Coffee and Tea Collective – My Morning Fix

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Coffee & Tea | Posted on 05-08-2012


Coffee and Tea Collective Bike in North Park

Coffee and Tea Collective on El Cajon Blvd in North Park is my newest addiction and I get my fix pretty often. Opened just months ago, Daniel Holcomb has added one more great cafe to the neighborhood but it shines when it comes to a great cup. I love working in the area and being able to walk to any of the 3 cafes immediately surrounding me but I’ll make the short drive to them when I’m really needing flavor with my caffeine fix.

Coffee in North Park San Diego

With great attention to detail, Daniel and team are using only specific beans from certain regions that they know will taste great and they’re handling them with care. They roast the beans on site and then offer the coffee in a limited menu of espresso and pour-over styles. I personally am not a coffee snob (people who know me say differently) but I really love their coffee and prefer it over some close competition.

Espresso at Coffee and Tea Collective

Look for their iced coffee if you want a kick that carries a lot of flavor or go for a regular pour-over. They also “secretly” offer slightly more complex beverages like an Iced Coconut Latte and others off the espresso machine.

Pour-Over Coffee Gif at Coffee and Tea Collective

Pour-over coffee here tastes amazing.

Cafe Interior in North Park

Conversations at Coffee and Tea Collective.

Espresso at Coffee and Tea Collective

Multi-tasking required.

Coffee Mug

Merchandise at C&TC.

Crowd at Coffee and Tea Collective

Plenty to do while you wait for your coffee.

Now Open

Coffee and Tea Collective is open for your morning fix!


Kono’s Cafe – Breakfast on the Beach

Posted by Shawn | Posted in American, Coffee & Tea | Posted on 08-01-2012


Sun, surf and Big Breakfast #2 define my early relationship with San Diego. Every time I was in Pacific Beach I made sure to stop by Kono’s and get their giant breakfast plate. For less than $6 you can get eggs, potatoes, bacon, english muffins and french toast, but the best part is that it’s delicious and not your typical Denny’s fare you’d come to expect at that price point. Be sure to try either of their big breakfasts and check out their coffee stand directly behind the main cafe. Come hungry!

Big Breakfast #2 at Kono's

Big Breakfast #2

Kono's Cafe in San Diego

The Boardwalk at Kono's

Kono's Breakfast

French Toast and Then Some

Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach

Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters – La Jolla, CA

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Coffee & Tea | Posted on 13-11-2011


Bird Rock Coffee Latte in San Diego

Coffee in San Diego doesn’t get much better than this. Some cafes in North Park and Downtown might have a better ambiance but when it comes to the coffee, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla has my vote. From the tantalizing smell of freshly roasted coffee beans wafting through the air to the balanced taste of their espresso, a drink here often makes my morning.

Front of Bird Rock Coffee

Starting with the smell, Bird Rock Coffee does a great job of selling the product before you even walk in. They roast all of their beans on-site which helps to keep their coffee fresh and intrigue passers by. They also keep good relations with their sources of coffee and proudly display some faces of the workers in South America who supply them. I’m not a sucker for these things usually but having worked with coffee for a few years, I have a high opinion of fair trade coffee so Bird Rock was off to a good start.

Good Coffee in San Diego

On my first visit to Bird Rock, I was greeted with a friendly smile and a simple hello as soon as I walked in which always goes a long way for me as well. The staff member behind the register was very helpful and the barista chatted it up with me despite the morning rush. Being my first time I wanted to taste their espresso since I feel that is one of the easiest ways to tell how much effort really goes into their product. Sitting down with my warm cup, I let the aromas envelop me for a bit and it was good. I smelled a slight nuttiness to the beans but after tasting it had more of a richness to it that ended with a slight bitter taste. It was well balanced and had a good amount of thickness to it as well (I feel like I’m talking about beer here…).

Latte at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

Going off of a successful first visit, I repeatedly went back and tried different items. Their drip coffee was solid although a bit on the stronger side, their iced coffee and cold drinks were good too but their lattes were what really impressed me. Take my advice and order a 12 oz latte with 2 shots of espresso in a ‘for here’ cup. You won’t regret it. Every time I order this the barista takes their time to pour the perfect frothed milk and never needs to use a spoon (to hold back foam or to scoop it). The latte is velvety with a slight roasted feeling on the tongue that makes me instantly relax back in my chair every time.

Live music at Bird Rock cafe in San Diego

As far as the rest I would say Bird Rock does alright in ambiance and food. Their pastries aren’t bad but leave a little to be desired and their space is well situated for reading or studying. This place can get crowded on weekends so be sure to either go early or late if you want to easily find a spot. Mornings are fun though since a lot of people bring their dogs and everyone seems to know each other which makes for a comfortable experience. Overall, I recommend Bird Rock Coffee Roasters to anyone looking for a good cup of coffee who can tell the difference between this and Starbucks.

Tip: Weekends bring the crowds but also live music from local artists, usually on Saturday afternoons.

5627 La Jolla Boulevard
La Jolla, CA 92037

Chestnut Lane

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Coffee & Tea | Posted on 28-07-2010


Carrot Muffin at Chestnut Lane

Located in a business corner of Arcadia, Chestnut Lane has carved out a little sanctuary filled with the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans that continually draws repeat customers.  It’s one of those places that I’ll go out of my way for just to treat myself, because the espresso they put in their drinks has me addicted.  Not because of the caffeine buzz (I’ve lost that ability after working with coffee for years) but because of it’s rich taste and how well it pairs with their freshly baked goods.

Pastry Case at Chestnut LaneA typical visit to Chestnut Lane starts with you thinking you’ll just stop in to get some coffee, but then you see the pastry case and think you might as well add something to eat.  They bake everything on site and the staff is up in the morning cooking before they open, but if you get there early enough you’ll see them putting on the finishing touches to a cake or glazing a fruit bar.  Everyone is friendly and you can tell they take pride in what they serve.  They offer a wide range of pastries ranging from low fat carrot muffins and maple oat bran scones to mini cupcakes and chocolate layer cakes.  So far I haven’t been disappointed in any of my pastry choices.

As for their coffee, the beans come from Cartel in Tempe but they are running a good old La Marzocco-ish espresso machine pulling their shots slowly which gives the espresso that rich crema.  They do the normal range of drinks you’d find at a coffee shop but do it well.  If you’re going a little later in the day, they offer lemonades and teas which go well with their lunch menu, and it’s no lame lunch menu.  Produce comes from local area farms and they prepare some killer sandwiches and salads including Prosciutto Ficelle, organic prosciutto layered with Brie cheese on a French baguette they baked in house.  Delicious!

Chestnut LaneChestnut Lane also gets a thumbs up for their “mom and pop” ambiance which they achieve easily by having a very small house-like building and a cozy interior.  After walking through the front door, the bar and food area is right in front of you with a side room for enjoying your meal.  But the whole place has a European feel to it with their baguettes in the corner and small bikes hanging on the walls.  All in all it creates a very comfortable setting which makes me want to stay and enjoy the day.

Chestnut Lane has my vote for best coffee shop in Arcadia definitely, but maybe in Phoenix as well.  Feel free to offer up suggestions of contenders!

Tip: Go around 8 am to get still-hot baked goods for breakfast.

4225 E. Camelback Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85018

Giant Coffee is a Big Hit

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Coffee & Tea | Posted on 21-06-2010


Menu at Giant Coffee

Matt Pool (Owner, Matt’s Big Breakfast) has created a unique coffee experience in Phoenix with his newest business, Giant Coffee.  And I want to say thank you Matt.  This place does coffee well and with breakfast on the way (not yet on menu), it can be a big hit for the downtown area.

Located on 1st st across from the Phoenix art museum and behind a Thai restaurant, it’s not the easiest place to find.  And if you look through the windows you see a boutique shop in the front which is the last thing I expect to see when hunting for a latte, but just follow the smell of freshly ground coffee beans from the La Marzocco espresso machine and you’ll find it.

On the back wall you’ll find a medium sized menu with some local offerings and organic choices, including homemade pastries in the front case.  Coming soon they will offer around 6 choices for breakfast.  I opted for an iced chai tea latte since it was 104 degrees outside and Lindsay ordered their iced black tea with lemon.  Both were delicious and exactly what we needed to cool off.  We sat in one of the many booths in this small, but airy store with large windows.  There was a very relaxing feel to the place, one that obviously worked for people who needed to get work done because there a few people on their laptops enjoying the free wifi.  Yes, free wifi!

The opposite side of the store offers a boutique shop with clothes and jewelry called Bunky Boutique.  Not exactly my cup of tea but Lindsay was pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to shop and gladly had a look around.  The strange part is that the boutique doesn’t feel out of place in there, in fact it kind of goes with the whole theme.  What that theme is I’m not sure.  At first you can imagine hipsters loving this place and firing up their macs in front of the large windows, but then you can also imagine commuters stopping in for a quick breakfast on their way to work in the morning.  Matt did a good job figuring out his place in the area and making sure it appealed to multiple demographics.

On the flip side however, they make a pretty basic error in my mind which is the fact that they accept cash only.  At this point in time there are plenty of people who don’t carry cash on them and it is beyond me why places wouldn’t want to accept any type of payment they can get.  But I quickly forget about that when I taste the drink I ordered.  I’ve had a latte here and it was the perfect blend of flavors, but the chai tea I got this time was awesome.  Not too sweet but also not bitter like some chais I’ve ordered in the past.  Lindsay really enjoyed her tea too and said the lemon flavor gave the drink a nice twist.

Overall Giant Coffee holds a lot of promise for me and I will definitely be coming back for breakfast one of these weekends.  I’m excited to also see if they add a few more drink options to their menu because the teas were tasty but were the only teas offered.

Tip: Go after 3 pm and get all pastries half off.

1437 N 1st St

Phoenix, AZ 85004