The 2015 Summer Coffee Tour – Top 5 Coffee Shops

Sorry.
I know, I know, I’ve been back for a while and am only now getting to this… but better late than never! Because, did you really think I would come back from a vacation called “The 2015 Summer Coffee Tour” and NOT tell you what my favorite coffee shops were?!?

I was in Southern California for three weeks. That’s a lot of espresso, people. I didn’t go out for a coffee every day, but it was pretty close. Close enough that my final count came in at 22. That’s right, some days I HAD TWO.

Some places we only visited once, some places we ended up visiting multiple times. I didn’t get to all the Big Name shops like Blue Bottle, or Verve or Stumptown – but we did visit a few of those, plus a bunch of non-chain locations. We came across several surprises (some good surprises, some not so good) and definitely added a lot of knowledge to our “What We Know About Coffee” files. Like, I’m not sure why this is, but the drinks seemed to be bigger on the West Coast. Or at least the lattes were. My drink of choice is a latte, and around Oklahoma / Texas a latte is usually 8 ounces. But in California, most were 12 ounces. Too big! The next thing down was a 6-ounce cappuccino. I kind of had to learn the hard way, and readjust my tastes so that I expected and enjoyed the stronger flavor of a cappuccino. I’m telling you, variations in drink sizes is the bain of an espresso drinker’s existence. Unless you’re smart, like my friend Daniel, who simply starts off by ordering cortados everwhere he goes (a cortado is a more even ratio of milk to espresso, and they’re pretty consistent across shops. Here’s an older, yet interesting and informative article on them). By ordering cortados first, Daniel can therefore consistently judge a shop and its coffee. I guess I’m not that savvy. I want my lattuccino. So, I had to adjust. I became a happier person once I simply started ordering cappuccinos everywhere we went.

We even came up with our own rating system on the 2k15SCT:
Excellent
Solid Plus
Solid
Nope

We didn’t come across any shops on the trip that rated Excellent. I believe that between the two of us, Marcus and I only have one Excellent apiece, maybe two, out of all the places we’ve ever been. That rating gets saved for the, you know, Excellent shops.

The Top 5.
While we didn’t find any excellent shops, I would say, however, that there were 5 Solid Plus shops we visited on our trip. Here’s the list:

The Tickle Tree Café
2853 Foothill Blvd, La Crescenta CA
Unexpectedly delicious! They use Four Barrel beans and milk from Strauss Family Creamery (THIS MILK IS DELICIOUS).
Right up the street from my Dad’s house, it was super convenient. It was always busy, and I’ve heard their food is great, but I never got to try it. I did have one disappointing drink there (take note: THE BARISTA MATTERS). On my way to LAX to fly home, on my very last day, I picked up a cappuccino to go, in a paper cup. Normally I can’t stand drinking coffee out of a paper cup, but OMG it was so delicious. What a great high note (or bean?) on which to leave town.

Portola Coffee Lab
3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa CA
Voted 2015 Roaster of the year, by Roast Magazine – and I can see why. Their coffee was excellent. We got to go there twice, which is usually the best way to confirm consistency. It was the closest place we found to Excellent – a very Solid Plus experience. Their Costa Mesa shop is pretty slick.

portolat - voted best roaster 2015
portola – voted best roaster 2015

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee
270 E 17th St #18, Costa Mesa CA
Oh. My. Gosh. Let me just say, this was the best donut I’ve ever had. And it was really health food, because it had carrot and zucchini in it! And flowers on top! It was sublime. They served Stumptown beans, and they only served their espresso drinks in paper cups but it didn’t matter. The cappuccino was amazingly sweet and flavorful. You must go to here.

sidecar. you must go to here.
sidecar. you must go to here.

Rose Park Roasters
3044 E 4th St, Long Beach CA
Cute little shop in an almost sketch part of LB – but great coffee. We bought some of their Mexico Nueva Linda beans to make pour overs with. I even brought some back to Tulsa with me – we have a little bit left. Tastes like Southern California. Yum.

Lord Windsor Roasters
1101 E 3rd St, Long Beach CA
Another consistently good shop in Long Beach. Who knew that the LB was such a coffee hotbed in LA? I never would have expected it. The shop was very chill (well actually it was a little warm in there) but the cappuccinos were great and we enjoyed both visits. It doesn’t hurt that they carry vegan donuts from the Caffeinated Kitchen bakery, also in LB. We ended up buying some beans from them for pour overs as well. Very delicious.

coffee n delish vegan donut at lord windsor
coffee n delish vegan donut at lord windsor

All in all, it was a successful, informative and enjoyable trip. I wish we could have visited lots more places, but there’s only so much coffee a girl can drink, and only so willing she can be to drive into the depths of Los Angeles to get it. That just means there’s lots more for us to explore next time.

The Complete Run-Down.
Here’s a list of all the places we went, their address, and how many times we were there. Oh, and my rating.

Tickle Tree Café
2853 Foothill Blvd, La Crescenta CA
Visited: 6 times
Rating: Solid Plus

Intelligentsia
55 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid

Urartu Coffee
119 N Maryland Ave, Glendale CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Nope

Rose Park Rosters
3044 E 4th St, Long Beach CA
Visited: 4 times
Rating: Solid Plus

G&B
317 S Broadway, C-19, Los Angeles CA (inside Grand Central Market)
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid

Portola Coffee Lab
3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa CA
Visited: 2 times
Rating: Solid Plus

Lord Windsor
1101 E 3rd St, Long Beach CA
Visited: 2 times
Rating: Solid Plus

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee
270 E 17th St #18, Costa Mesa CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid Plus

Hopper & Burr
300 N Main St, Santa Ana CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid

Menotti’s
56 Windward Ave, Venice CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid

Intelligentsia, Venice
1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Nope

Aosa
16821 Algonquin St Ste 104, Huntington Beach CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Nope

Simply Coffee
940 N Lima St, Burbank CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Honorable Mention Solid Plus

top5c

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