Where: Achilles Coffee, 437 HWY 101, Suite 501, Solana Beach, CA 92075
Open: Daily 7:00 AM – 2:00 PM
What: Pourover Mt. Soledad – Guatemala Natural Light Roast
Tasting notes: Black grape, boysenberry, honeysuckle
What I’m listening to: Charley Crockett, “Just Like Honey.”
Monica, a barista behind the coffee bar, is flying around like a bat at dusk. She multi-tasks like a boss — taking orders, making pour-overs, cashing out customers, and sending food orders back to the kitchen.
The operations feel more impressive because the space inside Achilles Coffee Roasters in Solana Beach is tight. The coffee spot is essentially a walk-up with enough room inside for a few customers to stand, a coffee condiments station, and a shelf full of whole coffee beans to buy. Everything is white with Achilles-branded orange accents.
Outside, it is a different story. Achilles is located in the shopping center’s parking lot on Coast Highway. There is plenty of parking and places to spread out and sit with your coffee. There are a half-dozen picnic tables with orange-colored shade umbrellas and a fountain with a thick ledge, perfect for sitting.
The backside of the cafe has a staircase leading to a bridge over the parking lot to the second story of the shopping center. More tables and chairs are spaced out on the landing (also the cafe’s roof), offering a view of the patio below and cars passing by on the highway.
They don’t offer my standard black drip coffee, so I order a pour-over Guatemalan coffee from Monica. The menu board has a handy light-to-dark meter enabling customers to make a more informed coffee choice. The roasts are named after local neighborhoods — Windansea, Swami’s, Torrey Pines and Golden Hill.
There are five Achilles cafes in San Diego, including The Gaslamp, at the Ballpark, B St. in downtown San Diego, and the flagship cafe and Roastery at Cortez Hill, where owner Chad Bell started the company.
A pour-over coffee takes a few extra minutes, crafted just for me. “Coffee Crafted For a Warrior” is what it says on the side of the bright white takeaway cups on the coffee bar. My mug is placed at the end of the line, and I head outside to wait by the fountain.
A leisurely stream of customers rolls up mid-morning. I hear my order being shouted out and collect my coffee. I head to the roof, which feels cooler than the patio below. The sun is bright and hot. You can tell me it is fall, but I wouldn’t believe it with this weather. The ocean breeze dips down just over coastal cliffs to touch this spot in the shopping center.
Solana Beach has quickly gone from a craft coffee desert to a thriving hub of roasters and cafes, all within walking distance. Earlier this morning, I was across the road at Barefoot Coffee Roaster and Lofty Coffee.
Just to the north is Cafe La Terre, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that there will be another cafe opening up in the new Sandbox development under the stoplights at the corner of Coast Highway and Dahlia Drive.
The Guatemalan coffee is the very lightest roast on the menu. It is a far cry from the rich, dark roast I had only an hour before. Peanuts and a hint of sweetness accompany a delicate floral taste. More than 800 identified flavor notes can be found in a cup of coffee.
By comparison, wine tops out at about 200. Today, I’ve enjoyed coffee from both ends of the spectrum. I won’t say that one was better than the other. Exploring and enjoying the uniqueness of the roasts is part of the appeal of this coffee exploration journey I’ve found myself on.
A gang of cyclists whirs past on the road headed north. Laughter comes from the table below. Employees from the nearby vet clinic stop in during their break. This Achilles Coffee Roaster cafe has only been open a few months, but it already feels like part of the fabric of Solana Beach.
Chad Bell, the founder of Achilles Coffee Roasters, has a fascinating coffee journey, which he shared on the Roast! West Coast Coffee podcast earlier this year. It’s a good listen. Check it out here or Listen to the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast at The Coast News website or on Spotify. Follow @RoastWestCoast and @achillescoffee on Instagram.