling lights.
➤Did you know? You’ll find housemade, organic breakfast tacos here, as well as all-natural, organic pastries.
Common Room Roasters
882 Production Place, Newport Beach, 949‑220-7868, commonroomroasters.com
Common Room Roasters owners Jeremy Creighton and Ed Moffatt are native Aussies whose objective in opening in 2016 was to bring Melbourne-style coffee to Southern California. In this industrial corner of Newport Beach, their moody, elegant, and minimalist space celebrates Melbourne culture and good design. The bar service shines, and every cup is beautifully presented. Here is where you’ll find some of the best long black and flat white signature Australian espressos, plus vegan doughnuts from The Caffeinated Kitchen in Long Beach. Moffatt hand roasts the beans in a stately roaster amid patrons who include surfers, creative types, and entrepreneurs happily making this sleek warehouse space their second home.
➤Did you know? Creighton is also creative director and owner, along with his wife, Natalie, of Passport Brand Design, with offices in the same building. He hand-sketched and designed Common Room.
13681 Newport Ave., Tustin, 714-838-5326; 2043 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach, 949-642-5326, keancoffee.com
Martin Diedrich, the father of O.C.’s modern-day coffeehouse, has come a long way from those trips he took to Guatemala with his dad, Carl. He’s now an internationally known coffee expert who earned the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 2005 Lifetime Achievement award. Diedrich and his wife, Karen, have created their own tightknit coffee community, two welcoming spaces, and a menu brimming with options from soothing espressos to more playful drinks—such as the Nutella Cortado and crowd-favorite Turkish Latte. Many are made with fair trade, all-organic beans from around the world. There’s always a steady stream of regulars with their furry friends on the patio. But don’t come looking for Wi-Fi—come instead for good conversation, quality time with a newspaper, and the great coffee.
➤Did you know? Deidrich roasts beans almost daily in his coffeehouses.
31791 Los Rios St., San Juan Capistrano, 949-240-0200; 20025 Lake Forest Drive, Lake Forest, 949-305-2800; 1534 Adams Ave., Costa Mesa, 657-231-6190, hiddenhousecoffee.com
In 2010, Ben Briggs and his family transformed a historic yellow house beneath a canopy of trees into a coffee shop appropriately named Hidden House, complete with an in-house roast master and a cozy feel. Last year, Briggs acquired ChocXO’s Lake Forest and Costa Mesa coffee‑and‑cacao bars specializing in chocolate-infused coffee drinks, which he continues to offer, along with the county’s best pastries thanks to in-house bakers Megan Jones and Sarah Smith.
➤Did You Know? While you sip your coffee, your little ones will appreciate Zoomars, the petting zoo next to the San Juan Capistrano location.
1617 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach, kit.coffee
Perhaps the most unique thing about Kit, a multi-roaster that opened in October, is its savory and sweet toast offerings, from the simple cinnamon sugar brûlée to the popular avocado. Owners Eunice Hwang and Jee Shin’s open space is clean and modern, with soft lighting and lots of plants, welcoming the digital nomad or gatherings of walk-ins from the neighborhood. Try an espresso, a pour over, or the signature London Fog—an exotic hot or cold Earl Gray tea with vanilla and brown sugar. Kit serves Sacramento’s Temple and Portland’s Coava and Heart coffees.
➤Did you know? Kit is an acronym for Keep In Touch. “We wanted it to be community driven,” says Hwang, who studied hospitality management at Purdue University.
Photographs by Priscilla Iezzi