How Four Orange County Coffee Shop Founders Got Their Start

Julie Nguyenof CONTRA COFFEE & TEA

You operate a mobile taproom serving nitro cold brew. What is that?
It’s cold-brew coffee infused with nitrogen to yield a foamy, creamy, highly caffeinated coffee, without using dairy.

Did your food science degrees come in handy for this process?
Yes. Other shops serve nitro, but that’s all we serve. We looked at how the process would affect other beverages so you could get that creamy texture without the calories. We offer a huge variety of drinks that haven’t been done before.

Why the wheels?
We can reach a greater demographic, so it helps with meeting all types of coffee and tea lovers around O.C.

Menu favorites?
Lucid Dream: straight black on nitro! If I want something sweeter, the Lovebirds, a formula with both coffee and black tea. After one sip, you’ll know they’re made for each other.


Why coffee?
Hanging out in a lot of coffeehouses made me want to serve people and help improve their days.

Toughest part of the job?
Stuff breaks, coffee spills, customers can be rude. When I ran this by myself, I could be the barrier between my staff and that stuff. But I can’t always protect them from that, and I have to ask them to deal with it. It’s hard to let go, but it has been the biggest aspect of letting this staff grow.

Drink of choice?
Brewed coffee—all day, every day. It is so good for you and so complex and satisfying when you do it right.

How do you chill?
I run, swim, and exercise daily. And play with my kids all the time. They don’t care about my sales; they just care about how I do the voices when I read them stories.

Deborah Clark of PATCH COFFEE

Coffee philosophy?
By traveling to different parts of the world, I saw that no matter how different the region, culture, beans, or methods of brewing, the common denominator was that coffee was a means of gathering, a communal tie. I wanted our shop to be a gateway to the world through coffee.

Go-to drink?
If the weather is hot, an iced Americano. A cold day calls for a smooth cappuccino.

What keeps you motivated?
I’m energized by the people who come in. I love hearing their personal journeys, dreams, ideas, visions, pursuits—and it’s a privilege that we can be a connection or catalyst for those things.

How do you measure success?
When people have meaningful conversations over a good cup of coffee in a space they feel is their own, you know you’ve contributed something. It’s a good feeling.

Martin Diedrich of KÉAN COFFEE

Your name is synonymous with coffee in O.C. How’d you get where you are now?
I grew up on a coffee farm in Guatemala. After starting a career in Mayan archeology as a young man, I circled back to help my parents with their small roasting business, and the rest is history.

How do you start the day?
With black coffee that I brew at home with my Hario V60 pour-over set.

Drink of choice at Kéan?
During the day, lately I tend to drink our amazing cold brew and our newest offering, our nitro cold brew. And I always enjoy a simple, perfect macchiato.

Something most people don’t know about you?
I spend much of what little leisure time I have studying my favorite topics of archeology, ancient history, and cultural anthropology. I also enjoy backpacking in remote wilderness destinations. My next trip is Peru in the spring.

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