Where I Drank Coffee In Southern California

I didn’t know exactly what to expect from coffee in Los Angeles and Orange County. I figured surely LA would be good for a decent cup, but Orange County was a real mystery. Are they into coffee in warm beach communities as much as we are in the cold and gray north?

My research says yes.

Tiago

All the hipsters in Hollywood drink coffee at Tiago. This place feels like it belongs in Pittsburgh or New Haven or Cleveland. The coffee they brew is roasted in Cleveland. But they make a killer cappuccino. And I can honestly say it’s the first time that a homeless guy came in off the street and drank the dregs of the latte at the table next to me. The baristas threw a hissy fit and kicked him out. All the while I was trying to figure out why the man who had been drinking the latte looked so familiar; I never did.

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Otus Thai Kitchen + Coffee

This West Hollywood hotspot serves awesome Thai food. I loved the classic Thai breakfast options. I didn’t know what to eat because I’d never had any of the items before. I finally settled on roti, which were so sweet. I couldn’t believe it! Though I should have because it’s a flat bread with condensed milk. And the coffee? I went for a Vietnamese coffee. It was served still dripping into a glass cup with a layer of condensed milk in the bottom. When the coffee finished filtering, I stirred it all together and it was perfect: dark and sweet at the same time.

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Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Can we please just forget this place exists? I don’t like this chain. The coffee is lousy. I went because I needed a cup of coffee and it was either this or Starbucks. I picked Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf because of the Gilmore Girls reference. I should have gone to Starbucks.

Lighthouse Cafe

Coffee here was an after-thought to a fabulous meal I’ll tell you about later. The macchiato I had was perfect. Get a macchiato after lunch here. Do it.

Portola Coffee LabĀ 

I have to thank my new friend Gabi for this one. We both needed to get some work done one night during the Women In Travel Summit so we went over to Portola because she’d heard good things about it. The Tustin location was not the best for working (it’s located in the busy Union Market). But that’s okay because the Gaspar was fantastic. The Gaspar is basically a slightly larger version of a cortado and a second reference to Gaspar de Portola who ruled California for part of the late eighteenth century.

Coffeebar Byul

Found this place totally by accident while walking in Irvine. Everything in Irvine is hidden in shopping plazas. This coffee place is in the Diamond Jamboree. Byul is run by a Korean family who care about quality. They know all their regulars and take time to orient newbies to the extensive menu. While a straight up cup of black coffee here is good, the real fun is in their specialty latte menu. They offer lattes named for cities around the world, each slightly different from the other. I splurged on a Shanghai Latte – a couple shots of espresso, steamed milk, caramel, and cinnamon.

Hotel Irvine

I drank a lot of black coffee during the Women In Travel Summit. Luckily the coffee was abundant and decent. Nothing special, but hot, tasty, and caffeinated.

Marine Street Cafe

The breakfast was the highlight here. But this article is about the coffee, which was also awesome. I had a Vietnamese Latte (basically a regular latte with some condensed milk). It came in one size: massive. I couldn’t finish it before my breakfast came so the barista kindly gave me a to go cup to pour the remaining two-thirds of it into when I was ready to go walking on the beach.

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Have you been to LA or Orange County? What are your favorite coffee places?

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